Beyonce may have rocked Coachella in 2018 when she turned her headlining show at that festival into a tribute to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, complete with full marching band. But lots of other people had already known all about the remarkable musical tradition, and particularly the marching band tradition, at HBCUs – and the makers of “March,” a documentary series produced by Stage 13 and airing on the CW, were definitely among those in the know.
“In 2015, 2016 (we made) a series about an amazing marching band at Bethune-Cookman University in Central Florida … and we became obsessed with this world,” “March” executive producer and Stage 13 head of unscripted Sheri Scorca told awards editor Steve Pond at a virtual screening as part of TheWrap’s 2022 Awards Season Screening Series. “You start going down rabbit holes where you watch all the different bands online … And then in 2019, right before everything shut down, we went to the Texas State Fair Classic and saw Grambling versus Prairie View and absolutely were blown away.”
The 300-member Marching Storm band at Prairie View A&M University, a public university outside Houston, became the focus for “March.” The series chronicles a season in which the pandemic limited crowds and the musicians and teachers were offended by a preseason ranking that placed it only as the eighth-best band. The series follows a number of band and faculty members both at home and in the school environment – an environment that is particularly resonant in these times, since Prairie View is located on the grounds of a former plantation.
“We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams, so we have to uphold that responsibility,” co-executive producer Precious-Tuesday said during the panel. “We’re making a show about our ancestors as well. We are on a plantation. There are people buried right next to where people are playing drums. So the responsibility was (to show) real respect, love, honor … and Black joy.”
An additional challenge came in the timing. The series was shot during the fall football season of 2021 and its eight episodes began airing in January 2022, an extraordinarily tight turnaround for a series of this scope.
“I feel like we had the Avengers in postproduction,” said executive producer Carlton Jordan, who oversaw that part of the process. “We had some amazing editors and story producers that I knew could one deliver fast turnarounds and also deliver the heart. Even though the turnaround was really quick, I think we did a great job with the production in communication daily. We always had a lot of thought (about) what should make the air and what was the best representation of these real great storylines. It was a marathon for sure, but it was worth it.”
The show was ready in time to run after “All-American: Homecoming,” The CW’s scripted show set on an HBCU, and to be ready during Black History Month. “There was a lot of trauma going on in the world with COVID and a lot of injustice that was happening in the news and in real life,” Jordan said. “So I wanted to make sure we had some fun kids that were cool, that you wanted to watch them on the field and off the field.
“We do get into some deep subjects in the show, but my head space going in was we need to balance it with Black joy and excitement and fun.”
Other panelists included executive producers Jamail Shelton, and Cheryl Horner McDonough, co-executive producer Christina Louviere and supervising casting director Kelley Allen.
Watch the full video above.