Downers Grove writer, director and producer dreams big with 'Voice of the Vespers'

Downers Grove, IL

Nothing is too tough for Downers Grove writer, director and producer Matthew Van Howe, who has managed to create a feature film, “Voice of the Vespers” from scratch.

He didn’t let the dismal budget bother him. He didn’t even worry about his full-time teaching job get in the way — not to mention he had no proper film school training.

He just got to work and almost three years later, he is almost ready for the film’s release. He’s hoping to have everything completed by August, and is looking into doing a premiere at the Tivoli in Downers Grove, as well as enter it in as many film festivals as possible.

How did you first get started in film?
Basically I’ve always been interested in the medium of film. I made a couple of films in high school based on a comic book that I wrote, but I actually got a job teaching music. I’m a songwriter. Then I started getting into editing more when this buddy of mine in a band asked me to edit a music video for them. I liked editing a lot and it was really similar to music — they’re both a time-based medium.

So you had no formal training?
I just started to do research and really immersed myself in the film world with books and film theory and I just kind of taught myself it. I went to school for music. I have a music and education degree from Trinity Christian College. Teaching is my day job right now since I’m sort of breaking into the field of film.

Tell me a little bit about the film you’re working on.
It’s called “Voice of the Vespers” and it’s an independent feature film. Feature meaning an hour and 35 minutes. It’s a sci-fi action drama. The basic idea of the movie is that the main character, Salem, is a proprietor, so he has a connection to a vesper. These vespers live in another dimension — the Elder Flex. Because it’s sort of a feudalistic nobility structure, the proprietors are trying to take the elders out of the dimension and connect with them. The movie begins with someone completing the experiment.

Was it hard to do a film with almost no experience?
It definitely was. I did a couple of short films before I tackled a feature but I realized that short films are different. I was very fortunate to meet a DePaul film graduate named Ben Krueger, who co-produced the film with me. He filled in all the blanks when I didn’t know what terms were.

Where did you find your actors?
Well, I spent a lot of time on the audition process. I felt as if I needed to get talented individuals. Plus I was doing it on a micro-budget, so I couldn’t afford to pay anyone. I put an ad on Craigslist and I had a lot of applications. I sorted through over 350. I held auditions at the public library in Woodridge in the study rooms. I think I did like three months of auditions almost every day. I was very fortunate to find my actors through that.

The hardest person to cast was the main character, Salem. I went through a round of auditions and callbacks before I found my main actor, Kyle Dal Santo. I went back to the drawing board and he sent me his application right away. Two days after I had sent the script, he had read it four times, had it memorized, and he really understood who Salem was.

With such a small budget, how did you shoot this entire film?
We filmed it in the Chicago area. Preston Taub, who is playing the part of Dartagnon and also was a producer, secured the location of shooting in the John Hancock building on the 55th floor. It was a gorgeous location, especially for his part, which is a powerful businessman that runs the city.