By Alayna Simons
After waking up at 4 a.m. to work a cleaning shift at Bud Robinson, Adam Drake rushed to make his acting gig on the side to pursue his passion for film. Drake spent his time as a student at Trevecca 15 years ago jumping from cleaning, to kitchen, to maintenance shifts on campus to pay the bills as a newlywed Trevecca graduate while balancing some freelance film work on the side.
This fall, Drake returned to Bud Robinson for new faculty orientation as he prepared to come back to his alma mater to teach a film course.
“It’s been surreal. Discovering what God was calling me into, what my career path was, and what my ministry was after Trevecca, it’s coming back full circle now teaching at Trevecca part time,” said Drake. “I just never could have seen that coming. God had this planned the whole time.”
Between cleaning Bud Robinson and teaching in Wakefield, Drake has been involved in more than 30 film productions including his current role as assistant director of the series “The Chosen.” “The Chosen” is a multi-season show about the life of Jesus and His disciples, according to Angel Studios, where the show was first streamed in 2017. The series can now be streamed on several platforms worldwide, reaching over 110 million viewers from 175 countries, and growing from a few million dollars for season one to now $35 million for season two and three, according to Niagara Frontier Publications.
“I was able to work on it from the very beginning when it was tiny and nobody knew what it was,” said Drake. “I saw the potential, and now I get to see how it’s changing people’s lives.”
Drake played basketball and graduated in 2008 with a bachelor’s in mass communication and media studie, when Trevecca did not yet have a film program to be involved in. He still owes a lot of gratitude to his experiences at Trevecca, with both education and job opportunities.
“It’s unique because at the time, they didn’t have the program for me to excel in my career, but what Trevecca did provide was a place for me to discover myself, which I think is so important for college where so many college students find themselves,” said Drake. “Trevecca provided a great community for me to discover my calling that I was supposed to do in my life.”
After graduating, Drake sought out education in film elsewhere while struggling to find opportunities for work during the recession.
“I was starting to get enough work to where I’ve been doing that ever since, 15 years ago or so. It kept snowballing and I started getting more work, commercials, music videos here in Nashville that eventually led to movies and doing that full time,” said Drake.
Drake described coming back to Trevecca to teach students figuring out what they want to do with their life as an impactful, full-circle experience.
Throughout his career, Drake never considered teaching, but several people in his life encouraged him to try something new. One of those people was Seth Conley, associate film professor, who has known Drake since his first year teaching at Trevecca. While at lunch, Conley brought up the possibility of teaching, saying that he has a lot of experience and a lot to offer.
“Adam said he felt encouragement from his family and eventually felt a tugging on his heart from the Lord that this might be a good fit for him to do in addition to filmmaking,” said Conley. “So I just threw it out there and God kind of took care of the rest.”
Drake gives most of the credit to his wife, a former teacher herself, who encouraged him to step into the new role and take the opportunity of teaching.
“I’ve been mentoring younger people, and I’ve mentored a lot of filmmakers to become who they are, teaching them to do what I do, and I really enjoy that,” said Drake. “I want to help to continue to mentor and teach the next generation, but now in a classroom.”
Film Set Operations, which is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Monday, is the name of Drake’s newly introduced class. The purpose of the class is to prepare students for a realistic first day on a film set, to know the technicalities of roles, to learn set etiquette and production details, and to work from the basics up to the highest levels, Drake said.
“It’s insane how lucky we are to be able to experience this class,” said Carter Adams, senior film major.
Adams, who interned for five weeks on the set of The Chosen this past summer, said that a film set can be chaotic, so problem-solving and flexibility are the best traits to have. This conversational class has been exactly what he needs to prepare for those scenarios.
“Real stories, conversations and discussions are being told about what it looks like to be on set. There’s this new world that we’re trying to get into, but we have no idea where to start, and we ask questions and talk through those scenarios,” said Adams. “Having that first access to all the information when we have no idea where to start is giving us that extra step that we would need to get on a film set successfully.”
Since starting the semester, each class period has highlighted a different crew position, and the students are able to ask questions with those people either over Zoom or in-person, said Micah Mercer, a sophomore film major.
“It’s given me a more realistic approach on what I’d expect if I go into a set, and with so many different people that he’s bringing in, it allows me to kind of see all sorts of different perspectives and where I could fit into all of it,” said Mercer. Since Conley did not have this when he went to college, he hopes that students grasp the value and importance of this opportunity and that he can provide further opportunities for them.
“It’s a very rare opportunity to be able to have that connection through Adam, and I think it’s something that’s easy to overlook for students,” said Conley. “It’s eye-opening for some students that this may be exactly what they want to go into, and for others, maybe there’s another place within the film world that they fit better in.”
With the actor strike currently in motion, Drake’s position at Trevecca is his only focus at the moment, which has allowed Drake to maintain a steadier routine for his wife and five children. Drake said that the balance will be more difficult moving forward, but they will figure it out as it comes.
“Right now, I’m just enjoying teaching the students and being able to share with them the experiences I’ve had and stories on set. Kind of just doing what I was already doing, but now in a classroom,” said Drake.