Film-making man of faith

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

РР Hebrews 11:1

If there is one person who lives by this biblical urging, it is 45-year-old film-maker Elvin Ross. He believes faith and trust in God are the key to having a successful career.

And he does not just believe it; he lives that truth day in and day out.

For the last 20 years, Ross has been the musical composer for Tyler Perry; and he says he is glad he made the decision back then to accept Tyler’s offer, which got him started in the film industry. He has produced music for all of Tyler’s stage plays, all of his television shows, and several of his films.

Film-maker Elvin Ross delivering one of his speeches at the  Caribbean Music Summit. 
Film-maker Elvin Ross delivering one of his speeches at the
Caribbean Music Summit.

“I was playing music in the church, and Tyler Perry and I knew each other from another state. And, he saw me one day at church in Atlanta, Georgia, and asked, ‘Would you like to come and be a musician for one of my plays?’, and at that time he had no success; was broke; and so was I . . . .

“A week later we did the musical I Know I Have Been Changed, and that was my entry into the stage play industry. I have been on this journey with Tyler and it has been rewarding for us both,” Ross stated.

And he does not just talk the talk; he walks the walk.

In a very relaxed interview with Bajan Vibes, Ross spoke much of faith, which he explained had got him this far, given that when he and Tyler started, they both had no knowledge of the film industry.

“That journey with Tyler Perry has been very rewarding ever since. It’s been an on-the-job learning experience. We have come from backgrounds where we weren’t exposed to TV or film, or even how to do it.

“One of the things we had to embrace was the moment. And in that moment opportunities presented themselves . . . and did the best we could. We made a lot of mistakes, especially me; but we overcame them by experience and by studying other people. It’s been both rewarding for us career-wise, as well as monetarily,” he said.

Ross told Bajan Vibes he would not do anything differently if he had to live over the past, for every mistake made and every circumstance had paved the way for
him and Perry.

“Our steps were ordered by God. If we were to change any little detail about it, I don’t think things would be the same. Because we listened to the voice of God, I think that’s why Tyler is experiencing this high in his life, which allows me to experience this high in my life РР just by listening to the voice of the Lord,” the film-maker added.

Ross, who has been a Christian all his life, says believing in God is what drives him.

“My family are all Christians; so it’s in our bloodline to have faith and trust in God. I try to have a clean heart every day. Start every day brand new.

“You could be working in production and have a disagreement with one of your crew members, but not carry over into the next day. If you have a disagreement with a family member, don’t carry it over to the next day. At least try to resolve it.

“I’m guilty of doing that, and I’ve realized that it doesn’t work. So now I try to resolve things in a timely manner. It will just keep everything moving. Life wouldn’t be halted because of stubbornness,” he said.

In Barbados for the three-day inaugural Caribbean Music Summit, Ross presented his new film Kunta Kinteh Island there, shown for the first time in the Caribbean. Ross said. He told Bajan Vibes a little about the film, which he hopes would be “an inspiration to all”.

Kunta Kinteh Island is about the renaming of James Island in Gambia, West Africa, where Kunta Kinteh was abducted some 250 years ago. [The island] was renamed to pay homage to Kunta Kinteh and all that he went through РР he and his family. Hope to reach the younger generation especially,” he explained.

Ross revealed he had been initially hired as a composer, but having a different view of how the film should be, “the producers at the time asked me if I would just direct the film, and I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll try it’. So Kunta Kinteh was my debut film”.

With charming smile, he added: “Kunta Kinteh Island . . . is becoming an acclaimed piece. We are now taking it internationally, doing screenings. And I’m very clear that it’s an educational documentary; so it should be in institutions such as schools, educational centres, churches and organizations that want to help their community . . . .

“It’s a self-help film and it’s asking the younger generation and others, ‘Do you know where you come from? Do you know who you are?’, and because of those specific questions, the doc/film belongs in specific venues,” Ross said.

Now wearing two hats РР of composer and film-maker РР he finds it hard to decide which one he likes better, but he is looking forward to making even more movies.

“I think I have the appetite now for film-making; but I do love composing. I think that the most interesting thing for me is that I can do both,” Ross said.

He told Bajan Vibes he also got his inspiration from watching others.

Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley with Elvin Ross during one of the showcases. 
Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley with Elvin Ross during one of the showcases.
Elvin Ross (right) taking some time out at the final showcase.
Elvin Ross (right) taking some time out at the final showcase.

“I listen to other composers and get inspiration from them; look at movies that are inspirational; but most importantly having faith in God. You can read a [Bible] passage that will always get you through something, or inspire you to keep pushing forward.

“When I saw Tyler directing films, I wanted to direct films. I wanted to compose music when I was introduced to Quincy Jones and people like that. So now that we are here we are trying to build our own legacy in music and film,” Ross said.

The father of two boys Elvin Jr, 13, and London, 8 РР said he did not go to college for music, but rather for architecture. He was trained in music on the piano by his mother. His boys are following in his musical footsteps.

“My eldest son Elvin Jr plays the piano very well, and London is into drums and singing.

Ross does not have much downtime, but the little he has he likes to spend resting with his sons and wife Jasmine.

And what advice does he have for anyone aspiring to get into the film industry?

“. . . Make sure you are very focused; take advantage of every opportunity; but, more importantly, be exposed to the things you’re endeavouring to do, so you can learn. You become a product of your environment once you’re around it.

“Sometimes that would mean you have to travel; sometimes that would mean you have to make some sacrifice. And, with God I think all things are possible. You can reach all your goals in film if you trust in God.”

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