News Column

Production Company Films Northside High School Band Documentary

October 21, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 21--A flying, remote-controlled camera is helping capture the spirited sounds, look and feel of the Northside High School Band program.

Mounted on what's called a Quadcopter, the camera is one of several cameras being used by ST Films, a local film production company, for a new documentary on NHS's band students, band directors and those closest to them. Featuring four propellers and a 2-foot-by-2-foot frame, the Quadcopter is being flown over the band during its rehearsals on NHS's football field and is recording "some fascinating shots" of the Northside musicians, said Brenda Yelvington, the film's director and ST Films co-founder.

"I find what the Northside High School band students and directors are doing and what they are achieving as inspirational, so we're having a lot of fun making this documentary about the program," she said. "With this new documentary, I hope other people will find it inspirational, too."

Yelvington first had the idea to create the documentary after seeing how the NHS band program inspired its students and band directors.

"My first thoughts of the Northside band program was, they were doing something really right," she said. "My first exposure to the band was when my daughter, Kameron, was a 10th-grader -- she's now a senior -- and I was immediately struck by the feeling of mutual respect between students and directors."

Yelvington started taking photographs for the NHS Grizzly Band members, which led to friendships with band directors and students. She helped organize jazz band fundraisers and other band-related activities to help give students a positive, educational experience.

"The more I was behind the scenes with these kids and learned their stories and who they are, I became more inspired to shine a light on what was happening over at Northside High School," said Yelvington, who is directing and producing the new film. "So my husband, Lavon, and I formed this production company, and I asked the band program if I could do this documentary, and they said yes."

Yelvington assembled what she calls a "first-rate" production crew, which includes director of photography Chris Middleton, cinematographer Kim Middleton, audio engineer Jess Gorham, film score composer Kevin Croxton and Quadcopter "pilot" Ben Bandimere. The film will begin with summer-band footage shot in July and follow the students through their May 2014 graduation ceremony.

"I'll say that marching band will be one-fourth of the film, because there's a lot that goes on that just isn't marching band," said Yelvington, who is doing some of the film's camerawork. "I have kids who will let me put a camera in their face when they try out for All-Region Band in January, and I can't believe they're letting me do that.

"Those kids will come out of the audition rooms, and they will tell the camera how they think they did," she added. "This film is real life, because not everyone will make All Region or All State."

Yelvington exhaled loudly.

"That is an incredible level of trust that these band directors and kids are placing on me -- to tell their story and hopefully achieve an inspiring story," she said. "My intention is to show the best of who they are to the world."

The film will include "pretty interviews" with band directors and students that will feature "gorgeous lighting and unique camera angles," Yelvington.

"We mounted a camera on a snare drum, and we have cameras on students while they are actually performing, which is fun," she said. "We're getting back some incredible footage that we hope people will really like."

Yelvington's camera followed NHS assistant band director Aaron Durham when he, Kimmons Junior High assistant band director Adam Coats and NHS graduate John Mailer performed in their blues-rock band one evening at R. Landry's New Orleans Cafe.

"I wanted to include that footage to show life of band directors outside the band room," Yelvington said. "I joked with them that I was going to end up with 300 hours of footage of their rock band."

Yelvington hopes her film will be screened at film festivals and on TV stations like the Arkansas Educational Network Television.

"If I want this to play on AETN, the sweet spot is to have the film 56 minutes and so many seconds," she said. "This isn't a $1 million film project, but then again, it's not a $5,000 job, either. This is a real documentary. It's a legit process and we're going to have a big premiere for it in town, too."

Yelvington laughed.

"The students keep asking about a big, red-carpet event for this movie," she said. "The kids really have embraced this project. They're excited."

Yelvington predicted most of the film's best moments will comprise unexpected actions and dialogue.

"That's my favorite thing -- having the camera pointed at the right person at the right time," she said. "When that has happened while we are making this film, I say, 'I can't believe I got that!' I definitely have received a gift when that occurs.

"And really, this film isn't about me at all," Yelvington added. "This film is about the band students and the band directors. This is going to be their story."

The film's editing and other post-production work will take six to nine months to complete following the graduation scenes, Yelvington said.

"What surprises me the most is, when I ask kids the most innocent question, I'm never prepared for the depth of these students' answers," she said. "These students are wise, they're articulate and they are thinking about their future. These Northside students aren't just going through the motions."

For information, visit ST Films' Facebook page.

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(c)2013 Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.)

Visit Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.) at www.swtimes.com

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