Newman students and staff create short film ‘Leaves of a Ficus’

Sep 21, 2021
A scene from the short film, "Leaves of a Ficus"

The description for a new short film created by a group of Newman University folks certainly promises to draw viewers in:

“Just when it seems that nothing can fix a feud between two brothers, a ficus tree received as a gift from a mysterious man appears to affect them.”

The film, “Leaves of a Ficus,” was co-written by Matthew Clark, a senior studying theatre and English, and Lucas Farney, a 2020 graduate and current theatre technical director at Newman.

The story’s origin

The two were inspired to come up with the idea for the film after being approached last year by Daniel Murphy, a web technology specialist at Newman who directed, produced and edited the project.

Farney notes that he enjoyed seeing the screenplay he helped write come to life and that the piece also meant a great deal to him personally.

“It was something I had thought of nearly five years ago, but I never sat down to write a word of it,” Farney said. “When Dan asked Matthew and me if we would be open to writing a screenplay, that idea I had years before came back to me out of nowhere.”  

He added that the subject of the piece is special to him because it’s about a reunion or rekindling of the love between a set of twin brothers who have been through a lot together in their lives. As they’ve gotten older, they’ve started to not only grow apart but also let their trials and struggles get between them.

Students read through the script of "Leaves of a Ficus."
Students read through the script of “Leaves of a Ficus.”

“This hits home to me because I myself am a twin, and while the specifics of the piece don’t perfectly represent the relationship between my own twin and me, the love between them does (and so does their arguing),” Farney said. “It was therapeutic to a certain degree and certainly made me want to call him every time I was working on it, just to tell him I love him.”

Murphy was impressed when he read the screenplay that Clark and Farney wrote.

“They came up with what I think is a fantastic script that deals with difficult conversations and human ego,” Murphy said. “I’ve worked with Lucas on almost every one of my short films, and I’m always making excuses to fit him into my next project. Matthew is a fantastic writer and extremely talented assistant director. I don’t think I would have been able to make this film without everyone’s help. It is truly a team effort, and everyone gave 110%.”

Murphy, Clark and Farney plan to submit “Leaves of the Ficus” to a few film festivals upon its completion later this month. After hopefully premiering at those festivals during the 2022 summer film festival circuit, the film will be publicly available on Murphy’s YouTube channel.

Film comes to life

According to Clark, the process for creating the film involved the team meeting a couple times to brainstorm and discuss specifics, which then led to numerous writing sessions between him and Farney. Once the script was ready, the cast and crew rehearsed for just one week, followed by three days of filming.

“Whenever I’m in a writing or directing role of some sort, it’s truly awe-inspiring to see just how much progress is made in such a small amount of time,” Clark said. “But more than that, it astounds me that we can bring our fellow humans’ stories to life with a feat of talent and passion.”

For Allison Williams, a Newman senior and one of the film’s actresses, the best part about being involved in “Leaves of the Ficus” was being able to adapt her knowledge of acting for the stage for the camera.

It was invigorating to try something new and learn so much about something in such a small timeframe.”

– Allison Williams

“I feel like this experience better prepared me to take on new challenges,” she said. “It was invigorating to try something new and learn so much about something in such a small timeframe.  It also reminded me that everyone at Newman is always working on some project that I might be interested in — I just have to look for them.”

Murphy encourages students who wish to get into the world of film to simply dive in.

“The best way to learn is to write your own script, get some friends together and just get out and shoot,” he said.

Clark wholeheartedly agrees.

“If you are interested in telling a story, writing a poem, playing an instrument or even producing a short film, no matter how intimidating it may be, go forth and create,” he said. “Not only is it possible for all of us to bring something creative into the world, but it is also our duty as humans. To share our story is to live life to the fullest.”