Recently, SCH had the privilege of interviewing filmmaker Jeffrey Travis. Born to missionary parents in Mexico City, he grew up in Argentina, accepted Jesus Christ at age six and attended University of Texas at Austin, graduating with a BS in Engineering. Accomplished classical guitarist and writer, the multilingual Jeffrey brings a Christian perspective to the film industry.
When asked how a BS in engineering morphed into a film making career, Jeffrey laughed and described how a hobby he had in college propelled him into the business. Banded together with a group of like-minded students, they challenged each other to make seven films in one year. The experience helped him learn his craft. In 2002 his first film, “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” won the Audience Popularity Award at the Ragamuffin Film Festival in Austin, where he was spotted by a Twentieth Century Fox executive who tapped him to come to Hollywood to do a TV pilot. Through networking in the industry, more opportunities opened up. God clearly had his hand on Jeffrey.
He has always loved writing, doing many short stories, software programs and books on engineering. Along with writing for films, he is a producer, director and actor. Without being overtly Christian, his films are more value-based, emphasizing what is beautiful, true and good. He says he wants to reach the largest audience possible and have them leave the theater questioning their assumptions about God, their purpose in life and their worldview. When asked about any perceived hostility directed toward the producers of faith-based films, Jeffrey said they, “Are met with the suspicion that their product might be cheesy.”
Jeffrey is part of the Cultural Leadership Project, formed to be light and salt in the world and develop leaders for positive change in politics, film and society. The members hold each other accountable for their Christian walk in obedience, discipleship and how they treat their wives.
Following Jeffrey’s career path, we see him move his family from Texas to California where he was hired to direct a high budget film with an all-star cast, financed by the Weinsteins and to be distributed by Sony. One week after his move and three weeks before the start of filming, the project fell apart, partially due to the financial crisis of 2008. Shortly afterward, Jeffrey and his family were rousted out of bed in the middle of the night by firefighters, battling the largest station fire in Los Angeles County history. Surrounded by flames shooting one-hundred feet in the air and choking on smoke, the family fled. These dramatic events caused Jeffrey to question his direction in life. “What is God telling me? What do you want me to do, Lord?” he asked.
Soon after, while on a family vacation, his answer came in the form of the inspiration for one his latest films called “Dragon Day”. The story revolves around a family of a man, his wife, sister and child, who are on a vacation in the mountains when everything shuts down. As an electrical engineer who has worked for the NSA, he recognizes what is happening. The Chinese, who own a large part of our debt and who had been manufacturing most of our computer chips, had been planting viruses in them. In what could be described as a cyber Pearl Harbor, the Chinese trigger the faulty chips. Mass chaos ensues. Navy missiles have the equivalent of a Trojan Horse embedded in them. Google is hacked, 747s crash, ATMs won’t work, communication is impossible, water stops flowing and the people panic, setting off riots and looting. They see a glow in the night sky that is Los Angeles on fire.
The family is helped by an undocumented immigrant, who shows them how to use old technology and guides them into Mexico on horseback. They reevaluate their priorities and see that the real wealth is in their relationships.
Jeffrey will be entering this film in a number of independent film festivals and hopefully Sundance, where the film is having the “rough cut” done. We are hoping that it will be selected as one of the Sundance films, where approximately 10,000 films are entered, but only 150-200 are actually accepted.
Travis’s other projects include an animated science fiction film called “Flatland” adapted from a classic book by Edwin Abbot and written in 1882. It is in a land occupied by two-dimensional shapes that is visited by a mysterious traveler from Spaceland, who must convince them that there is another dimension called ‘Upwards”. It features the voices of Martin Sheen, Kristen Bell and Michael York. This film is soon to be released and will be shown at I-MAX theaters.
His next undertaking is a film called “16 South” with Randy Travis and an all-star cast. It tells of two families who from 1945 to the present fight over land in Texas. The theme is forgiveness, family and freedom.
Jeffrey’s family includes his wife, Stephanie, whose degree form UT/Austin is in nutrition, and their four children, three girls, 14, 10 and 2, and a 12-year-old-boy.
Jeffrey likes to cook and a favorite meal is an Argentine barbeque, called asados, comprised of various meats, including blood sausage. Stephanie is a vegan and is the primary cook; half her meals are meats and the other half are vegan.
Jeffrey Travis is a gifted creative force in the media and we at SCH expect even greater things from him in the future. May God bless you, Jeffrey and all those who benefit from your many talents.