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William Penn University and Astarox Productions Team up for Project


Photo Credit: Jeff Caplan

(OSKALOOSA, Iowa)— William Penn University teamed up with Astarox Productions for their first project since coming to Oskaloosa in late 2020. Astarox Productions is led by Max Leonida, celebrated film director and Film Artist in Residence at WPU and Paola Cipollina, an international entrepreneur. Their Italian production company completed projects for numerous high profile European and American companies including L’Oréal, SKY, Sony, ROCHE, A&G Milwaukee, and Mediaset. They also produced award winning films such as “Mandala – the symbol,” “Backward,” “Memento Mori,” “A Very Lovely Dress,” and “Beauty in the Broken.” The William Penn University video is their inaugural piece in Iowa.

This unique, seven-minute, one-shot film was shot on location at William Penn University with Max Leonida as Director, Ben Handler as Director of Photography, and Devin Ibañez, Actor. The entire campus and local community came together in the filming of this project. Multiple athletic teams participated, faculty and staff served as extras and local community members even took part in this film. Through much coordination and support, over 400 students were featured. Behind the scenes help was abundant as well, as campus and community entities stepped in to help with many of the logistics prior to and during filming. Claudio Ferri of Royal Artist Management was integral to the project. Musco Lighting was instrumental in helping with technical needs, Sodexo Facilities and Food Service, Wood Iron Grille, and the Oskaloosa Police Department were all part of the production details as well.

The project received support at the State level with Produce Iowa – State Office of Media Production, as they helped coordinate important details of the shoot. Astarox Productions is working closely with Produce Iowa to offer a viable and exciting alternative to Hollywood in Iowa.

True to Max’s vision of combining teaching and directing, he was able to incorporate faculty and students from William Penn University’s Division of New Media. Students were able to experience hands-on work during rehearsal and filming. “Our students and faculty were excited to be included in Astarox Productions project. Featuring our campus was especially rewarding. The unique opportunity for our students to participate in a professional video production is at the core of our Division of New Media; providing real-world experiences,” says Markus Haala, Chair, Division of New Media. The entire University including President, John Ottosson and Dean of Academic Affairs, Dr. Noel Stahle, were supportive of this creative and unique film highlighting William Penn University.

Director, Max Leonida says of this project, “The one-shot type of filming is every filmmaker’s dream and nightmare at the same time, because of the complexity and the unpredictability of every moving part! I knew I could boldly achieve something extremely beautiful only because of the extraordinary community I can rely on here. A project of this particular magnitude (400 extras, invisible cuts, 40 acres of campus covered, moving crane inside the indoor stadium, etc.) couldn’t have been possible, in Los Angeles, without a monstrously huge budget. But I knew I could count on the unconditional support of a loving and caring community. On top of that, all my excellent students have been a pivotal part in the entire process and they did a tremendous job, sometimes better than the professionals I’ve been dealing with in the past!”

The film is now in post-production and will be shared with the campus and local community upon completion. It will then be available on the WPU website, as well as multiple social media platforms and digital outlets.


About William Penn University: William Penn University is a private, liberal arts university in Oskaloosa, Iowa. It was founded by members of the Religious Society of Friends in 1873. William Penn University provides the opportunity for an educational experience with a focus on leadership, technology and the Quaker principles of simplicity, peace-making, integrity, community and equality.

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