Tony M. Jackson, author and director of “The Story of Randolph,” listens intently to Kelvin Mumphrey (seated), who handles the film’s audio. Everette Thomas (on Jackson’s right)) provides input on the soundboard. Photo by Dellguan Coleman

By Wiley Henry

MEMPHIS, TN — A movie based on the fourth chapter in a book written by Tony M. Jackson is his foray into storytelling via the big screen. He is directing “The Story of Randolph: The Man of the Cloth.”

The fourth chapter is one of six stories that Jackson has weaved together in the book “The Fair Shot That Was Never Given.” It is a compilation of stories about the overlooked that persistently forced their way to the top.

In a sense, Jackson has worn several hats over the years to feed his entrepreneurial ambition. He is an author, business owner, community leader, realtor and now movie director. The latter hat seems to fit the 35-year-old rather snuggly.

The book was published this year on Feb. 8. The next day Jackson decided that he wanted to transition “The Story of Randolph” into a film project and bring the story to life with a local cast.

“When people read the book, they understand it,” said Jackson, who has sold a number of copies. “But I wanted people to see it the way I wrote it.”

The operative word is see, which prompted Jackson to choose the fourth chapter for starters. “I think that’s one of the best stories in the book,” he said.

Jackson said the story is based on the life of a friend, Mynoris Woods, who, like Randolph, has had a difficult time balancing his calling as a pastor with his private life outside the church. 

Woods is the assistant pastor at Cane Creek Missionary Baptist Church and owner of a janitorial company. He plays the leading role of Bishop Randolph, who is sweet on Kelly, played by Sweetrica Baker. 

“It’s an excellent role,” said Woods. “To me, it helps people to better understand not to be judgmental with people with a title.”

Woods sees himself in Randolph, his mirror reflection. 

“Throughout my dating life, it almost makes you hesitant to tell people you’re a pastor – not that you’re ashamed, but because people don’t always accept you for who you are (away from the pulpit).” 

As the story goes, Randolph is a single man looking for love and just by happenstance runs into Kelly. He asks her out on a date and cruises in his droptop to Broadway Pizza. Everything is hunky-dory until Randolph pops in a rhythm and blues CD.

Kelly cringes, expecting perhaps Yolanda Adams or Tamela Mann. At Broadway Pizza, she orders Sprite; Randolph orders his usual – two Bud Lights. Not expecting a pastor to chug a beer, Kelly orders Randolph to take her home. 

“I can identify with Kelly quite a bit,” said Baker, assistant secretary and office manager for Memphis AFLCIO. Kelly, she pointed out, is a little more flirtatious and added: “People shouldn’t have to change to be with you.”

“Pastors are under the microscope all the time,” said Jackson, a member of Breath of Life Seventh Day Adventist Church. He said Woods had discussed with him the conflict and dichotomy between the natural man and God’s servant.

“I just feel his pain,” he said. “I’m not saying the pastor should go out and drink a beer.” However, he added, “In this day and time, you are guilty by association.”

Before Jackson began production, he mentioned on the fly the storyline to Victoria A. Jones, owner of VA Jones Films in Nashville. Jones is a former client who patronized Jackson’s first business, Arlington Computers. 

“She said specifically, ‘Let’s do it!’ Jackson recalls. “And I replied, ‘Well, let’s do it!’”

Jackson brought Jones onboard to direct the movie. He and his wife, Monica Jackson, backed her up as co-directors. With a film crew led by Jones, the movie slowly began to unfold.

Jackson started filming in February and expects to finish production in late summer. “I’ve seen the editing and can’t believe the quality,” he said.

While “The Story of Randolph” is not a big budget movie, Jackson nevertheless made a reasonable investment, mostly on production. The actors, he said, didn’t mind coalescing around him to produce the movie.

“We’re working with a distribution company out of Los Angeles that will get us onto the major streaming and video platforms, such as Vimeo, Amazon Prime and the popular IMDb site,” he said.

The movie trailer is scheduled to premiere online July 4 on “The Story of Randolph” Facebook page. 

Jackson said both Office Depot at Wolfchase and Triumph Bank in Arlington, Tenn., offered to sponsor a private viewing in August at the Malco Cordova Cinema. The date has not been determined.

Meanwhile, Jackson is seriously thinking about making a movie or short film of the other five chapters in his book, “The Fair Shot That Was Never Given.”

He’s a little gung-ho about that possibility.