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