Originally published in Fall 2018
Asbury University Professor Jeff Day is always juggling a few different projects. In addition to teaching classes as the Director of the Theatre & Cinema Performance program, Day runs his own production company, Lucky Day Studios. With several films in production and a few already available for viewing, Day’s work as a director, actor, writer and producer paints a picture for his students of what their own futures in the entertainment industry could look like.
“It’s a balancing act,” Day said. “I’m the theatre guy. But, I’m also a filmmaker. I want my students to get that if I can do this, they can.”
In the midst of a semester-long sabbatical, Day stays busy working on his latest projects. He recently wrapped production on “August Love,” a film featuring Rachel Hendrix (“October Baby”) and Daniel Stine. A popular TV movie channel is interested in Day’s productions and they will be in talks about possible distribution upon the film’s completion.
The film was shot in Midway, Ky. and Wilmore, Ky. and a sequel is already in the works to be shot in the spring. Day works extensively with his former students and had several young alumni as crew on “August Love,” including Ikia Walker ’15, Shelby Watson ’14, Rachel Hatcher ‘12 and senior Tyler Horn ’19. Current student Frankie Taylor ’20 acted in the film.
“I was super, super proud of them,” Day said of his former students. “Seeing them just blossom and grow like crazy and watching the other professionals interacting with them was really cool. They all were really, really professional. The other thing about it was those particular students have an incredible reputation in the state of Kentucky for film. It’s really cool to see.”
Day is passionate about telling stories that will uplift and inspire.
“I’ve just changed our mission statement for Lucky Day Studios and what I’ve realized is that I focus on making movies about heroes and lovers,” Day said. “That’s the only thing I’m interested in doing, heroes and love.”
With that in mind, Day is in the early stages of developing films about two very important civil rights heroes.
One of those stories belongs to Kentucky native Alice Dunnigan. Dunnigan was the first African American woman to work in the White House press corps. Her story is one of perseverance as she fought to overcome the cultural norms that inhibited black women in the workplace.
“She is one of those iconic people in the civil rights movement that most people don’t know about,” Day said. “It was really cool to come across that story because she did a lot for civil rights and for women. She said herself that she’s not sure if her biggest challenge was that she was black or that she was a woman.”
Day, who strongly believes in harnessing the power of the diversity of God’s Kingdom has big plans for this upcoming film project and especially wishes to tell Dunnigan’s story in a way that honors her life and contributions to the civil rights movement.
“In our heart, what we want to do is show people that we are a completely diversified kind of production so we’re going to look to partner with some other production companies that are very, very passionate about it,” Day said. “And then show that through diversity, we put this project together. That’s what’s really in our heart.”
Day also received the rights to civil rights reporter Simeon Booker’s story, which was released as a book in 2012.
Booker is credited with awakening national consciousness to the death of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was brutally murdered after being accused of whistling at a white woman in 1955.
Day hopes his students are inspired to cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit as they enter into the workforce, but above all else, he hopes they’ll learn to see God as a loving father.
“I was asked a question by a pastor once that really changed my life,” Day said. “What if God really is who He says He is? He’s your father. He sent His Son to die on the cross for you. He will never forsake you. He wants the best for you. What if we really believe that? If He is who He says He is, then whatever passions He gave to us, just follow them. When you’re sitting and yelling at Him, He’s right here holding onto you saying, ‘I got you.’ I think God gives us a great adventure and I’ve never been more excited. I hope my students can be that way.”
Day’s own favorite films have always centered on heroes and lovers. His all-time favorite? “Field of Dreams.”
“I lost my father when I was seven,” Day said. “In that movie, Kevin Costner also lost his father when he was younger. They kept saying, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ He thought it was for these people that needed to come back and finish a baseball game. But, it was his dad. He was able to reconnect with his father and play catch with his dad.”
For Day, the spiritual is intertwined in film and theatre. The power of a good story lies in that special combination of human experience and artistic expression.
“I think movies inspire us and they’re spiritual in nature because we’re dealing with human spirit,” Day said. “We’re dealing with choices that people make and you get to deal with the brokenness. That’s the stuff of dreams…finding something, finding your place. That’s what we all want.”