DBU Students Co-directing a Film

DBU students Emma Sumlin and Jonathan Collins with their lead actors in Timeless, their student film
(From left to right) Jordan Pope, Emma Sumlin, Grace Adams, Jonathan Collins. Photo from Ashlyn Cox

"Our world needs good stories that imitate Christ and share His hope and truth. That's what I feel called to do, in whatever medium God has for me" — Emma Sumlin.

Co-directors Emma Sumlin and Jonathan Collins. Photo from Ashyln Cox.

Jonathan Collins and Emma Sumlin are entering their senior year at DBU this fall. Emma is an English major, and Jonathan is majoring in Communication: Broadcast/Digital Media. They met during their freshman year in the Intro to Digital Media class taught by Professor Chris Fore. The two of them immediately clicked because of their shared passion for film. In Fall 2022, Emma and Jonathan created the film We Were Happy, which premiered at DBU in July 2023. Emma directed the film, while Jonathan served as the editor. They are back to work on their most ambitious project yet: Timeless, a black-and-white silent film set during World War II.

In April 2023, Emma's friend and fellow DBU student, Grace Adams, suggested that she should make a film set in the 1940s. Emma and Grace speculated about the potential movie all night, and by the end of the night, they had nailed down the scope and plot. Emma spoke to Jonathan, and he enthusiastically agreed to join the production as co-director, editor, and cinematographer. They began pre-production in September 2023 and plan to shoot in July 2024 in Springtown, TX, and Grapevine, TX.

"I have always been a bit of an old soul. I love old-fashioned things, vintage movies, classic romance, and jazz music. A story like Timeless was always in the works in some way in my heart," Emma Sumlin shared about her inspiration for the film. "For most of my life, I believed it would be impossible to create a period piece without a substantial budget, but since I leaned into this project, trusting the Lord, I've seen him open doors I didn't think were options to me."

Emma knew right away that she wanted Grace Adams to play the leading female role in the film. They sent casting calls online to cast the male protagonist and struggled to find a perfect fit. Then, an actor from Tennessee named Jordan Pope sent in an audition video, and Emma quickly realized he was the perfect fit. He traveled to Texas for their promotional photoshoot in January, which was shot by DBU alumna Ashlyn Vozeh Cox. Emma also recruited her friend and fellow DBU student Grace Mitchell to compose the score. "I feel so blessed to have the cast and crew we do," Emma shared. "They are not only pros at their work but also genuine Christlike people who I am proud to call my friends."

Jordan Pope and Grace Adams showcase the relationship of their characters, Pearce and Marjorie. Photo From Ashlyn Cox.

As they develop the film, the crew has released a teaser to excite their fans:

In the midst of World War II, Pearce and Marjorie meet each other by accident and fall in love quickly. Their relationship is pure and exciting. Pearce is the optimity of a gentleman, and Marjorie is the essence of Grace and classic beauty. As we see their love story unfold, we can't help but root for them and wish we were in their cinematic dream world. One night, as they dance among the stars, Pearce proposes to Marjorie, and overcome, she accepts. They are married and begin their exciting life together. All seems to be going well until one day, Pearce receives a letter in the mail that he has been drafted into the war. Pearce and Marjorie have an emotional parting as he heads off to war. They promise to write every week, and that is just what they do. There is much hope for them as they send and receive letters to one another. But one day, Pearce's letters stop coming...

During the summer of 2022 and 2023, respectively, Emma and Jonathan had the opportunity to intern with Kingdom Story Company, a Christian filmmaking organization home to recent hits such as Unsung Hero, Jesus Revolution, and I Can Only Imagine. As interns, they learned how to do script coverage and editorial work on films and offered their critiques for movies before they were released. Emma and Jonathan became very close to the team at Kingdom Story Company. When they heard that Jonathan and Emma were raising funds for a new film, they donated on behalf of the entire organization.

Emma and Jonathan's time at DBU has been highly formative. During Emma's freshman year, she contemplated leaving DBU to pursue a film degree at another university, but God kept her here and led her to change her major to English. She shared, "The Lord knew he would open every door for that direction. He put me where I needed to be to get special training in storytelling." Emma has grown as a writer and storyteller through on-campus opportunities like DOXA Literary Circle and her relationship with her professor and advisor, Dr. Jodi Grimes. As a digital media major, Jonathan has gotten hands-on experience with state-of-the-art equipment to hone his editing and camera skills.

Emma and Jonathan have received full support from Professor Chris Fore and Dr. Jodi Grimes throughout the production process. They have both served as mentors to them and regularly encourage the crew, reviewing and providing feedback on their work. Dr. Grimes has worked with Emma throughout her time in the English department and has helped her strengthen her writing and storytelling skills. Professor Fore has helped Emma and Jonathan learn about production, equipment, editing, and more. "That's what makes DBU professors stand out," Emma shared. "They are genuinely interested in their students. I have felt so loved by Professor Fore and Dr. Grimes."

Upon graduation next year, Emma hopes to pursue a career in acting. She has fallen in love with the entertainment industry, so she'd love to try dipping into writing movies and novels, too. She understands acting will have to be a side career to stay afloat, so she hopes to land a full-time role in the book editing industry. Jonathan aspires to break into the world of filmmaking or live production. He shared, "I have always liked telling stories from a visual perspective, and movies are an excellent way to do that. I also like working behind the scenes during a live production. The thrill of knowing that I've only got one chance to get this transition right always makes me excited."

About the Communication: Broadcast/Digital Media Program

An undergraduate degree in Broadcast/Digital Media at Dallas Baptist University (DBU) prepares students for the real world with important skills and experiences necessary to work successfully in live production, as well as an on-camera reporter or anchor in news and/or sports, and as a content creator and storyteller. DBU students get critical hands-on instruction and training while involved in the production of live sports, plus concerts, recitals, various Greek Life events, and other campus activities. For more information on Broadcast/Digital Media at DBU, contact Chris Fore, Program Director of Broadcast/Digital Media and Church Media, at chrisf@dbu.edu or (214) 333-5636.

About the English Program

The BA in English degree cultivates a student’s passion for storytelling and integrates faith and biblical understanding with the theory and practice of literary studies. The English department equips students with the necessary skills for pursuing careers in business, law, ministry, teaching, writing, content creation, editing, marketing, and more. Students learn from committed faculty who love to invest in their students and help them develop their skills as life-long learners and effective leaders.

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Written by Cameron Billings

Cameron Billings is the Assistant Director of Written Content in University Communications at Dallas Baptist University.