Student film “Siber” explores humanity’s bond with creation

An interview with Caleb Wheeler, the writer and director of his student film “Siber.”


Courtesy of Caleb Wheeler

Mack Hayden, Writer

Courtesy of Caleb Wheeler


The end of the year is marked by plenty of senior theses getting released by film students across the board. Arts & Entertainment editor Mack Hayden sat down with staff film critic, Caleb Wheeler, to discuss his own project, "Siber."

MH: You talk in the film's description about our forsaken bond with creation. How would you define that? Do you think disconnection from our world and each other is an inherent part of the human condition?

CW: The driving force behind the inspiration for “Siber” was this: humans have existed for millions of years, that is a fact. Our ancestors didn’t just live off the land, they lived within it on emotional and spiritual levels. Their homes were huts and caves. They lived by the stars and the seasons and hunted and gathered and flourished. Fast forward to today — we are now living in air-conditioned environments eating processed foods with LCD lights shining into our eyes from phones and laptops that give off radiation and invisible transmissions. Humans adapt and become accustomed to their surroundings, yes, but I wonder what would happen if someone woke up in 2013 essentially rebooted to a state of thinking and feeling like our ancestors did. A caveman would hardly feel normal — or safe — walking around a suburban house with all of this artificial sustainability around him.

I really believe there’s a basic connection to nature and creation that we’re missing today. There was a tie to the land that existed for millenniums, but in the last century that tie has become increasingly forsaken by our need for comfort and instant gratification. We don’t really work to survive anymore. It’s given to us on a silver platter. I want “Siber” to remind people where we’ve come from and make them think about where we’re going.

MH: You were the writer and director of this project, so you're treading a careful path to get your vision across. Was taking this auteur approach a conscious decision? Other senior theses have tons of different people filling tons of different roles, but did you have a vision of what you wanted with the movie that you were worried wouldn't be captured without more control over the project?

CW: It’s taken me 22 years and a college career to recognize the distinction between creative control and control for the sake of power. I will always be a proponent of creative control because an idea is our most intimate piece of property. My goal was to build a story from the ground up and make it a movie all in the span of three months. “Siber” didn’t come to me like other stories have. It was shaped by the foundational themes I wanted to explore without any limits. As a result, my vision for it was unbelievably specific. A true auteur doesn’t say “My dream is to be an auteur.” It happens naturally, even if the desire for an auteur’s prestige is already there. It’s the passion and exclusivity of vision that seals the deal.

MH: If so, what was that vision?

CW: “Siber” is an exploration, the way any good movie is — or should be. I wanted “Siber” to be broad enough to stretch people, but not so ambiguous that it became superfluous in the process. It had to be accessible, and it’s been interesting to see how people have responded to the script. Everybody has their own interpretation of some really key plot points, which is a beautiful thing. It’s exactly what I was going for. Everyone wants their movie to be big from a point of accessibility, and my strategy was to have it engage everyone equally but in very different ways. The way you interpret something says a lot about who you are. A good movie brings that self-recognition out and stirs you up.

MH: Were you trying to convey anything philosophically or theologically through the film?

CW: Some people will probably see the film and think I’m in favor of reincarnation or naturalism. I won’t say I’m not, but I will say that I don’t believe in either of those things from a religious standpoint. I believe that the soul has more to do with the world and with history than just the time we physically inhabit the Earth. Whether it’s an idea, a decision or an action, I think that what we do echoes far beyond our own lives and can even survive for hundreds of years down the line. In “Siber”, when you see the same actor playing two different characters separated by, say, a millennium, it isn’t necessarily a message of reincarnation but rather the rebirth of an idea. Perhaps the character in the past created a ripple in history that resulted in the existence of the character in the future, which is why they share likenesses. Again, it’s a point of interpretation.

MH: How did Kickstarter help out making the film? How long were you shooting for?

CW: Kickstarter was our womb. The project would not have been possible without that campaign or the 32 people who donated. It’s nerve-racking to put all your cards on the table and pray for a solid budget to present itself. I felt like I had to pitch the movie to everyone I met in hopes that investors would come out of the woodwork. We ended up raising over the amount that we’d hoped for. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of friends, family and people I had never even met.

We shot over the course of two weekends with a total of four shooting days. These were very long days. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that film production isn’t a sport. The crew has to be a well-oiled machine, and I was working with the best crew I could’ve asked for. It was a bizarre thing to see my story fleshed out as a result of so much dedicated manpower. It’s like seeing a group of people build you a house for free because they believe your blueprints were worth the time. 

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