WC’s night to shine

‘Made in Iowa’ premiere showcases resilience in the wake of change

Two young men look up at the marque at the Webster Theater Thursday night.. The short film, “Made in Iowa” premiered at the theater last night.

It was a big night for Webster City. The downtown was flooded with residents eagerly awaiting the premiere of “Made in Iowa” at the Webster Theater.

The 6 p.m. showing was packed with community members who had the first chance to view the documentary and watch the live streaming question and answer session that followed with Jack Dorsey, Square CEO and Twitter co-founder. Joining Dorsey in the live-streamed event were Denise Smith of SOS Vintage, Jeff Pingel and Kay Ross, HERO board members. All three were featured in the film.

The documentary showcased the resiliency of Webster City residents after the loss of Electrolux in 2011 as well as the positive momentum gained by locals restoring the town theater in 2014.

Square, Inc and EVEN/ODD Films collaborated to tell Webster City’s story to the world.

The community was selected for the film location after employees with Square checked out user stats in the area as well as articles and information from the local press.

Jack Dorsey, Square Inc., CEO and Twitter co-founder, meets with Webster City residents after the premiere of “Made in Iowa” Thursday night at the Webster Theater. Square collaborated with EVEN/ODD Films to tell the story of Webster City’s resilience after the loss of Electrolux in 2011.

Mohammad Gorjestani, partner and director with EVEN/ODD production company, directed the short film.

“Working with Square, we decided we wanted to collaborate and tell the story relevant things going on in America and tell that through the lens of small business,” said Gorjestani.

“Made in Iowa” is the second film for Square and EVEN/ODD. The first was, “Yassin Falafel.” The documentary, produced in Knoxville, Tennessee and followed the story of Yassin, a Syrian refugee with a dream to bring the flavors of his country to his newfound home. To accomplish this he started selling falafel and worked to open his own restaurant.

The first film focused on the theme of immigration. Filmmakers decided to focus on the “Rust Belt” and factory jobs for their second film of the series.

While researching on locations, Gorjestani came across a New York Times photo essay featuring Webster City.

“My first instinct was that there was something missing in that story,” said Gorjestani. “I was really fascinated in coming out here and seeing for myself as a filmmaker … to get on the ground and really see what was going on here.”

“People had a new-found resiliency that, I think, is inherent to the people in this area,” Gorjestani.

“What was interesting for me personally was so much of narrative we get on the coast, especially in San Francisco from our media outlets, is really about this narrative that towns that lost factories are just sitting around waiting for other factories to come in,” said Gorjestani. “What we found here is that that wasn’t true.”

Dorsey said he was also impressed with the community’s resilience.

“One of the things that we saw immediately was the resilience of this town and just such a creative approach to owning a situation and taking matters into people’s own hands. Also doing it through the lens of small business by looking at an opportunity of loss to build something brand new,” said Dorsey.

“We’re just super fortunate to be a small part of that story by providing a tool that hopefully made it easier to make that choice and go down that path,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey said as they reached out and learned, they saw it wasn’t just the theater but there were businesses all over the town using Square, a credit card processing service.

“The reason we started the company over eight years ago is because my co-founder Jim McKelvey, was being left out of participating in the economy because he couldn’t accept credit cards,” Dorsey said. “We asked more merchants around us in San Francisco why they didn’t accept credit cards and we watched them lose sales because their buyers wanted to use a card.”

He said the creation of Square meant being able to participate in the economy and that was also what he saw in Webster City, “the decision to participate more fully in the economy even though the major employer left. So not to give up, but to take matters into their own hands and do it themselves,” Dorsey said.

He said that while the word “community” is tossed around a lot, “community” can be felt in Webster City.

“It’s self-evident and you see it in everyone,” Dorsey said. “Self-awareness. Self-reliance. Self-support. They all came through in every conversation that we had.”

The CEO said that the words often used by crew members to describe the people of Webster City were “kind,” “heart” and “spirit.”

“Everyone was hugging instead of shaking hands,” said Dorsey. “It just brings you back to the essence of how we should all treat each other. It’s a good reminder.”

Gorjestani said he’s grown very fond of Webster City in his three trips to the community.

“I think it’s a great town,” said Gorjestani. “I felt like I was coming back to somewhere very familiar and comfortable.”

The director said he hopes people find the short film to be an authentic representation of Webster City.

“I think emotionally, it will feel like we’re telling an authentic story that resonates with the way people perceive the place they love,” he said. “My goal with this one was really to give this town an opportunity to share its story to allow people to realize and see how we are all more alike than different.”

In addition to the film, residents were treated to a free meal, kids games and music in the park at Availa Bank Plaza.