The Making of ‘Point and Drive’

Photo Courtesy of J Howard Photography

Current band members, alumni, and others flocked to the Foster-Tanner music building to see “Point and Drive” on Oct. 21.

First-time filmmaker and FAMU Marching 100 Alumni, Brandi Mitchell, calls it “The best of both worlds.”

“It’s edutainment: education that will entertain the entire family,” Mitchell said. “It’s a hybrid, a feature film, a musical, and a documentary. It’s nothing like the documentary with talking heads that cut away to archival footage. It really is a musical journey.”

As a former celebrity hairstylist and makeup artist, Mitchell is no stranger to the glamour of Hollywood. She retired from that line of work to shine a light on something near and dear to her heart: The Marching 100, William P. Foster, and his legacy.

“When you include the whole back story, this wasn’t intended to be just a hot idea for a cute film. It has purpose, a mission and a cause to it; it’s supposed to impact a lot of people,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell named “Point and Drive” after the foundational concept of the Marching 100’s marching style. When naming the film, Mitchell knew that the meaning should be parallel to life.

“When you point to something you have to be focused, and when you drive, you have to have relentless drive to get it accomplished. The meaning is so applicable to life,” Mitchell said.

“It was a story that wasn’t out there and didn’t exist,” Mitchell said. “It’s a story that needed to be told about music, the binding elements of music and what you learn out there on those fields. It’s [about] what the teacher gives up and sacrificed to teach us, and who we become in the process.”  

Shelby Chipman, Director of Bands at FAMU, summed up the film in one word: Epic.

“It was an epic opportunity for her to put that presentation in place,” Chipman said. “And even more an epic opportunity for anyone who has had the opportunity to observe it. We are really fortunate she took the opportunity to make it.”

Mitchell believes this film is unlike anything audiences have seen on screen.

“Far from Nick Cannon’s Drumline, ‘Point and Drive’ is the real deal. Drumline is supposed to be an adaption of what real life is, but it’s fictional. Everything up until this point has been fictional. ‘Point and Drive’ is an actual documentary with authentic accounts of what happened over about six generations,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell hosted a sneak-peek of her documentary on June 1, just as the band was due to celebrate 70 years of standard-setting musicianship that started with the late William P Foster.

Foster and his Marching 100 are the originators of this sound we all associate with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). “Point and Drive” displays the groundwork and traditions alongside the talents and passion of the incomparable Marching 100. Foster’s vision is told through the eyes and experiences of former band members who served under him.

LeAnn Jackson, a second-year music education student and Marching 100 member, said, “The documentary was a piece of Dr. Foster; It’s one thing to learn from Dr. Chipman who learned from Dr. Foster but to see it being taught from the legend was great.”  

After accessing audiences reviews, Mitchell feels she succeeded in making “Point and Drive” heartfelt and different than anything viewers had ever seen on the big screen.  

Mitchell said, “It’s a host of emotions, from laughing to crying. They’re dancing, they’re in awe. You have the whole gamut of emotions you want to touch on as a filmmaker; they’re expressed.”

The filmmaker also remembers the moment the mind of a young lady from the Atlanta screening was changed in 90 minutes.

“There is a girl marching in the Marching 100 right now. Her parents are alumni of the Marching 100 and Florida A&M and they tried to tell her about the legacy and the greatness she was about to walk into. Initially, she was blowing it off, but at the end of the film she stood up and shouted, ‘My parents have been trying to tell me this for 12 years, but after seeing this on the screen, I get it now!’ That was a good moment.”   

“Point and Drive” is now a movement complete with a foundation of the same name. The foundation raises money to send children to college and expose them to music and marching. It also introduces children to various career development paths. “Only 10 percent of the band members are music majors, which means that 90 percent of them go into other careers and become leaders in whatever they do,” Mitchell said.