The "Gospel Hill" film crew works outside a house on Hinton Street in Chester on Thursday. Filmmakers are just about finished with their work in this area and will return to Los Angeles this weekend.
The "Gospel Hill" film crew works outside a house on Hinton Street in Chester on Thursday. Filmmakers are just about finished with their work in this area and will return to Los Angeles this weekend.

Members of Greater Life Ministries of Rock Hill might have started out a month ago as extras in the film "Gospel Hill," but as the production crew gets ready to leave the area this weekend, those extras will be bidding farewell to friends.

They have eaten, worshipped and even prayed with the crew.

The close relationship began when Schenita Goston, a member at Greater Life Ministries, heard producers were looking for a group of gospel singers.

"I told them that I knew of a gospel group that was awesome and that once they heard them it would stop all their auditions," Goston said.

And it did.

The singers from Greater Life Ministries proved to be just what producers were looking for, and within a week of auditioning, they were singing for the cameras.

"There were so many people that we met, and they were just so nice and welcoming," said praise team member Bettina Wilson. "They didn't treat you any differently then they would treat ('Gospel Hill' actor) Danny Glover."

Since filming their scene, members of Greater Life Ministries have kept in contact with the crew members. Church members have brought food to the office for the staff, and crew members have visited the church on Sundays.

During one visit church members made to the production office, Giancarlo Esposito, the film's director, asked their pastor, Rosalind Wilson, to pray with him.

"They have become a part of us, and it's an experience that we will never forget," said Archinya Ingram, a praise team member and sister of Wilson.

Most of the crew aren't the sort of people who go to church every Sunday, publicist Pedro Pinto said in an e-mail. But they accepted the invitation from Greater Life Ministries to attend their service and said it was an amazing experience.

"The friendship we created means everything," the e-mail said. "It embodies the movie and the story we are trying to tell."

Bettina Wilson had a particularly profound impact on producers. Because there were some concerns about getting copyright approval for the music, Wilson took it upon herself to write two songs for the film. One came to her at the last minute.

"I was just praying. I said, 'Lord I need a song,'" she said.

She went into her bathroom, shut the door and began to write.

"Within five minutes, I came out with a song from the Lord," she said.

She taught the song to the other praise team members that evening, and the next morning, they sang it for the shooting.

"Giancarlo (Esposito) seemed to be very moved by the words of the song because the words actually went along with what the movie was about," Ingram said. "He went into tears, and it got really emotional at one point."

Being part of the film was a wonderful experience, said Latoya Hopkins, a singer for Greater Life Ministries.

"It was not just us singing," she said. "It was a chance for us to minister to people."

The crew made that easy, she said.

"I expected them to be snooty, but they were real friendly," she said. "They just made us welcome like we were one big happy family."

For Wilson's family, four of whom participated in the movie, this opportunity means more than a shot under the spotlight.

Growing up was rough at times, particularly after the death of their father and then as their mother battled cancer and endured 28 surgeries. Bettina Wilson said she personally dealt with teenage pregnancy and depression.

"Everybody told me I wouldn't amount to anything," she said. "Now here's something coming out of little old me, and I don't take the credit for it. I just give all the credit to God."

To participate in this film is to share a part of themselves, the sisters said.

"It may be just one scene or 60 seconds in the movie to everybody else, but to us it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because the world will get to hear our story," Ingram said.