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Strike up the band: HBCU movie at Charlotte film festival
Documentary on NC A&T at Joedance showcase
Published Wednesday, July 24, 2019 11:10 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

A scene from “Blue & Gold Marching Machine,” which will be screened at Joedance Movie Festival in Charlotte Aug. 1-3. The documentary shows preparation for North Carolina A&T State University’s marching band.

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Late summer isn’t just football preseason. It’s also time for band camp.

“Blue & Gold Marching Machine” takes you from North Carolina A&T State University’s first practice through homecoming with the award-winning documentary, a production of Randolph Community College Photojournalism Class of 2019. The movie is part of opening night at the 10th annual Joedance Film Festival Aug. 1-3 from 7-10:30 p.m. at Charlotte Ballet (701 N. Tryon St.)

Tickets start at $30 and benefit pediatric cancer research at Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital.

“We started filming this time last year,” said Executive Producer Jenifer Hughey, a student in RCC professor Jay Capers’ class. “We had just gotten out of Multimedia One class; we were totally new to video. We went to band camp, and I was just blown away by the sheer level of dedication and time that all of these kids put into being in the band. Many of them aren’t even music majors. They study something else. They’re there from early in the morning until 10-11 p.m. at night, practicing, sweating in the dust. It just blew me away. The talent is unreal.”  

Said Capers: “We were done with the film by early March, because then we started submitting it to film festivals. It was selected and shown at Longleaf Film Festival and Cape Fear Independent Film Festival.”

Hughey produced the film with classmates Aly Vermillion and Nathan Burton. They won best documentary at Cape Fear Independent Film Festival, which came as a surprise to the filmmakers. Capers’ class produced the second documentary in the photojournalism program’s history.

“Aly and I went to the festival,” Hughey said. “We knew we had been nominated, but we thought there’s no way because we were totally new, and while we were super proud of what we put together considering we had never made a film before, there were some really incredible documentaries there that had funding from production companies. We went to the awards ceremony to get the experience, not thinking at all that we would be called up to the stage, and we did we were totally unprepared. It was such a surprise and a huge honor just to be invited to that, much less win something.”

Said Capers: “I was working that night and couldn’t go, but students went. I said, ‘look, it’s an honor to be nominated. We are competing against people who have spent years on this, and have funded documentaries.’

“When they were texting me that they watched the other documentaries, and there was some really great stuff, I said, ‘I expected that.’ Then they texted me that they won, and I was like, ‘yeah, right. You misunderstood what they’re saying.’ I was truly shocked and honored. It took the students less than nine months, and when they started, they had never shot video. They had never done interviews. All of those pieces of the pie had to come together in nine months.”

“Blue & Gold Marching Machine” is 16 minutes and 51 seconds, more than double the inaugural film.

“A short documentary is less than 30 minutes, and you have to have really great stuff to be above 15 minutes,” Capers said. “You can’t just keep people’s interest that long anymore. You’re never bored through the whole film. It never drags.”

The filmmakers followed A&T’s band beyond Randolph County, as they performed during halftime of the Carolina Panthers vs. Cincinnati Bengals in September.

The campuses sit 30 minutes apart, yet HBCU culture, particularly A&T’s Greatest Homecoming on Earth, is something that must be experienced.
“I can’t speak for sure, but I don’t think they fully understood the HBCU culture, and what makes them special and unique,” Capers said.
The documentary illustrates the rigor of black college band training.

“They work as hard as any student athlete does,” Capers said. “It’s really easy to say, ‘student athlete,’ and everybody understands. Nobody grasps how many hours these band members put in that you don’t see. That’s what we wanted to show, that this is not play a couple cute songs, march out onto the field, turn around and march off. It’s so much more.”

For information on tickets: www.carolinatix.org/events/detail/joedance-film-festival


Marched in the A&T Band during the early 70s
Life time joy, Life time friends
Posted on July 30, 2019
I also cheered in the 70's and we marched behind the band to practice, back to band room after practice and all parades. It was no joke. We also had "battle the Bands and cheerleaders" at the end of the game. Commitment to look the best and maintain a brand of excellence.
Posted on July 29, 2019
I know how intense it is! I am a 70's NC A&T Alumni Cheerleader. Practice and commitment is no joke. We practiced and performed just as hard as any sport. My mom was a majorette in the 40's for A&T band. She told me how intense practices were even then. Thank you for this article. AGGIE PRIDE!
Posted on July 29, 2019

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