Darrell and April Jones are producing videos, documentaries and TV commercials for area businesses. Now they’re trying to get a foothold into the business of movie-making. (Photo by Wiley Henry)
Keeping Up With The Joneses: TV Commercials Today, Films Tomorrow
Darrell Jones has mustard seed faith, the kind he says is needed to grow a business that began with a prayer, and a plan, to make it big in Hollywood.
Jones isn’t a star just yet, but he says the documentary that he and his wife, April, are shooting may open the door wider for them.
The couple’s documentary is called “Keepers of the Dream: The MLK Story,” and it’s a collection of eyewitness accounts and first-person stories about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“It’s like a documentary or movie short about Dr. King through the eyes of people who can articulate the events that happened during the civil rights movement,” said Darrell Jones, founder of the home-based Faith Filmz, a movie production company, and Commercialz & Videos ‘R’ Us, a company that produces TV commercials.
The documentary includes an interview with local civil rights icon Rev. Samuel “Billy” Kyles, longtime pastor of Monumental Baptist Church. Kyles spent the last hour with Dr. King before he was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in 1968.
“I wanted a different setting, so we shot footage throughout Memphis,” said Jones, 35, a self-taught filmmaker. “We wanted to do something totally different than ‘The Witness from the Balcony of Room 306.’ We wanted to be totally opposite.”
The documentary will be at least 30 minutes long and will tell an American story, said Jones. “It is not a black documentary. It’s an American documentary. I was compelled to do something to honor both blacks and whites who gave their lives for what we have today.”
President Obama, he said, is another “keeper of the dream” who would add depth to the documentary. “I want to include the President in the documentary. I know it’s a long shot, but I know God can do anything.”
There will be other voices in the documentary as well, said Jones, who plans to finish this summer in time for the advent of the industry’s coveted film festivals.
‘It Has Been A Long Journey’
Jones began plying his trade nine years ago on a film about his father, who left home when he was two years old. Years later, his dad’s body was returned home for the funeral. “I had dreams of one day meeting him. But he was dead in his casket when I (finally) met him. He was incarcerated all that time. That’s what sparked my creativity,” said Jones, who titled the film “The Legend of ‘Lil Horse.”
Though Jones never got a chance to know his father, he still wonders whether, under different circumstances, their story might have had a different ending.
“We were dating and he told me about his work,” said April, 34, recalling the early days when her future husband was bent on a career as a filmmaker. “He had all these things (equipment) in his apartment and he wanted his dad to see them.”
After April read a script Darrell had written, she encouraged him to pursue his passion. “I saw the potential in his writing and told him he needed to do something with it. Others, along the way, saw the potential in him too.”
Trying to get a foothold into the business hasn’t been easy, said Darrell. His dream has taken a financial toll and required sacrifices. “It has been a long journey. I struggled for years trying to find employment, which led me to use my talent for shooting music videos and commercials.”
At the onset of his career, Darrell shot a few “gangster videos” for some hardcore rappers but soon realized this type of clientele wasn’t exactly his real career objective.
“My ultimate goal is to be a motion picture director and produce Christian family movies and programs, and to do ministry for the Kingdom of God,” he said.
Bread And Butter, Then A Feast
The focus then turned to shooting videos and commercials for area businesses. Like many small businesses navigating the rough economy, they’ll stick with their bread and butter as they work toward a future feast.
“Within a year and a half, we produced 14 commercials,” said Darrell. “We just don’t leave them hanging. We also introduce them to people in local and national television and cable stations.”
The downturn in the economy isn’t necessarily bad for businesses with an advertising budget, he said. It is important to find a company that understands their needs. “We have affordable prices. We’re very competitive. We do quality work for low prices because we want to help businesses flourish.”
Businesses struggle too, trying to get their name out, the filmmaker said. “If the client can’t create or brainstorm, we will come up with a concept for them based on their product or services.”
For Darrell and April, business is reasonably good. “We’ve been low-key. But our next project is called “Spiritual Wars: The Return of Jesus Christ. It’s about good vs. evil,” he said.
(For more information, Darrell and April Jones can be reached at 901-315-0369.)