Melissa Davey used the "F" word Friday to describe herself — as in filmmaker.
After years of dreaming about being one, and after a drive in Chester County a few years ago led her to spend an inspiring day on a movie set with M. Night Shyamalan, the former insurance executive from Valley Forge has made a film.
Beyond Sixty Project has its local debut at the New Hope Film Festival on July 21 at noon as part of a film block titled Age is Only a Number.
The documentary features 10 women from throughout the country, ranging in age from their 60s to their mid-80s, who have accomplished extraordinary things in their later years.
As a 69-year-old grandmother who left the corporate world more than three years ago, Davey can count herself among that accomplished group of second acts.
“So old people can do new things,” she said Friday, laughing.
Her path to this discovery started with a drive with a friend that brought them to a movie shoot. A Google search by Davey confirmed that it was for Shyamalan’s 2015 thriller, The Visit. From that search, she learned of a bidding opportunity for a day on the set with Shyamalan, a Chester County resident, at 30th Street Station for the movie’s train scene. Proceeds went to Shyamalan’s educational foundation.
Davey won and during a conversation with the director, she expressed an interest in his job, to which he replied, “Do it.” Within a week, she gave a year’s notice to Genex Services of Wayne, where she worked on improving the Social Security Disability Program, and embarked on her film work, partnering with Expressway Productions in Philadelphia.
A December 2017 story in The Inquirer noted that among those profiled in the film is a local woman, Celeste Walker of Glenside, an actor, director, and adjunct professor at Arcadia University. Others include a cheerleading/performance squad in Arizona, a New York sculptor whose clients include Lady Gaga, and a veterinarian from Vermont who swam the English Channel.
UnitedHealthcare was a sponsor, contributing an unspecified amount of funding. Davey said she invested $150,000 of her own money.
Even as a filmmaking novice, she knows that Beyond Sixty Project is “not going to be the kind of film that makes [big] money or is bought by a large movie house.” But she is pursuing distribution options.
So far, the film has had three screenings — in Los Angeles, Hot Springs, Ark., and Calgary, Canada, all with positive audience response, she said. Davey is looking forward to one close to home. The New Hope showing next Sunday will be the first time her husband and children see it.
“It became my job and I completed my job and now it’s time for them to see it,” she said Friday.
She already has an idea for a second film — “helping to tear down judgment barriers people have about other people.”
As for the trigger for all of this, her day with Shyamalan?
“It did absolutely help me change my life,” she said.