Iowa City local debuts holiday film

West Side Story interviews Director of Up on the Wooftop, a new Christmas movie created in Iowa City.


Joe Clarke, Director and Writer of Up on the Wooftop, with Sammi Dover, Toby the dog in the movie.

Joe Clarke filmed and recently released a Christmas story filmed in Iowa City and showcased at the Cannes Film Festival in France. He also might have substituted your sewing class at West two years ago.

Produced by Backrow Studios, Up on the Wooftop focuses on a dog named Toby dreams of leading Santa’s sleigh. He sneaks on one of Santa’s test runs, but falls into the Anderson family home in Iowa City, Iowa and gets stuck there. From there, he tries to reunite with Santa and train to lead his sleigh.

Up on the Wooftop thinks it has key to success. “The story was created by one of our producers in LA, and then we went it and wrote the script,” said writer and director Joe Clarke Clarke, 27.

In May, Up on the Wooftop took it’s trailer to the Cannes Film Festival. The actor for Santa was Dennis Haskins, aka Saved by the Bell’s Mr. Belding.

We talked with about Clarke’s newest movie, his motivation, and being a sub.

Dogs, cute kids, and Santa Claus appeals to audiences around the world, not just in the US.”

— Joe Clarke

WSS: What motivated you to go into film making?

JC: I’ve just always been into movies, and making movies, since I was kid. I was fortunate enough to be around people that did the same thing, and I just knew from an early age that this is something that I wanted to do.

WSS: Why did you choose to create Up on the Wooftop?

JC: It was just the right project at the right time. We wanted a movie that would reach a wide audience. We knew that we could bring a group of talented people together, and that it would be a good mix of personalities.

WSS: What do you think is the most appealing thing about your new movie?

JC: The movie was engineered to have everything in the movie appeal to a wide audience. Dogs, cute kids, and Santa Claus appeals to audiences around the world, not just in the US.

WSS: How was it like having you trailer at the Cannes Film Festival?

JC: It’s just been cool to see where at the in world the movie will be seen. We got a list last night of the places it’s at, including Australia, Taiwan, UK, Ecuador, France, etc.

WSS: Have you ever been a substitute teacher for a school in Iowa?

JC: Ha, I’m assuming that I was your substitute teacher at one point? Yeah, I was a substitute teacher for a couple years from ’11-’13. Pretty much all over the area. I taught sewing class quite a few times at West, was the school secretary one day at Hoover elementary, and even played librarian at North Central Junior High. Eventually word was getting out that we had a movie on Netflix, and people were really confused as to why and how I became a substitute teacher. It was a fun time.