Jeff Wray

wrayj@msu.edu
517-884-4442

C638 Wells Hall

FacultyEnglishFilm Studies

Professor
Film and Media Studies; Film and Media Production; Creative Writing; Race and Ethnic Studies

Biography

The Evolution of Bert (2014) premiered at the 2014 50th Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) in the New Directors competition. Bert also screened in the Black Perspectives program and was in competition for the Roger Ebert Award at the CIFF. Other films include China (2003) funded by and produced for PBS, The Soul Searchers: Three Stories (2008) and two films in post-production; the concert film BLAT! Pack Live and the short drama Songs for my Right Side.  Films have screened in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Zurich and Berlin. China was broadcast nationally in the U.S. during 2003 and 2004. Grants and honors include a PBS/Independent Television Service (ITVS) American Stories III Production GrantJohn Anson Kittredge Foundation Fellowship, Art Serve Michigan Individual Artist Award, Ohio Arts Council Major FellowshipRockefeller Foundation Film and Video Fellowship nominations and a filmmaker residency at the Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University.  All films produced by Tama Hamilton-Wray & Jeffrey C. Wray.

Projects


BLAT! Pack Live – 60 minutes – Post Production – Digital Color

Concert film featuring the hip-hop music collective BLAT! Pack

Songs For My Right Side – 30 minutes – Post-Production – Digital color

Rodger Smith, a middle-aged writer is in trouble. He has been unfaithful to his wife Josephine and is desperate to win back her trust. A painful mysterious illness afflicting his right side develops and he encountered an undocumented West African migrant in need of his help. While Rodger tries to make sense of it all music is his only solace. 

The Evolution Of Bert (2014) – 75 minutes – 16mm black & white

In his last semester, Albert Hightower, a first generation black college student has much on his mind. He is determined to break up with his girlfriend. His history teacher will not give up the ‘A’ he feels he’s earned. Career pressures from home and from within weigh on him. Near past and near future blend in this dramatic, comic, surreal tale of a young man evolving.

2015 Rwanda International Film Festival – Competition Screening
2015 Athens International Film Festival – Competition Screening
2015 North Park University Chicago – Guest Artist Keynote
2015 Pan African Film Festival Los Angeles – Best First Feature Nominee – 3 Screenings Cinemark LA
2014 East Lansing Film Festival – Guest Artist & Screening – Closing Film of Festival – Sold Out Screening
2014 Chicago International Film Festival – Guest Artist – Premiere Screening – New Director’s Competition – Ebert Award Nominee – Black Perspectives – 3 Screenings AMC Cinema

The Soul Searchers: (2008) – 50 minutes – 16mm color

Three short films. In Get Thee Behind Me, Jeremiah, a Baptist reared twelve-years-old, is in love for the first time.  As his heart blossoms, the Devil occupies his thoughts interfering with the pursuit of his object of affection Esperanza Diaz. In Two Pink Dots? You Positive? Sarah is having a baby. Fear, dread and wonderment all inhabit the mind of a young woman agonizing over the arrival of a baby she does not want to have. In Middle Skin Hezekiah Blue and Catherine Jones Blue engage in a bitter fight fitting the pattern of their long complicated relationship.

2008 East Lansing Film Festival – Feature Film Award – Award Audience
2008 Athens International Film Festival – Featured Guest Artist
2008 International Black Cinema Berlin
2008 Urban World Film Festival, New York – Featured Screening

China (2003) – 60 minutes – 16mm color

Long married couple Evelyn and Rudolph Jackson live settled and unexciting lives. When the tired and sickly Rudolph suddenly takes up martial arts, everything changes. Adapted from a Charles Johnson short story.

2007 African American & African Festival – Keynote Speaker      
2007 University of Nebraska Lincoln –  Featured Artist          
2006 Dans Le Cadre Du Film series of Dakar Senegal
2006 Central Michigan University – Guest Artist  
2004 Boston First Night Celebration
2004 Western Michigan University – Guest Artist 
2003-04 PBS National Broadcast – 100 markets
2003 Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival – Best Short Film Nominee
2003 Athens International Film Festival – Guest Artist 
2003 Memphis Black Writer’s Conference & Film Festival
2003 Reel Sister’s of the Diaspora Film Festival
2003 East Lansing Film Festival – Best Feature Award
2003 Pocono Mountains Film Festival – Best Producer Award 
2003 Roxbury Film Festival
2003 Urban World Film Festival -Featured Screening

Courses

Film Directing
Holistic approach to film directing emphasizing director/actor relationships as well as the director as filmmaker process. Focus on collaboration, pre-production and production. Students produce three short films in the semester.

Screenwriting & Advanced Screenwriting
Workshop approach in which students write as well as critique the writing of classmates. Students develop ideas, write treatments and present 5-6 new pages per week completing a first draft of an original screenplay. Advanced students develop a new screenplay or revise a first draft.  Courses serve Film Studies and Creative Writing students.

