It was late September and there was nervous excitement in a spacious studio while we took our seats. It was a small miracle that we could even be here during the lockdown. Covid put the kibosh on the red carpet premiere that we'd been planning, so we were thrilled to even have this micropremiere of “HEARD”.
I had one of the best seats in the house: a clear view of TJ Thompson with his daughter and miniature sidekick, Tori. TJ's an ex-football player and one of five storytellers in “HEARD”, a documentary about the residents of Richmond’s housing projects.
Our production team and storytellers sat masked and spread out waiting for the film to start. This was it! The culmination of over two years of juggling my responsibilities as a mom, wife, and tree farmer at Jolly's Mill Pond with my role as Associate Producer.
We didn't know how the storytellers would react. But over the next 90 minutes, we'd see firsthand if they loved it or hated it.
T.J.'s reactions to his life on-screen were raw, particularly when he watched footage with his mom. Witnessing that rawness with his daughter by his side… I couldn't fight the tears.
And guess what? They. Loved. It!
When the film ended and the excited chatter took over the studio, I had flashbacks on our journey: the moment David first asked me to work with him. The months of meetings with nonprofits and community leaders. Raising teens. Working with Martin Montgomery, a four-time Emmy winner. The editing. Flashbacks to the community outrage and bad press in Williamsburg while building our outreach team for HEARD….
Even with all of the juggling, I'm utterly grateful for having had the opportunity to pour myself into "HEARD" and Jolly's Mill Pond at the same time. It was rough at times, but there was something Cotina Brake said in the film that I relate to. She was talking about the hard work required to move her family from the projects into their own home.
“It was stressful. I had some sleepless nights. I had some stressful days... By all means, I don’t want to paint this beautiful picture like something is just perfect for me and my family because it’s not. It was never perfect. It just was worth it.”
By Spring of 2021, HEARD was broadcasted on over 70% of the PBS stations nationwide.
You can still watch “HEARD” on the PBS website or on the PBS app. #hearddoc