UMSL alumnus Billy Benner, BA English 2003, wrote and directed the film "Speak Easy," which makes its premiere tomorrow at Chase Park Plaza Cinemas in St. Louis.

Billy Benner has created his film homage to south St. Louis.

The University of Missouri–St. Louis alumnus wrote and directed the independent dark comedy “Speak Easy.” The so-called “super low budget” film was shot on location in south St. Louis, primarily in the Benton Park neighborhood. And it’s making its premiere at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow (Nov. 1) at Chase Park Plaza Cinemas, 212 N. Kingshighway Blvd. in St. Louis (63108).

“Speak Easy” focuses on Barney Monroe, a longtime south city resident who embodies the spirit of the St. Louisan term “hoosier.” That is to say he’s something of an urban redneck content with living a simple life filled with drinking beer and playing host to a series of amusing guests in his basement speakeasy.

Benner, BA English 2003, was a student in the Pierre Laclede Honors College at UMSL. Robert Bliss, dean of the college, remembered Benner fondly and wished him success with his film.

“Billy Benner is a great character, proof positive – or at least presumptive – that the honors college welcomes all sorts,” Bliss said. “He enriched the community here as a student, and now it appears that he is enriching the city as an artist.”

Last week, Benner stopped by his old honors college haunt, the Provincial House, to chat about his new movie and his days as a UMSL student.

Ryan Heinz

Ryan Heinz

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