http://psychicevents.co.uk/News(2328821).htm I really didn’t know what to expect when I first arrived at Center of Life in Hazelwood. Since, typically, my work is not assigned to me, and I tend to do narratives one could say I was a little out of my element. But I did have some experience with documentaries in the past so I wasn’t all that worried. Pulling up to the building was a bit eerie. Just one street over was where one of my brothers lived…a brother that I had lost due to gun violence. It was hard for me to revisit those streets without being haunted by his ghost.
Hammond Anyway, Doug Heckman, my initial contact, was very helpful. He showed me around, and I immediately fell in love with the space. It was like this big old house with all these nooks and crannies. An office when you first came in; a sanctuary to the right with stained glass windows that I knew just had to be in the microdoc; a hip hop studio on the second floor; and a dance studio in the basement. I conceived a shot where I would have a subject engage all these spaces in real-time while I filmed them, but I had to cut it from the final piece due to length. That’s the kind of shot that’s all or nothing. It sort of defeats the purpose to break a shot like that up.
My first day there I just focused on b-roll. The second time I showed up, I interviewed Pastor Tim Smith, the founder and executive director of Center of Life. I was very impressed with him. He was very intelligent and grounded and relatable and we immediately hit it off in the interview. We talked about his vision, some of his own challenges growing up, and some of his aspirations for the local community of Hazelwood. I was fascinated to learn that though his father was a minister he had come from the business world before he took over the church through which he founded Center of Life. I also liked the fact that he didn’t really consider himself a minister but a student of the people of Hazelwood. That was a very cool concept. We ended the interview, but not before some intriguing personal banter on the Book of Enoch since I am somewhat of a Biblical scholar myself. He also gave me some CD’s that had been made by COL Jazz Band, which I was eager to listen to.
The third time I arrived to shoot, I interviewed Julian Powell and Darnell Campbell. This time, I had an intern, Natalie Rankin, assisting me so I went in a little bit more relaxed. Darnell’s interview was a bit challenging though because I only had 10 minutes before he had to leave and my microphone had a short in it. Things turned out a lot better with Julian, who talked a lot about the K.R.U.N.K. Movement–where COL students get together and dance and make their own hip hop music, participate in dance competitions, and even record and distribute albums. In fact, they consider it their own fully functional production company. I totally get that idea and absolutely see the significance of the distinction. I got some b roll of some hip hop artists in the studio and even got some b roll at Arsenal Middle School where K.R.U.N.K. has an after school program. I also got some b roll of me interviewing Tim, but I didn’t end up using it. Once again we were under a time crunch, and I couldn’t get all the shots I envisioned.
By the time I showed up the fourth time, I was already editing and was delighted to be able to incorporate some of COL Jazz’s music and even that of the K.R.U.N.K. Movement into the soundtrack of the rough-cut. By now, I know what shots I need and am able to get them. I also decide to interview Tim one last time. This time I went out on a limb and asked him something that had been nagging me: if he knew my brother, Jermaine Woods. His whole countenance changed immediately and this sort of shocked look came over his face. He exited the room for a moment and then came back. “Jermaine was your brother?!” It turns out that Jermaine Woods, my brother, used to be an active member of Center of Life and was even a close friend of Darnell. For some reason it felt really good to talk about my brother with these men–even cathartic. So I am glad I did.
As I left COL that day it occurred to me to consider what the chances were that my first Game Changers assignment would give me the opportunity to not only meet an incredible group of people making productive contributions to the African-American community but also gain some closure on my brother’s murder five years ago. Though I was somewhat disappointed that I somehow couldn’t incorporate this into my film, on a personal level this did demonstrate to me how fully invested Tim Smith was in the Hazelwood community and that he was in fact a living, breathing game changer.