Baltimore shoe firm hitting its stride

October 13, 2007|By GREGORY KANE

On a balmy Indian summer night in East Baltimore, the basketball teams gathered near the hoop closer to the scoreboard under the dome at the Madison Square Recreation Center.

The players with the logo "3NITY" in white letters on their black jerseys prepared to inbound the ball. Their opponents, the USA Christianity team clad in gold jerseys, set up their defense. Team 3NITY - whose players wore numbers 3, 13, 23, 33 and 43 - trailed, 57-55. Three seconds showed on the game clock.

The referee blew his whistle to start play. No. 3 on 3NITY's team inbounded the ball to No. 13, who dribbled to the right side of the key. No. 13 then tossed the ball back to No. 3, who launched a shot from the top of the key and well beyond the three-point line with two-tenths of a second showing on the scoreboard clock.

The crowd roared when the ball swished through the net to give team 3NITY a 58-57 victory. It was a hard-fought and well-earned victory for 3NITY, as well it should have been.

No. 3 had tried the shot only 10 to 15 times.

This was no ordinary basketball game. In fact, it wasn't a game at all. It was a commercial shoot for the T3 Alpha athletic shoe, which is the brainchild of 35-year-old Leonard Wood and 26-year-old Vernon Woodland, two Baltimore-area businessmen. The "T" in T3 stands for "trinity" and represents the passion both men have for their Christian faith. Hence the name "3NITY" on the basketball team's jerseys, the number 3 on all those jerseys and the three seconds left on the simulated game clock.

And T3 athletic shoes on all the basketball players in the commercial.

Sun readers were introduced to Wood and Woodland in July 2006, when I wrote about them in this column. They are young black businessmen who met when they worked in cable services for sales and marketing companies. Once they saw that they were, in Wood's words, "making other people a whole lot of money," they decided to go into business for themselves.

They came up with the idea of the T3 Alpha as a cheaper alternative to the sky-high athletic shoes they saw in stores. They got Nice Fit China Ltd. - a company in the People's Republic of China - to design a sample of the shoe. That's where their tale ended over a year ago.

Since then, Wood and Woodland visited the factory in China where the T3 Alpha will be manufactured. That was in July. In late September, they were ready for their first commercial shoot. For that, they hired another group of young black professionals.

Clevon "J Dot" Moyd directed the shoot. He studied film at the Art Institute of Atlanta and graduated this year.

"This is my second big project," Moyd said. "The first was a film shot in Elkridge, Md." Moyd worked audio on that film, a whodunit about the murder of a minister involved with organized crime called Who Killed Bishop Brown? Moyd was also the associate producer on a short documentary called Beatmakers that will premiere in Atlanta on Oct. 23.

Moyd said he started making his own movies when he was only 7 years old. He shot his first music video as an eighth-grader at Parkville Middle School in Baltimore County. Moyd, fresh out of Atlanta and only recently back in the Baltimore area, didn't have his own film crew to shoot the T3 Alpha commercial. For that, he, Wood and Woodland turned to 1Vision Entertainment, a film, video and photography company formed by a group of Morgan State University students in February.

Michael Washington of 1Vision Entertainment was the assistant producer for the commercial shoot. Robert Everett, Zundra Bradley and Daylan Jones made up the crew that set up the cameras, microphones and sound equipment in preparation for the shoot.

Everett, Bradley and Jones agreed to talk with me briefly before the shooting began. Everett told me why they chose the name.

"We saw all of us had the same vision," he said. "We all had the hunger to get in the industry."

Since the company was formed, 1Vision Entertainment has shot hip-hop and R&B videos, short films, commercials, footage of the Jena 6 rally at Morgan and at the Congressional Black Caucus convention.

"In the future we'd like to expand on that," Bradley said, "do more films."

Everett, Bradley and Jones all said they had an early interest in film, but once they started taking courses at Morgan and doing the "behind-the-scenes" work involved in filmmaking, they knew they didn't want to do anything else.

For Wood and Woodland, the choice to go with Moyd as a director and 1Vision Entertainment as backup crew was an easy one.

"We went with them because they didn't charge an arm and a leg," Wood said.

And probably, no doubt, to give another group of young black professionals just what Wood and Woodland were looking for themselves only a few years ago.

Their first break.

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