Like many blooming ﬁlm enthusiasts, Morgan Cooper, 28, got his feet for cinematography wet by shooting music videos for rap artists. It’s a shared sentiment – for a while, those kinds of projects pay the bills. A few hundreds here and there seem to provide a living, but there comes a time in every artists’ life where one must decide to represent something in their work.
One day, driving around Kansas City, Cooper got the idea to revamp “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” Cooper’s vision for “Bel-Air” was a dramatic, much edgier version of the comedic 90s show. He ﬁlmed the trailer totally in Kansas City, uploaded it, and it took off.
See “Bel-Air” here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAfJpyBgcgA
“Bel-Air” racked up more than 5 million views, and many celebrities took notice, even The Fresh Prince himself – Will Smith that is.
Smith was so impressed, he invited the young ﬁlmmaker to Miami for an interview, “Morgan did a ridiculous trailer for ‘Bel-Air.’ It was a brilliant idea; the dramatic version of ‘The Fresh Prince’ for the next generation,” Smith said.
See Smith’s reaction video and interview here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dnr0QwHVJpg
Smith’s video now has a million more views than the Cooper’s “Bel-Air” video.
Since then, Cooper has been busy. He’s made a bold move to L.A., and last year he also released a full-length ﬁlm, “U Shoot Videos?” an homage to his real life’s’ work. The ﬁlm starred Denzel Whitaker – who had roles in both “The Great Debaters” and “Black Panther.” It’s a story about the unglamorous lifestyle of a young ﬁlmmaker in Kansas City who shoots low-budget music videos for a living. He’s talented, and wants move on, but difﬁcult challenges – some even dangerous, await his rise to the next level.
Like “Bel-Air,” the ﬁlm can be viewed on Cooper’s Vimeo account. “It’s really important to me that I’m saying something through the work,” Cooper says. “I don’t want to just take up airtime. I don’t want to just create meaningless content. Sure, I want everything to be entertaining. But, ultimately, it’s important to use the platform to open up people’s minds to experiences and perspectives that they may not be familiar with.”
This year, Cooper is teaming up with Gabriel Union and Sony Pictures TV to create a series on Quibi streaming service called “Black Coffee.” It’s set to ﬁlm in K.C. by the start of next year. The show will run in “quick-bite,” a new format designed around short episodic chapters that are about 10 minutes long.
“Our main protagonist (in ‘Black Coffee’) is a former basketball player who gets hurt in college and ends up staying in the Paciﬁc Northwest. He falls in love with coffee and becomes a barista champion, then decides to move back home to his old neighborhood in Kansas City to open up a coffee shop,” Cooper says.
Cooper, in the midst of a feature debut, hopes his move to L.A. will open more doors for his artistry. L.A. means more access to ﬁlms biggest names and checkbooks, and Cooper has got the talent to utilize both.