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Monday, Sep 01, 2014

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David Jefferies

Photographer: Brock Fowler

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Teresa Strebler

Photo courtesy of: Teresa Strebler

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Lights! Camera! Graduate!

Co-director of media arts and studies' latest feature talks about his passion for film and his work


David Jefferies may just be graduating college but the student in the School of Media Arts and Studies has one leg up on many of his peers -- he has already co-written and co-directed a full-length, feature film.

Jefferies, winner of his program's Outstanding Senior Award, has spent much of the past seven months working closely with his cohort on "The Passageway," a film based on the semi-autobiographical play, "Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver," by Ohio University playwriting program alumna Merri Biechler.

When he and writing and directing partner Teresa Strebler, also a graduating senior (see sidebar), took over the helm in December, they had a short time and much to do.

"I co-wrote it, but [Strebler] did most of the work in production because she had done more writing," said Jefferies. "She did more of the heavy lifting on that aspect and I offered a fresh set of eyes."

But his colleague saw the arrangement differently.

"That is just like David," said Strebler. "It was truly a collaboration. The two of us worked together and without both of us, the final product wouldn't have worked."

Associate Professor Frederick Lewis, Jefferies, the instructor for MDIA 419, the class that made "The Passageway," echoed Strebler.

"David was only in one of my classes prior to MDIA 419 and 'The Passageway,' but he is very well known and respected within the School of Media Arts and Studies," said Lewis. "He is multitalented and great at multitasking. I asked a great deal of David on this project and he always put forth a supreme effort. He and his co-director, Teresa Strebler, complemented each other perfectly."

One thing Jefferies brought to the writers' table was his personal connection to the film's subject matter. "The Passageway" deals with a woman who finds herself caring for her dying peacemaker mother and six years later for her dying father, who is the opposite.

"I connected to the subject matter because I was a reluctant caregiver," said Jefferies. "My dad had cancer when I was in high school; he's now in remission. It was between my junior and senior years in high school and I was hung up on being a high school senior. I couldn't grasp the situation in front of me. … You look back and realize there are things you would have done."

During those hectic high school years, Jefferies became involved in the AV Club and interested in television and multi-camera productions. With that in mind, he started looking for a school that would teach him the skills he would need to excel in a competitive field, but would still give him opportunities to be creative.

He has taken those opportunities head-on. Jefferies has participated in 48-Hour Shootouts across Ohio, directing several. He has also garnered an Emmy and a Telly nomination for his work with WOUB.

"The past two summers I have worked with WOUB on 'Down and Dirty Science' and 'Spaced Out.' They're programs that provide educational support for at-need students."

Early on in his time at Ohio University, Jefferies pulled some of his friends together to create Easy Fix Productions. He also stepped into leadership positions in Athens Video Works.

"As the general manager of Athens Video Works for the last few years, he has given that organization great stability and a foundation to build on," said Lewis.

In the future, Jefferies said he would like to pursue more opportunities to mix education and entertainment, as he did on "The Passageway."

Jefferies' final work at Ohio University just had its premiere on June 5, providing a fittingly spectacular ending to a full four years.

"My four years here have been great," he said. "It still hasn't hit yet that I'll be graduating. I mean, we just finished the film!"

Meet Teresa Strebler

Teresa Strebler, graduating senior in media arts and studies, said she never intended to spend much of her senior year co-writing and co-directing the feature film, "The Passageway," but that she wouldn't change anything about it.

"I got involved because David [Jefferies, co-writer and co-director] got involved," she said. "I had no intention of working on the movie. I had previously only done shorts. But eventually I read the play and realized that I really wanted to be a part of it."

For Strebler, one of the most rewarding aspects of her time at OHIO and on the movie's crew was the people.

"The people are amazing. I never expected to find the kind of people who you can work with and who want to work, are passionate about it, and who you can argue with about it," she said. "But then you can put that aside and continue to get it done."

Strebler has no firm plans for the future at the moment, but she's ready for whatever comes next.

"I wish I had more of a plan," she said. "One day, I want to work on things that I enjoy and have some input and ownership of -- like this movie."