McNeely’s new film is released

By Anna Rende

Kabir McNeely, filmmaker and senior at Branson, incorporates his personal health struggle into a touching film where self-reflection leads to meaningful change in his lifestyle. Premiering at the Reel Recovery Film Festival, from Oct. 21 to 27, McNeely’s first film explores a topic that is relevant to many of us, one that is often under-recognized. 

The main goal of the film was to provide representation for boys and men who struggle with eating disorders, one that does not make them the punch line or the joke. 

“I noticed a lot of films that focus on disordered eating tend to focus on underweight girls. There isn’t adequate representation of overweight boys, particularly those dealing with bulimia,” said McNeely. 

One of McNeely’s dreams became reality when he was accepted into his first film festival, which is specifically centered around mental health films. He plans to do a wide release of “My Name is Moe” once he hears back from several other film circuits that he applied to. 

“As a little kid I always really enjoyed watching movies. I would often imagine myself as the characters and live vicariously through them, which makes it extremely exciting to start thinking about avenues to get myself into the business because that’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” McNeely said.

As part of the process McNeely had to find actors and actresses to star in his film. He began the search on campus, recruiting Kaia Hayes, a junior. “For Kaia, it was easy to hire her because I already go to school with her,” he said.

Hayes continued by saying, “I don’t do much acting, but it was a really fun process and got me more interested in film.” 

As his search continued, he referenced Backstage, a website to easily hire professional actors, making the process a lot easier. But one person was particularly drawn to McNeely’s movie that he was extremely shocked by: the California state treasurer.

“The California state treasurer, Fiona Ma, was crazy hard to hire. I met her at an event for an organization that I work with called The Mixed Roots Foundation. A few days later I texted her saying, ‘Hey this is a longshot but do you want to be in my movie, here’s the script,’” McNeely said about his process. “And 20 minutes later she responded saying she loved my script and that she wanted to be in the movie.”

Alongside the state treasurer, McNeely hired several other actors, including Brandon Leland, who acted as Moe’s high school coach. The short film revolves around the relationship between Moe and Brandon. 

“It’s such a character driven film about crafting the characters and really getting to know them.” When asked about the creative process, McNeely said he “created a Spotify playlist with the kind of music [he] thought Moe would listen to, and played the songs while writing the script, which really helped get into the character.” 

McNeely’s personal identity played a huge role in his decision to produce “My Name is Moe,” with hopes to leave an everlasting impact and impression on his viewers. 

“I think for me, particularly with representation around being overweight, there wasn’t a lot to look at when searching for characters that were relatable to me,” he said. “In terms of shaping my identity, it’s more about what I wanted to do as an artist and the representation I wanted to create through my work.”