A local filmmaker Michael Webber and his daughter, Bailey Webber, a junior at Springboro High School, have teamed up for a documentary exploring body images. The documentary’s premise: Lawmakers in more than a dozen states have passed a mandate requiring schools to perform body mass index, or BMI, tests on students. What followed sparked a heated national debate. Coined the “Fat Letters” by students, letters were given to overweight kids whose BMI did not fall within a narrowly accepted range; telling children, even as young as kindergarteners, that they are “fat.” Bailey’s investigation shows “two brave girls who take a stand against government intrusion and hypocrisy while exploring the complex and controversial truths of the childhood obesity debate.”
Photo: Jim Witmer
Photo: Jim Witmer

You need to see this award-winning ‘fat letter’ film by local father-daughter duo

What started as a Springboro High School student’s summer project is now an award-winning documentary now available on Netflix, iTunes, Amazon and other video streaming services.   

“It is amazing and it is all thanks to my dad with his investment in me,” Bailey Webber, now a Wright State University mass communication junior, said of the success of “The Student Body.” 

Webber and her dad, acclaimed producer and director Michael Webberused the scales of justice and an actual scale to take on a local school district, the state, and eventually national movers and shakers in the film about state-mandated BMI tests and so-called “fat letters.”

The award-winning film "The Student Body" by father-daughter team Michael and Bailey Webber is now streaming on Netflix and other services.
Photo: Source: The Student Body

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Webber said she recently received a letter from the president of the state senate congratulating her on the success of the film, which was screened around the nation.

The letter from the state was validation. 

“It just goes to show that people’s voices matter,” she said. “They are hearing us and they know our stories.”

Webber said the impact the movie has had on the conversation about body image has changed her. 

She got that idea for the movie after learning about a sixth grader who received a “fat letter.” It was filmed between her sophomore and junior years of high school.

The girl’s weight fluctuates due to a medical condition, Webber said. The fat letter caused the girl depression. 

Webber said she has battled insecurities in her life, and sympathized with the younger girl.

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Now 21, she said it is bad enough that kids can be cruel. Getting a letter from your school makes it worse. 

Filmmakers Michael and Bailey Webber cover a rally for then President Barack Obama at the University of Cincinnati.

The father and daughter duo spent a year filming the project in Ohio, New York, Florida, Washington, D.C. and elsewhere around the nation; a year editing it and a year presenting it at film festivals and in theaters. They share a director credit. 

Webber said one of the biggest thrills was when her dad told her it would be expanded beyond a 10-or-so minute project, and she would be the journalist in the video. 

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“Everything was terrifying to me, but I learned all the things I was supposed to do,” she said. “It was really empowering.” 

The Webbers spoke around the country. Their film was shown in the U.S. Senate and Capitol Hill in Washington and in Regal in Time Square.

Michael Webber, the producer of the hit documentary “The Elephant in the Living Room,” said that the fact that the  film is impacting families and children is the most important part. 

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“It kind of mushroomed,” said Webber, the president of NightFly Entertainment and MainSail Productions in Miamisburg. “Laws are changing because of the movie.” 

Still from the Student Body by Michael and Bailey Webber.

Webber said the power of journalism and documentary moviemaking is often the subject of dinner conversation at his home.

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He said it is rare for a father and daughter to work together in the movie industry.

“It’s been fun for the two of us,” he said. “It’s been really cool.”

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Bailey Webber, a youth mentor at Springboro Baptist Church, said she was thankful from the lessons from her dad, who has produced and directed several films for  20th Century Fox, Lionsgate and other studios.

“My dad, he is like one of the smartest people I know and one of the most interesting people I know,” she said. “He could have been doing so many other things,  but he took the time to invest in me.” 

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Still from the Student Body by Michael and Bailey Webber.

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