Two Regent Producers Release Award-Winning Indie Film, Christmas in July
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (October 12, 2021) – Regent University’s School of Communication & the Arts is pleased to announce the home release of Christmas in July. The well-received family drama was coproduced by Regent alumni Jeff Salyer (’09 & ’15) and April Reuning (’13).
The film, which had a limited theater run earlier this year, received awards and recognitions in festivals including the Burbank International Film Festival, International Christian Visual Media Association, Catalina Film Festival, and International Christian Film & Music Festival.
“We always feel a great sense of pride when our alumni pursue their passions and find success in their work. This is certainly no exception,” said Dr. Pete Fraser, director for the School of Communication & the Arts. “We feel privileged to have been a part of the journey that led April and Jeff to this wonderful accomplishment.”
At Regent, I fell in love with the idea of filmmaking,” said Salyer, where he earned both his M.A. in Film-Television and Ph.D. in Communication.
“I attended the Sundance Film Festival and Windrider Forum as part of my Regent coursework. While there, we met several filmmakers and had many discussions about the power of film and storytelling,” explained Salyer.
Salyer shared how Regent helped foster his talent and guide him into making short films. When the opportunity arose to help develop a feature documentary during his work at Lee University, he eagerly took the reins.
Reuning came to Regent as an M.A. in Journalism student but quickly fell in love with filmmaking opportunities. “There is some crossover in skill between producing journalism and producing film,” she said. At Regent, she met her husband, a film major, and the two of them worked on several short films together.
“While I was a graduate student at Regent, most of my friends were in film school,” explained Reuning. “In order to hang out with them on weekends, I started volunteering for different roles on their film sets. I learned so much and fell in love with filmmaking.”
Upon graduating, Reuning worked as a features producer at the Christian Broadcasting Network before moving to Cleveland, Tennessee, where Christmas in July was filmed.
A Story of Love
Christmas in July addresses meaningful themes such as grief, loss, and searching for purpose after tragedy. Ultimately, the film reminds the audience of what is most important—the people we love.
One main character, a man named Daniel, has hit a low point in his career. His grandmother is ill, suffering from Alzheimer’s, and not expected to make it to Christmas—her favorite holiday. Daniel decides to give her one last Christmas celebration in July before she dies.
“Storytelling is essential to being human,” said Salyer. “And the stories I love include an element of real faith—not some sanitized version of Christian life but the real gritty, difficult-yet-rewarding life we experience.”
While the film is not explicitly Christian, it contains strong Christian themes and portrays some of the struggles of living a Christian life.
“I could relate to the film’s main character as I’ve had to wrestle with my own questions after losing my dad to cancer,” said Reuning. “I think this film does a great job of sitting with questions, not forcing an answer, while still showing God’s grace and love in the midst.”
A Labor of Love
Despite a high level of film experience before producing Christmas in July, Salyer and Reuning said the shoot and film launch proved challenging, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The movie was filmed in multiple locations, including Cleveland, Chattanooga and Los Angeles. “Producing the film was a large task,” said Sayler. “We had a limited budget and compressed shooting timeline.”
Director Myles Matsuno shared it was challenging to navigate the locations process in the beginning. “It’s hard when you’re across the country, but that’s why there’s a team in place to help produce the film. Jeff and April were great.”
Due to these difficulties, Salyer and Reuning performed multiple jobs. For example, Reuning helped with scheduling and was also involved in location scouting and some onset assistant directing when needed. “I also doubled as a background extra in the film a couple of times because we needed more bodies in the shot,” she added.
Matsuno wrote a line in the voiceover for grandma Sylvia at the end of the film that he believes rings true for many others: “… that was one Christmas I got not because of the calendar, but because of the people I love. Because of my family. And that’s the thing that makes it Christmas anyway if you ask me—family. No matter what time of year it is.”
Christmas in July is available to rent or own now—just in time for you to make it part of your holiday celebration. But Matsuno, Reuning and Salyer emphasize that audiences can, and should, enjoy the film year-round. You can access the film on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, or Fandango Now.
To learn more about the leading-edge training that equipped these successful Regent alumni, explore the school’s Media & Visual Arts degree programs within the School of Communication & the Arts.
Written by Christian Vaughan – Student Writer
About Regent University
Founded in 1978, Regent University is America’s premier Christian university with more than 11,000 students studying on its 70-acre campus in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and online around the world. The university offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in more than 150 areas of study including business, communication and the arts, counseling, cybersecurity, divinity, education, government, law, leadership, nursing, healthcare, and psychology. Regent University is ranked the #1 Best Accredited Online College in the United States (Study.com, 2020), the #1 Safest College Campus in Virginia (YourLocalSecurity, 2021), and the #1 Best Online Bachelor’s Program in Virginia for nine years in a row (U.S. News & World Report, 2021).
About the School of Communication & the Arts
The School of Communication & the Arts is ranked among the Top 5 Most Prestigious Communication Programs in Virginia (Plexuss, 2020). It is also ranked #2 Best Online Master’s in Film Programs: Most Experienced Faculty (Intelligent, 2021). Equipped with a $35 million Communication & Performing Arts Center, this state-of-the-art school produces over 100 student films per year and has won over 645 local, national and international student film awards. The school offers on-campus and online degree programs in highly competitive fields,
including Master of Arts in Communication, Film-Television (Producing, Production, Script Writing), Journalism, and Theatre; Master of Fine Arts in Acting and Film-Television (Directing, Producing, and Script & Screenwriting); Doctor of Strategic Communication and Ph.D. in Communication.