Regent University’s first-ever feature-length film releases worldwide on Netflix and DVD and Digital HD Tuesday, September 6.
The romantic comedy, In-Lawfully Yours, a modern re-telling of the biblical account of the story of Ruth, was written by School of Communication & the Arts (SCA) professor, Sean Gaffney. The film was produced in partnership with Home Theater Films, under the leadership of veteran Hollywood actor, Corbin Bernsen (Psych, L.A. Law).
While the film features talent from principal actors Marilu Henner (Taxi), Chelsey Crisp (Fresh Off the Boat), Joe Williamson (Grey’s Anatomy) and Philip Boyd (The Haves and The Have Nots), Regent’s SCA students needed to look no further than their Hampton Roads backyard to find their first big break into Hollywood filmmaking.
As a notoriously difficult industry to step into, many storytellers, cinema and television talents give up on their dreams before they even start. Regent students, however, were able to add In-Lawfully Yours to their professional film credits before they graduated.
“The most encouraging thing throughout the process was that it felt a lot more doable,” said David Cunningham ’16 (SCA), assistant to the producer for the film. “You don’t ever know what to expect when you come on to set every day; it was difficult, it was challenging, but it’s not impossible to get work in film.”
Cunningham came to Regent’s film school after an eight-year stint working as a manager for a cell phone company. He was already successful, making a good, comfortable living for himself and his wife.
“Just about everyone I knew from back home thought I was crazy for quitting my job and going back to school,” said Cunningham. “Who does that? Nobody does that.”
But Cunningham did, despite protests from his boss and friends, who would return the expression of his dreams with only a nod and blank stare.
“It’s not worth it to stay where you are if you’re living an unfulfilled life,” said Cunningham on encouraging other students to “go rogue” and pursue their callings, even when it’s scary. “I have a lot of confidence that God is going to work things out; I made really good connections on set, and it’s been great.”
He now works as the assistant to the director of The Christian Broadcasting Network’s animated series, Superbook, a direct result of his time working alongside the producer and director for In-Lawfully Yours.
Like Cunningham, Kim Kopeski ’15, assistant to the director, was also relieved to find that all of her expectations of working on her first Hollywood feature were fulfilled.
“It’s something that doesn’t come easily to a lot of people, so to be able to have this experience as a student was beyond amazing,” said Kopeski. “I don’t think it’s anything any of us thought would happen.”
While Kopeski understands the value of listening to her professors talk about the film industry and tasks on set in a classroom, her time on a real feature set helped her get the practical hands-on experience she needed to bolster her directing talents. And, she also witnessed the camaraderie among crew members during those long, sometimes more than 16-hour workdays.
“That’s why we all do this: One, because we love it, but two because it’s a lot of fun,” said Kopeski. “There aren’t many professions out there that you can have fun with, and it was reassuring to see that take place on set.”
Morgan Burke ’15 (College of Arts & Sciences) had the unique opportunity to work as “set dresser.” According to Burke, her involvement on set was a “change-her-life-forever” decision, and one that she couldn’t begin to pass up.
“I wanted to sleep for a week when we wrapped, but because of all that hard work, so many doors have opened for me and I’ve gained so many new friends and connections that will always be a part of my life,” said Burke. “I can’t wait to see the imprint this film has made on my fellow students and how it will affect our own student-made films in the future.”
Learn more about Regent University’s School of Communication & the Arts.