Capstone Narrative Fiction Film I & II
Fiction filmmaking courses offer select upper level students the opportunity to create a 30-minute film using an independent filmmaking approach. Students work from an original screenplay and take on all roles in pre-production, production and post-production. The finished film premieres in the spring and is submitted to film festivals. Capstone student produced films have won several awards:

Reservations (2015) 30 minutes
2015 Traverse City Film Festival Official selection Student Film Showcase

A Public Affair (2014) 30 minutes
2014 Traverse City Film Festival Official selection Student Film Showcase

Theo Wilder: Case of the Torched Turf (2102) 30 minutes 
2012 East Lansing Film Festival Best Student Film

American Terrorist (2011) 30 minutes
2011 Flint Film Festival Best College Film
2011 Made in Michigan Film Festival Official selection
2011 Uptown Film Festival Best Short Film
2011 Uptown Film Festival Best Actor Award Rico Bruce Wade American Terrorist

University News

College of Arts & Letters Faculty Honored at 2022 Investiture
Published September 29, 2022 in College of Arts & Letters
A series of six headshots arranged in rows of three by three.
The Michigan State University community gathered at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts on Sept. 14 for the investiture of the 2022 class of endowed chairs, endowed professors, and MSU Foundation…Read now »
Conversations with CAL on the Timnick Chair, Humanities, Filmmaking, and Black Art
Published November 19, 2021 in College of Arts & Letters
headshot of a man wearing glasses and a navy blue suit
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZFa5cfK0TA As a filmmaker, screenwriter, and educator, Jeff Wray has served as a core faculty member in MSU’s Film Studies Program since 2002, developing and…Read now »
Professor Jeff Wray Appointed Timnick Chair in the Humanities
Published May 10, 2021 in College of Arts & Letters
headshot of a man wearing glasses and a navy blue suit
Jeffrey Wray, Department of English Professor and Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies, was appointed the next Timnick Chair in the Humanities,…Read now »
Fiction Filmmaking Class Overcomes Many Obstacles to Complete Film
Published June 12, 2020 in College of Arts & Letters
seven people sitting at a table eating food
Resilient – that is the word to describe the students of the 2019-2020 Fiction Filmmaking Capstone class, who faced countless obstacles this past academic year, but each time they were knocked…Read now »
English Professors Use Film and Comics to Engage Students in American History
Published February 18, 2020 in College of Arts & Letters
two men in a sound booth talking into microphones
Jeff Wray and Julian Chambliss, two distinguished professors from Michigan State University’s Department of English, joined Russ White on WKAR’s MSU Today to talk…Read now »
Faculty Members to Receive All-University Awards
Published January 28, 2019 in College of Arts & Letters
brick building surrounding by trees with red and green leaves
Four College of Arts & Letters faculty members will receive All-University Awards on Tuesday, February 5, during a special ceremony held at the Heritage Room of the University Club from 3:30…Read now »
Eight Student-Produced Short Films Featured at Traverse City Film Fest
Published August 1, 2018 in College of Arts & Letters
Old white projector projecting white light into smokey room
This year’s Traverse City Film Festival (TCFF), which runs July 31-August 5, will feature several Michigan State University student-produced short films.  On Saturday, August 4, at…Read now »
Fiction Film Capstone Class Film Premiere Set for April 26
Published April 23, 2018 in College of Arts & Letters
group of people standing in front of a whiteboard smiling
Students in the capstone class of the Fiction Film minor spent this past year creating the film, The House We Lived In, which premieres Thursday, April 26, at 7:30 p.m….Read now »
Student-Created Independent Film to Premiere April 25
Published June 18, 2017 in College of Arts & Letters
Cast and crew of On the Way Up at Michigan State University
Students in the Fiction Filmmaking minor have been hard at work all year creating a short film that will premiere next week. The film, titled On the Way Up, tells a touching story of a…Read now »
2017 Excellence in Diversity Awards
Published February 7, 2017 in College of Arts & Letters
Michigan State University sign in the winter
MSU faculty, staff and students who have demonstrated their efforts toward a more diverse and inclusive community will be honored at the 2017 All-University Excellence in Diversity Recognition…Read now »
2016 New Full Professors
Published November 10, 2016 in College of Arts & Letters
msu faculty graphic that says "congratulations full professors 2016"
On November 17, Michigan State University will recognize three new professors to the College of Arts & Letters at the University Promotion and Tenure Ceremony Dinner. Please join us in…Read now »
Faculty Alumni Board Awards
Published April 25, 2016 in College of Arts & Letters
group picture of faculty with awards
The 2016 Faculty Alumni Board Awards, which recognize College of Arts & Letters faculty for their outstanding achievements in leadership, teaching, innovation, and…Read now »
Independent Film to be Screened at Film Festival
Published February 6, 2015 in College of Arts & Letters
a man wearing glasses standing next to a photo of another man
“The Evolution of Bert,” a film by Jeff Wray, associate professor of film studies, is being screened in The Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles this month. The PAFF’s goal is to…Read now »