When Arion Kidd-Weeks decided to go to Morehouse, he was living in Los Angeles and had never traveled outside of California. He didn’t even know much about HBCUs.
“Friends and family kept mentioning Morehouse,” he recalled. “It was always in my ear, so i thought, ‘OK, let me look into it.’ I took a little bit of time and I thought—‘Wait! Dr. King, Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson’—the list goes on and on for these African American men.”
Kidd-Weeks got his parents’ support, and he and his best friends decided to take the leap together. They were accepted into Morehouse, enrolled, and made their way to Georgia.
“My first impression was, ‘Wow!’ I mean, it was like, ‘This is where all these men developed into great men, and I’m about to be here, as well.’ The campus had an interesting aura about it.
And that aura has remained.”
On Sunday, Dec. 13 Kidd-Weeks, who completed his academic requirements in June, will join the Class of 2020 in Morehouse College’s online Commencement. The Morehouse scholar has launched a stellar career as a young filmmaker. He is developing a series for television and says he has an A-list of former clients, including Warner, BET, Lil Baby, Russ, Cuco, Rick Ross, and Gunna.
Four years ago, however, Kidd-Weeks was a budding scientist. He began his college career as a physics major, and he did well. He had his sights set on a Coast Guard pilots’ program, but one day he discovered he was ineligible because of an allergy.
“That single moment changed my life,” he remembered. “It had been my whole life plan.”
After some consideration, Kidd-Weeks decided to change his major to Cinema, Television and Emerging Media Studies. In high school, he had begun taking photos on his Android phone just for fun. Then, he graduated to an iPhone, and one day after getting an assignment in Spanish class, he decided to make a music video.
“I was only in 10th or 11th grade and did it on my iPhone,” he said. “We had different locations, and used slo-mo, and all that. I didn’t even sleep that night. I edited it on my brother’s computer and screened it at school the next day… and, oh my gosh, people loved it.
“I thought, ‘Wait… I might be kind of good at this!’’
After changing his Morehouse major, the sophomore took some photos around campus and noticed that there seemed to be a need for videography at the College. He began doing videos for various organizations, and before long became known “the video guy,” he said, at Spelman, Clark-Atlanta, and Morehouse.
“Then I branched out into the Atlanta community,” he explained. “I did music videos, and became aware there was a field called cinematography.”
Kidd-Weeks describes cinematography this way: “Cinematographers are experts on lighting, camera angles, lenses—anything about the way a film or an image looks. They paint with light, they know complementary colors, and they work with the director and production designer to decide how they want the film to feel. They might say, for a film set in the ’60s, ‘We can shoot it with vintage lenses or use these colors that they wore back then.’
“It’s a very collaborative process to tell a story visually.”
Over the next three years, Kidd-Weeks collaborated on short films that he describes as being “birthed in Georgia.” He shot music videos and documentary projects, wrote screenplays and scripts, set up his own website, and did networking and branding for his own production company, Flight 9 Beyond, a multimedia production entity.
It’s storytelling that he feels passionate about. “Filmmaking takes a lot of hours and a lot of thought, and it’s a different kind of grind,” he explained. “You have to be sound in knowing yourself, what story you can tell, and what you can contribute to an audience.
“It’s knowing the power of an image, and the power of story-telling. And I’m really passionate about stories with knowledge and insight.”
Before leaving Atlanta this year, Kidd-Weeks wrote and directed the film “Stricken” with Apple and Beats by Dr. Dre, an audio brand founded by Dr. Dre and Interscope Records co-founder Jimmy Iovine. “I was extended the opportunity to be the screenwriter and director,” Kidd-Weeks said. “Countless people recommended I apply, and I was selected. I made it a point to bring four fellow HBCU students onto the project and it was an incredible experience.”
In an interview with “VoyageATL,” Kidd-Weeks said he’s felt fortunate to work with some heavy hitters in the entertainment industry, such as international film visionaries like Daps, Edgar Esteves, and Des Gray.
Kidd-Weeks has returned to his California hometown to continue growing his business and put himself on the market. While developing “Stricken” into a TV series, he’s also producing, and doing branding and documentary projects. (One of the most recent is a campaign for the HBCU in L.A internship program.)
He’s also continuing to develop his production company Flight 9 Beyond. “I’ve been building the business for a while now, but I haven’t been doing it at this level. Ultimately, I want to give AUC students access to professional cinema cameras. I wish I’d had that.”
With so much to do, Kidd-Weeks, who describes himself as a self-starter, is grateful, he said, for being able to shelter at home in L.A. and work. But the irony is not lost on him that he had to travel thousands of miles away from home in the first place to learn more about his cultural history as a Liberian-American, more about himself, and more about how he could impact the community.
“I left for four years driving 4,000 miles to learn my history and found that I have the gift of inspiring others and the skill to visualize cultured stories. All of my contemplation led to a plan to enact change: Entertainment infused with knowledge.”
To view the short film “Stricken,” click here: https://youtu.be/pUulgfi1hJ0
I left for four years driving 4,000 miles to learn my history and found that I have the gift of inspiring others and the skill to visualize cultured stories. All of my contemplation led to a plan to enact change: Entertainment infused with knowledge.Arion Kidd-Weeks, Class of 2020