Morehouse CTEMS Program Teams Up with MTV Entertainment for Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute VideoJanuary 17, 2022
In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, MTV Entertainment Group is handing over its massive platform to the Morehouse College Cinema, Television, & Emerging Media Studies (CTEMS) program to showcase the short film "Here We Are." Based on one of Morehouse's beloved expressions, "a candle in the dark," the film focuses on the legacy of King '48, its link to the present-day civil rights movement, and how his teachings have helped guide progress for the continued movement for Black liberation. Beginning today, the film will air through February on all nine MTV Entertainment Group channels: MTV, VH1, Country Music Television (CMT), Comedy Central, Paramount Network, Logo, TV Land, Pop TV, and Smithsonian Channel.
Below are the Morehouse faculty, students, and staff who helped bring this production to life. Learn more about the opportunity from CTEMS academic program director Dr. Stephane Dunn and CTEMS seniors below.
How did the partnership/opportunity arrive at Morehouse? How long has this been in the works?
Stephane Dunn (SD): This opportunity came unexpectedly in late fall 2021. Through a former unrelated collaboration, MTV's Rosa White and I struck up an acquaintance and discussed how we both would love to see more professional interaction, support, and collaboration with entertainment networks and HBCU academic programs like CTEMS. A year after that, Ms. White reached out on behalf of her enthusiastic MTV team, and the fruit of the first conversation was this general idea of a first project: a senior class field assignment experience that would highlight Dr. King and Morehouse students that are part of his legacy.
How did the student-faculty team decide to tell a story on MLK? And how did you land on this approach for telling this story?
SD: The specific approach was developed through an animated class pitching session and the students brainstorming outside of class meetings, then formally presenting the favored idea. Two story approaches emerged for which story decks were prepared, and both were shot in late November, about two weeks after the King holiday project partnership idea was born. There were hiccups in pulling off the filming—as there often are when it comes to the filmmaking process—but the one that will air came together in the very limited time that we had.
What was it like for CTEMS students and faculty to work collaboratively on a project for a major national media brand like MTV/ViacomCBS?
SD: For the faculty—Avery Williams, myself, Zachary Thomas, and filmmaker/ program assistant Julia Davis—it was exciting having a live class out in the field with stakes attached: the opportunity for national airing and professional credit. What an organic class experience! The teaching, mutual learning and respect, supportive teamwork that went on through the short turnaround, intense preproduction, and production stages was a gift.
What lessons were learned about the dynamics of the student-faculty relationship while collaborating on this project?
SD: I was reminded that unique learning experiences outside of the physical classroom space present opportunities for inspired collaboration and creativity for students as well as faculty learning. We were all challenged at times while playing our respective roles. The faculty was reminded, once again, of the limitless potential of Morehouse students, specifically our CTEMS seniors. The way they, as a group and individually, stepped up, put in the work in different areas, and collaborated just grew our [the faculty's] respect and excitement for their futures. We got to see each other from a more full, close yet comfortable perspective, with us needing to practice how we lead, learn, nudge, etc. - not always getting the balance right, but finding joy and satisfaction in the process.
What is the significance of this project for the Morehouse CTEMS department?
SD: It's crucial that the valuable, collaborative work that all humanities disciplines embody—whether in film, TV, music, art, etc.—be highlighted. This project represents research and intellectual productivity that furthers the academic prowess, professional exposure, and skill development of students through and alongside our professors. The CTEMS department, like other academic disciplines in the humanities, needs significantly more funding and partnerships to support extraordinary class and program experiences, student scholarships, faculty development, and more. Additionally, this extends beyond being good for CTEMS. This collaborative class project represents the unique ongoing character and history of Morehouse College, which has a mission that remains relevant and worthy of continued major support.
Samuel Alicea: It was a beautiful experience being able to see my fellow CTEMS students and professors working together in a professional setting. As aspiring film students and industry workers, we all had to tighten our bootstraps to maturely and efficiently act in a given position(s). Whether a camera operator, working in wardrobe, or capturing behind-the-scenes footage, we each stepped up to the task as a unit, in rhythm, to deliver meaningful work in the name of Dr. King. It was equally as endearing to see our professors embrace us in a professional setting, integrating us into their usual pace and intensity on set, in a medium that they cherish so deeply. I think that it helped us all grow a little closer in the end.
Chase Stokes: Working with my peers from the CTEMS program was such a great experience because it gave us the opportunity to discover each other's strengths. Our faculty was instrumental in helping us hone and guide our skills. Now that this project will be aired on such a major platform, the world will see the magnitude of what Morehouse College has to offer.
Elmer Z. Ellis: It was great working with my classmates, professors, and professionals for a major brand like MTV. I was able to get hands-on cinematography experience with Professor Thomas and learn what happens in a writers' room. Through this project and engaging with my classmates, I became even more aware of our individual talents. I know that we will all be working together on many more projects soon. I am grateful to have been able to create with and learn from Dr. Dunn and Prof. Williams.
Film Title: "Here We Are"
Director: Avery O. Williams '86
Original Poem and Executive Producer: Stephane Dunn, Ph.D.
Story and Production: The Morehouse CTEMS Senior Class of 2022
- Samuel Alicea
- Mansa Aziz
- Richard Davis
- Javaris Denman
- Mikyle Dixon
- Elmer Ellis
- Reed Heard
- Kenyon Spotts
- Chase Stokes
- Timmy Thongkham
Editing and Cinematography: Zach Thomas '13
Sound Recording: Christopher Love
1st Assistant Director: Forderick Fowler '15
Production Coordinator: Julia Davis (Spelman' 15)
Music Composer: David Morrow '80, performed by the Morehouse College Glee Club
Learn more about the Morehouse College Cinema, Television, and Emerging Media Studies program.