Photo of Jeff Wray. Older man with glasses and tight smile, wearing a black quarter zip sweater.

Jeff Wray

African American Literature and Culture | Creative Writing | Film Studies | 20th-Century and Contemporary Literature

Office: C638 Wells Hall


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.

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, aBaptist 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


Select 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