Visionary artist and producer John Legend, an Academy Award and Golden Globe®– winner and nine-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, together with his Get Lifted partners Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius, and actor, activist, and humanitarian Jesse Williams are on board to executive-produce renowned artists Glenn Kaino and Afshin Shahidi’s incredibly timely documentary, With Drawn Arms, about the importance and inspiration of Olympic gold medalist Tommie Smith’s powerful salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
The announcement was made recently by Get Lifted Film Co. alongside co-directors Kaino and Shahidi. In this groundbreaking film, Glenn Kaino and Afshin Shahidi use an ongoing artistic collaboration between Kaino and Smith to connect Smith’s silent but meaningful gesture in 1968 to the critical moments and most important voices of today, exploring the very nature of symbolic action and the critical importance of making images in our time.
“We are excited to collaborate with true artists in Glenn Kaino and Afshin Shahidi to bring this powerful story to the world in a fresh and compelling way,” said John Legend. “In this current climate we are once again being charged to stand up to bigotry, fear, and hate. We are inspired by this story and honored to be a creative partner on this film.”
“Tommie Smith is more than an iconic poster or risky act of defiance that inspires people the world over. He is a living man, whose incredible journey is worthy of examination. I couldn’t be more excited to join forces with this team of filmmakers, to share his reality and challenge our notions of heroism in the process,” said Jesse Williams.
Williams, who gained international acclaim with his 2016 BET Humanitarian Award acceptance speech, is an activist, actor and producer whose work spans across television, film, and technology, consistently uplifting the voices of marginalized people.
“We could not be more excited that Get Lifted Film Co. and Jesse Williams will lend their impressive talents to ‘With Drawn Arms,’ a story that began 50 years ago and is as relevant now as it was then,” said Kaino and Shahidi. “We look forward to working with Jesse, John, Mike and Ty, and to benefit from their extensive creative talent as we craft this story.”
With Drawn Arms is currently in production in Los Angeles and is targeted for a 2018 release during the 50th anniversary of Tommie Smith’s salute.
With Drawn Arms is written by Glenn Kaino and directed by Kaino and Afshin Shahidi, who also serve as Executive Producers alongside Jesse Williams, Delois Smith, and John Legend, Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius of Get Lifted.
Williams recently executive produced the documentary film Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement (2016) and the docu-series America Divided with Norman Lear. Legend’s Get Lifted banner recently produced the hit TV show Underground (2016), Academy Award winning La La Land (2016), and HBO documentary Southern Rites (2015).
Glenn Kaino is an artist with a career that spans a wide range of creative activity. In 2012, he was selected by the U.S. Department of State to represent the United States in the 13th International Cairo Biennale in Cairo, Egypt and was included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the 12th Lyon Biennial in Lyon, France; and Prospect 3 in New Orleans. He has had numerous solo exhibitions at institutions such as The Andy Warhol Museum; the MCA, San Diego; and the Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria, New York. He has also been included in group exhibitions at MOCA, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Hammer Museum; among others. He has also served as the Chief Creative Officer of Napster 2.0, and is also the co-founder of the social app Ebroji with Jesse Williams and Aryn Drake Lee. Kaino also co-produced the hit theatrical production In & Of Itself with his frequent collaborator Derek DelGaudio and Executive Producer Neil Patrick Harris and director Frank Oz. Kaino is represented in Chicago by Kavi Gupta Gallery and in Los Angeles by Honor Fraser Gallery.
About Afshin Shahidi
Afshin Shahidi is an internationally known photographer and filmmaker. As a photographer, Afshin was a key collaborator with musician Prince and his images of Prince were recently published in Shahidi’s first major book, Prince: A Private View, an exclusive story that only Shahidi had access to capture, with a foreword by Beyonce. As a filmmaker, Afshin has directed and been the director of photography on a range of projects, from feature films and music videos to advertising campaign, books, and magazine editorials.
About Jesse Williams
A native of Chicago and graduate of Temple University, Jesse Williams began his career teaching at low-income Philadelphia public charter schools. After moving to New York City, he later began his professional acting career. Williams stars in ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and has served as senior producer and correspondent for EPIX docuseries America Divided with Norman Lear. He also executive produced the documentary Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement. Williams gained international attention while accepting the 2016 BET Humanitarian Award where he spoke about police brutality and systemic inequities.
His feature credits include The Butler, Brooklyn’s Finest, and They Die By Dawn. Williams founded farWord Inc., a production company, and executive produced Question Bridge: Black Males, a series of transmedia art installations, films, curriculum, and website. The exhibition is on display at museums such as the Smithsonian Museum of African-American History and Culture.
Last year, Williams and co-founders Glenn Kaino and Aryn Drake Lee, launched Ebroji, the first curated GIF keyboard designed specifically to enhance the way we already communicate. In addition, he served as Curator of Tech and Innovation at ComplexCon. Williams hosts a podcast, Open Run, through a partnership with LeBron James’ digital network, Uninterrupted. He sits on the Board of Directors of Advancement Project and Sankofa.org. He is also a board member and partner in the company, Scholly.
About Get Lifted
Get Lifted is a film and television production company based in Los Angeles. The principles are John Legend, Mike Jackson, and Ty Stiklorius. Get Lifted has sold several projects in television to networks including Showtime, NBC, HBO, USA, MTV, OWN and FOX. In addition to these sales Get Lifted was previously in an overall deal for television with Comcast/Universal owned studio Universal Cable Productions (UCP) and is currently in an overdeal with Legendary Television. They’re Executive Producers on the new docu-series “Sing It On” which premiered on the Pop Network in May 2015. Get Lifted has several feature projects in various stages of development some of which include: The Black Count (2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner), to be written and directed by Cary Fukunaga for Sony Pictures; and other projects with such notables as Chadwick Boseman, Will Packer, IM Global and Brad Pitt’s Plan B. Get Lifted most recently Executive Produced two documentaries, Southern Rites, which premiered on HBO in May 2015 and Can You Dig This, which premiered at the 2015 LA Film Festival and won the LA Muse Jury Award. Get Lifted will remain focused on developing projects in both TV and Film that tell stories that inspire and create dialog for the masses.