A little over a year ago in October of 2006, I spent several delightful days in Lexington, Virginia assisting in the shoot for the documentary, Still Standing - The Stonewall Jackson Story. The weather was gorgeous, the foliage beautiful and we had several days of "perfect" shooting. Case in point: an extremely eerie fog that settled in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery the morning we shot there. It was hauntingly beautiful. The following month, my publisher set up a book release party at Jackson's Mill in West Virginia where additional filming took place and where C-Span's Book TV showed up to record one of the events. It's been quite a journey - how quickly time passes! The DVD is now completed and being shipped. Several screenings are scheduled for November and the film is already receiving rave reviews from those who have seen it and not so rave reviews from those who haven't. Regardless of whether the project is ultimately deemed successful, I have to say that it was an honor and privilege to be involved in the filming of this documentary. Even as I was in the early stages of writing my book about Jackson and his black Sunday school class, I intended to have the book made into a documentary. (A dramatization of the story would also make an interesting film, I'm sure.) I'm now researching another book with film plans for it as well!
I actually contacted three other film companies besides Franklin Springs which, if I mentioned, most would recognize. One of these companies expressed keen interest, one was interested on a "for hire" basis only (Meaning I would be solely responsible for production costs), and the other never responded. So I had two companies from which to choose. Ultimately, it was an easy choice as Franklin Springs had the technical expertise to produce a high quality, professional video in high definition and enjoys an enviable reputation in not only the Christian community, but among the broader field of professionals in the industry as well. In a word, their reputation is impeccable. It is an honor to be professionally associated with such a wonderful group of Christian gentlemen. It was also an honor to meet and have the cooperation of Col. Keith Gibson of Virginia Military Institute (Though I'd exchanged numerous emails and phone calls with him in researching the book, we'd never met face to face). Colonel Gibson went out of his way to make VMI accessible to the film crew and gave us all a personal tour of the school and all things related to Jackson. We also had unfettered access to the VMI archives and had the distinct pleasure and honor of enjoying supper with Colonel Gibson and the VMI cadets in the recently renovated Crozet Hall. What an experience! Col. Gibson also offered his opinion that Jackson would best like to be remembered ". . . as a Christian soldier who did his duty."
We also had the same level of cooperation and hospitality at Jackson's Mill. The folks there bent over backwards to accommodate us and make us feel right at home. Somewhat "out of the way", I would, nonetheless, highly recommend a visit there to this historic and beautiful site. The unique privilege of meeting direct descendants of Jackson's boyhood chum, Joseph P. Lightburn (and future Union General) was an experience I'll always treasure. Worshipping in Broad Run Baptist Church - where Jackson and Lightburn attended as boys and where Lightburn would pastor after the war - added something very special to our trip. Moreover, the experience of worshipping God with Joe Lightburn's descendants, Tom Jackson's descendants, and descendants of members of Jackson's Sunday school class was, in itself, a uniquely spiritual and historic experience; something I will never forget.
Of course, Dr. James I. Robertson Jr.'s willingness to offer his commentary on Jackson was most appreciated and added a level of expertise to the project that would have been unattainable without his involvement. "Bud" is the truest of Virginia Gentlemen and, sadly, one of the last of a dying breed. I have the utmost respect for Professor Robertson.
Other historians made valuable contributions as well, including Dr. George Grant. Besides a historian, Dr. Grant is a pastor, theologian, prolific writer and one of the best read men in America. William Potter, former President of the Williamsburg Civil War Roundtable, contributed invaluable insight into Jackson's life. Bill is a knowledgeable historian and author and has taught military history at the university level.
The photos seen here are just a couple of shots taken in Lexington during the filming last year. (I hope to post more later.) One is in the Stonewall Jackson Cemetery with some members of the Franklin Springs film crew, including the firm's president, Ken Carpenter. The other shot is with Colonel Keith Gibson on the campus of Virginia Military Institute. There was also additional footage shot at Manassas, Winchester, and Guiney's Station.
I've made many new friends on this "journey" and look forward to making many more. The influence of friends, and their impact in our lives, on history, and on eternity, was one of the main themes of the book and I continue to marvel at the "fruits of friendship." Thanks to all those friends who supported this project. God bless you.
*(Note: The frequency of my posts will likely diminish in the coming weeks and months. This is due to a number of reasons. First of all, I have a number of writing opportunities for various publications of which I need to take advantage. Secondly, I need to spend more time researching and writing my next book project and I am currently working with my daughter on another book - both demand my time. Third, the holiday season is coming up and that is always a busy time for my family. Fourth, the release of the documentary will occupy additional amounts of my spare time. Fifth, I am heavily involved in a fund-raising effort for the National Civil War Chaplain's Museum. For those who care, I will continue to try to post at least once a week.)