Imagine a music competition like American Idol or the X-Factor for gospel choirs and you’ve got a good idea of whatGMC’s How Sweet the Sound Road to the Finale is all about. Our teams started planning in August for a whirlwind production that would take us to nine cities across the country to document some of the most incredible gospel choirs you have ever heard compete to win the How Sweet the Sound Grand Prize. First stop: AMS Pictures hometown — Dallas, Texas.
Our mission? To create an engaging and uplifting two hour behind-the-scenes television special. Not including commercial breaks, that’s about 88 minutes of content. The production schedule was a non-stop three week run. Each city included filming up to eight choirs, their churches – when time and geography allowed – and city and venue scenics. With just two to three days in each area, we had our work cut out for us. No show is as great as it can be without the collection of a talented and dedicated team, and luckily we had that in two wonderful crews. From directors Randy Martin and Corey Jones to Director of Photography Brian McFarlin and a list of others, a lot of things had to come together to successfully produce what we hope to be a fun-filled, awe-inspiring show.
To capitalize on the limited amount of shooting time, pre-production was critical to our success. Hiring local freelancers, scheduling time to film choirs, and booking travel and gear were crucial and needed to be done efficiently. In addition to that, another key phase of pre-pro was conducting phone interviews with choir directors prior to their on-camera interviews, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This helped us get to know the choirs better and allowed us to uncover the beautiful stories they had to share. Whether it was the minister of music in Chicago whose asthma diminished more and more every time she sang, or the choir whose church building was in need of repair but would donate any money it won to their HIV outreach program, I was moved by the sense of duty and love that the choir members had for each other and their community.
Along with all the great choirs we had the immense honor of filming the amazing Michelle Williams from Destiny’s Child. Her gospel background and musical talent made her the perfect fit to be the host for the show. Through backstage interviews she conducted with the choir directors and stars, the audience gets to know the choirs intimately, and because Michelle likes to have fun you’ll get to witness her humorous side as well. We also found time for her to interview gospel greats Donald Lawrence and Marvin Sapp, the talent behind one of my favorite contemporary gospel songs, “Never Would Have Made It.”
This experience was truly special to me. The power of song has been evident to me since I was a little girl. I share a similar story to others whose parents/grandparents had them in church more than three days a week (thanks Grandma Addie!). My mother was a choir director and an amazing pianist and went on to study music at Bennett College so, you can imagine there was always the sound of music and singing in our house. While I love a variety of music genres, there is truly something special about hearing great gospel choirs sing. There were moments during this tour that I was moved to tears listening to the choirs perform. I’m interested to see if you are uplifted after watching the show. Check it out November 26 on GMC and come back to share your thoughts.