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Alumni Spotlight - Levi Obery '09

When one thinks of filmmakers, it is probable that central Illinois does not immediately come to mind. Levi Obery is working to change that. Obery began filmmaking as a high school student at Metamora High School in Metamora, Illinois. As a young teen, he was hired to shoot videos of local sports teams and weddings, but in May 2004, he had his first movie premiere — a three screen event where his film The Only Way was viewed by audiences. The project was done in collaboration with his colleague David Zimmerman and tackles the topic of school violence.

In the fall of 2006, Levi entered the Entrepreneurship program in the Foster College of Business at Bradley University. He found the instruction and coursework in the program to be “extremely beneficial” with respect to his ambitions to pursue filmmaking. He notes that each new film project is approached much like a business would approach launching a start-up company. The skills and knowledge learned during his tenure at Bradley assisted him with how to manage projects, and this has been helpful as he pursues independent film projects.

While at Bradley, Levi made three more films. Before the Storm tells a story about a young man named Jon who is to meet his girlfriend for dinner, but his evening takes an unexpected path. Into the Woods was Obery’s first horror film. It was filmed in Washburn, Illinois and premiered in 2008 at the historic Apollo Theater in downtown Peoria. Obery Farms: A Family’s Legacy is a documentary that took over a year to film, and it showcases a local farm that has been in operation for over 135 years. Levi worked closely with his grandmother on this project, and it is a project that has particular meaning to him because of the personal connection with his family. The film won a 2009 Davey Award and a 2010 Communicator Award. The Documentary Channel has rights to air the film, and it can be found on DirecTV, the Dish Network and is also available on DVD.

Armed with a degree from Bradley University and a goal to pursue his passion, Obery moved to Los Angeles, California in 2009 where he was hired to work for Media Temple, a web hosting service. The creative innovators at the company had an idea to showcase their web hosting services in a unique way by telling the stories of the clients who use the services. They chose to leverage Levi’s filmmaking skills and showcase the clients by creating mini-documentaries. These projects have taken Obery across the country to shoot the stories of people, their ideas, and their businesses. The stories range from that of artistic and edgy photographer, Tyler Shields—to the story of the indestructible Yeti cooler—to the story of a young girl who started her own cookie company. For his work, Obery’s documentary Made on (mt) series was recognized with a 2013 Telly Award and named an Official Honoree in the 2013 Webby Awards. Webby Awards are the leading international awards honoring excellence on the Internet. Obery’s series was recognized in the category of “Branded Entertainment Unscripted,” and the slate of honorees included the company branding campaigns of American Express, Google, FX and AMC.

In addition to producing his documentary series at Media Temple, Obery has a few projects in progress. He is currently working on a Kickstarter campaign for No Man’s Land, a period “creature feature” that will be shot on location in Utah. He is also collaborating on a thriller titled In the Belly of the Whale that will be shot on location in Alaska. Someday, he would like to produce a narrative farm story loosely based on Obery farms.

When recounting his Bradley experience, Obery is grateful to several faculty members, who taught, mentored and supported his efforts. Obery appreciated the support of emeritus faculty member Fred Fry and the continuing support of Amy Fairfield Doering who is the Director of Project Springboard. Every once in a while you have that “one class” that remains in your memory long after you’ve left campus. For Obrey, that was a class in the entrepreneur curriculum taught by Alexis Khazzam (co-founder of Project Springboard) and James Richmond.

More information about Levi Obery, his accomplishments and his work can be found here.