Life of a Director

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A musical icon who served in the ministry for 40+ years, minister Virginia Roberts affected thousands of people through her dedication to teaching, directing, mentoring, and parenting. Here is but a glimpse of her amazing story. 

As one of her students at San Jose State University, I found it an incredible honor to help portray the amazing impact Virginia Roberts has had on so many. After moving to California from Atlanta in 2001, I stumbled upon history in the making. The first of it's kind "Gospel Ensemble" class at the university, Virginia created a legacy and a standard of excellence that impacted the local community and surrounding communities as far as Oxnard and Sacramento.

She became more than just a director and teacher, however. She became a second (or first) mother to so many of us with her words of wisdom, discipline, and overall encouragement. She truly has poured so much into the lives of her students. It was impossible to find a pupil with anything negative to say about their experience with her.

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The Process:

When Multimedia and Arts director at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Dewayne Sweet, and I talked about this film and what we wanted to accomplish in telling this story we decided to invite church and community members to be interviewed on set. Dewayne scripted out many of the dialogue parts for the guests in order to help ease nervousness and also expedite the process of editing. It was important for us to consider the editing process early because we only had about 10 days until the film would be displayed at Virginia's retirement ceremony.

The interview shoot didn't go as planned. Many of the invited guests canceled at the last minute. Some of the guests who were interviewed were extremely nervous. Overall I left that day without a positive feeling that what we had captured would be enough (in addition to the pictures of Virginia) to accurately communicate the scale of which Virginia's impact could be felt.

I set out to find as many people and locations to film in order to fill the gaps in the story. I found myself downtown in the middle of a Tuesday filming the outside of St. James A.M.E church while getting funny looks from pedestrians. San Jose State campus was next. I wanted to film the Gospel Ensemble class in session without Virginia getting suspicious. I made up a story about how Dewayne needed some footage of a choir singing for something he was making. She didn't seem too impressed with my answer! 

But I needed more. I started looking over the original script and decided to try to get an interview from a teacher at her school. I was shocked and excited when the principal of the entire school agreed to be interviewed! Turns out, Mrs. V and the principal are good friends! This was starting to pick up steam. 

Finally, I thought it would be great to hear from her children... especially the children who wouldn't be able to attend the retirement. I began seeing this film as a collective of all of the aspects of her life : Teacher/Student, Mother/Children, Director/Leader, Christian/Church, Community/Friends. I began to book more and more interview subjects based on these angles. I even set up the camera and got in front of the camera with my family (something I NEVER do)! 

After all of this great footage started to stream in, I looked up, and it was already 3 days till the event and I hadn't even started an edit yet! Dewayne had asked to see the footage. His concern was that it would be too long. Initially he wanted a 2 minute video. HA! I envisioned a special Biography episode on A&E. I knew this would be a 5-10 minute feature. 

Finally it was Sunday, the day of the event. Received the last bit of footage from Virginia's out-of-town daughter, Nia. Great. Put the finishing touches on, rendered, and delivered to Dewayne without an opportunity to preview it on the "big screens."

Written by Allen Ross

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Credits:
Created for : Emmanuel Baptist Church Music and Arts Department
Director : Allen Ross
Assoc. Director : Dewayne Sweet
Story : Dewayne Sweet
Production and Camera : Allen Ross
Editing : Allen Ross
Photography : AJ Feurtado
Audio : Allen Ross, Fennell Jackson, and S.F. Bay Area Tech
Lighting : Anthony Feurtado, Sylvester McGuire, Joe Reghito, A.B. Coleman, Ivory Richardson
Advertising : Elizabeth Juarez, Acquella Todd, Odessa Smith, Chuck Lawyer
Live Camera Operators : Bryson Young, Keith Rucker, Isaiah Bryant, Marvin Stewart, Dewayne Sweet Jr., Keldrick Randolph
Special Thanks : Cassell Elementary School, San Jose State University, Emmanuel Baptist Church
Appearances :
Cassandra Carter
Dewayne Cornelious
Brenda Russo
Traci Williams
Andrew Williams
Alesia Williams
Anthone Jackson
Rev. Joel Moore
Dewayne Sweet
Allen Ross
Carolyne Barnaba
Nia Groce-Bolds
William Batiste
John Gordon
Gabby Gordon
Shani Roberts
The Whispers
Tracy Cruz Ross