Retired Senior Master Air Force Sgt. Mark S. Evans got his start in filmmaking by putting on Superman Underoos and running across his roof, pretending to fly.
He was 5 and his older brother, then 7, would film him with the family's 8 mm camera.
"I've always had a love for cinematography and filming," Evans says. "It runs in the family."
Today, he uses his cinematography skills to help the Boys & Girls Club of Jacksonville -- his place of birth. He uses his video equipment, including a drone, to produce marketing films that promote the club's mission.
The Jacksonville Boys & Girls Club and Evans are both observing their 50th birthday this year. To celebrate, the Club will host a gala -- Empowering Bright Futures -- at 6 p.m. Dec. 20 at the Jacksonville Community Center.
Evans learned about the Boys & Girls Club programs in 2003. He and his wife, Suzanne, were stationed at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Ga., when he was deployed to Iraq. Their son, Tim, was 11 at the time.
With Evans overseas, Suzanne -- a working mom -- needed help. She found a Boys & Girls Club in Georgia.
"So that was our first introduction to the Boys & Girls Club. She introduced him to that [and] he liked it, obviously," Evans says. "It was his first real true introduction to cultural diversity."
Being so far away from home, Evans was concerned about his son's safety. With the Boys & Girls Club, he found he didn't have to worry.
"The Boys & Girls Club is safe. That is their No. 1 priority," Evans says. "So that was just the perfect fit."
The Boys & Girls Club of Jacksonville is part of a larger affiliation of clubs through the Boys & Girls Club of America. This organization is made up of more than 4,000 organizations serving nearly 4 million kids across the United States.
The clubs -- open to children ages 6-18 -- provide programs on education and career development, character and leadership building, health and life skills, the arts and sports, fitness and recreation.
"It enables young people to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens," Evans says.
After being deployed nine times and serving 25 years of active duty, Evans retired from the service in 2014 and ultimately moved back to Jacksonville. While he no longer wears a uniform, he still works as a civilian as director of complaints resolutions for 19th Airlift Wing at the office of the Inspector General at the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville.
In 2015, he offered his marketing and cinematography services to the Jacksonville Boys & Girls Club's executive director, LaConda Watson, who gladly accepted.
"So here we are -- four years and 13 films later," Evans says. "We built a great relationship."
The films can be seen on the club's social media sites. Some feature professional athletes from Jacksonville including pro football players Clinton McDonald and Demetrius Harris and track and field champion Jeff Henderson.
Barbie Mellinger wears several hats at the club. She is the volunteer administrative office assistant at the club, the board secretary and chairman of the safety committee. And she gets excited when she talks about Evans' dedication to the club.
"You wouldn't believe the number of hours that he puts in to give the club the exposure we need to keep the doors open," Mellinger says. "He would do anything to help his community, yet he is a very humble person. He's one of those people we need more of."
Watson says there is no way the club could afford the professional quality of promotional films that Evans produces.
"Mark has played a tremendous role in helping us get our story out to the public in a visual way. ... When I met him four years ago, he told me he dabbled in production work. Seeing his work -- it is phenomenal. He is truly a perfectionist in what he does," Watson says.
Evans and his brother David developed the movie-making bug early on. The family had moved from Jacksonville to Bentonville and the two boys would use their parent's 8 mm camera to make home movies.
David is now a physician in Cordova, Tenn. And he, too, is still in the filmmaking business. David has directed two Christian-based movies, The Grace Card released in 2010, and Indivisible, released in 2018. Mark had an uncredited small role in Indivisible playing a lieutenant colonel.
While writing Indivisible, David turned to his brother, who shared stories about his time serving in Iraq. IMDb.com describes the movie as "the extraordinary true story of Army Chaplain Darren Turner and his wife, Heather. When war etches battle scars on their hearts, they face one more battle: the fight to save their marriage."
In his role as a lieutenant colonel in Indivisible, Mark Evans presents the Bronze Star to the chaplain. In real life, Evans was awarded the Bronze Star in 2008 for his role in running sweeps to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq.
Evans' career in the military also included protecting many top U.S. officials. As a military dog handler, he was deployed worldwide with the U.S. Secret Service to protect former Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Vice President Al Gore and first lady Hillary Clinton.
While his life today is a little less glamorous, he does get a kick out of the budding stars he videos at the Boys & Girls Club.
"All of these kids want to be famous. They want to be movie stars. So they see me coming with my camera and they line up," he says. "And, of course, you never know what's going to come out of their mouths. It's just entertaining."
Jacksonville Boys & Girls Club's Dec. 20 gala -- Empowering Bright Futures -- will include dinner and a silent auction. The guest speaker is Danyelle Sargent-Musselman, television sports reporter and wife of Arkansas Razorback Basketball Coach Eric Musselman. More information about the event and the club is available at jbgc.org.
Retired Senior Master Sgt. Mark S. Evans became interested in supporting the Jacksonville Boys & Girls Club after seeing the positive impact the program had on his son. He uses his cinematography skills to produce marketing films that highlight the club’s mission.
High Profile on 12/01/2019
Print Headline: Videographer helps Boys & Girls Club