The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
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Lights, Camera, Atrion

A student filmmaker and entrepreneur on his road to success
Shacolby Sorrells
Atrion Sorrells, student filmmaker and entrepreneur who has worked on an Emmy-Award-winning film and has his own production company, A’Style Productions

This story was originally published in The DC’s Spring 2024 Issue.

In the Fondren Library Print and Copy Center, Atrion Sorrells, a senior business and film student, quietly works at one of his favorite study spots on campus beside students who are frantically printing their materials between classes.

Fresh papers flutter off the printers. A revolving door of students come in and out, but Sorrells is grounded in his workspace. He finds comfort in working in such a busy space on campus.

“It gives me that feeling of, ‘OK, yeah I’m doing all this work, but I’m still like everybody else, just a regular person, doing work,’” Sorrells said.

Sorrells isn’t the average student. Most people don’t win Emmy Awards while still in college. He won the award for his work on the short film “Meta Care” during his sophomore year in 2022 as a voice actor and production assistant. “Meta Care” is a thriller about a woman suffering from amnesia in a government health experiment that uses VR and simulations to rehabilitate criminals. The film won a Lone Star Emmy award last November.

Sorrells got the notification about the award while editing his short film, “Imperfect,” which currently has over 65,000 views on YouTube. He was shocked but happy his hard work was acknowledged.

“We knew that it paid off just from all the relationships and bonds that we built and all the work that we did,” Sorrells said. “We felt that it was good, but to be able to just feel our work as well as the camaraderie that was on the set was validated.”

On his own sets, Sorrells creates the same camaraderie with his crew and actors when directing his short films.

Sorrells holds the clapperboard before filming a take on the set of “I Hate You”. (Alex Laperouse)

In Fondren, he types away on his computer, creating a shot list and mood board for his upcoming short film, “Who Are You?”. It tells the story of a Black business student figuring out how to make it through college as a graduating senior–a reflection of Sorrell’s journey at SMU.

“I put a small piece of me in each one of my pieces,” Sorrells said. “I find my work to be a reflection of myself.”

Sorrells works to make the film industry more equitable and inclusive. He combines his passions for entrepreneurship and filmmaking with his production company, A’Style Productions. He creates short films which also provide hands-on work opportunities for underrepresented communities. Just last year, he produced seven short films. As his graduation swiftly approaches, Sorrells balances coursework, a social life and continues to develop his production company.

Sorrells has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. In 2016, he created his production company, A’Style Productions, to create casual clothing and drawstring bags for students in his high school.

“Initially A’Style stood for Academically Supporting Talented Young, Leaders and Entrepreneurs.” Sorrells said. “It was mainly about inspiring the youth, and I made clothes to really cater to an academic audience.”

His passion for film started in his childhood when he noticed a lack of representation on the big screen. If people of color were included, they were typically written as characters with negative stereotypes.

“I started to see the same storylines, same narratives, especially within minority communities,” Sorrells said. “It just seemed like it was always a similar light that was always shed that seemed to be just against what I grew up around.”

An athlete in high school, Sorrells faced a career ending injury, which pivoted him to film. He began taking audio and visual production classes and created films with professional equipment in 2019.

“That was like the first year that I started to make films that were high quality, as well as starting to get more hands-on experience in acting,” Sorrells said.

Sorrells directing a scene on the set of “Love.” (Thomas Pratt)

In 2020, he shifted his company’s mission to “Actively Supporting Talented Young Leaders and Entrepreneurs” after noticing the support business owners needed during the pandemic.

“I realized, being on social media, that entrepreneurs needed to be supported, especially minority entrepreneurs,” Sorrells said. “I really wanted to shine a light on them.”

Last year was a big year for Sorrells. In addition to creating several short films, he also won $1,000 for A’Style Productions in SMU’s Big iDeas Pitch Contest.

The Pitch Contest allows students to briefly pitch their big idea to a panel of judges for the chance to win seed money towards their business. The Big iDeas program provides training and coaching to student entrepreneurs.

Jennifer Ebinger, senior director for SMU’s Office of Engaged Learning, met Sorrells during his first year at SMU when he wanted to explore more educational opportunities. Since then, he has used the resources from the office to develop his business throughout college.

“What I’ve noticed about Atrion, and what I really appreciate a lot about him, is that relentlessness, that deep, deep commitment to his company,” Ebinger said. “And also, that it’s based on his values that he doesn’t sway from.”

During the preparation for the pitch contest, Sorrells worked closely with Michael Kelly, the Entrepreneurship Fellow in The Office of Engaged Learning. Kelly advised Sorrells through the process by leading workshops for students before the competition.

He said Sorrells used his passion and drive to build his business proposal for A’Style Productions that led to his winning pitch.

“Our workshops are not part of class, so it’s really his own time that he’s dedicating to the business,” Kelly said. “It’s really easy to see his dedication.”

Sorrells’ deep commitment to his values is in his films. He said he uses his platform to tell uplifting stories about minority communities that aren’t represented in the predominately white film industry.

“That’s the most important thing with untold stories, just telling the truth,” Sorrells said. “At the end of the day, fantasy stories are great as well, but to always have a story you can relate to, that stays true to the foundation of not only just the community but also the people as well. It’s something that resonates with, in my opinion, a lot of people.”

A’Style Productions creates films about minorities that challenge negative racial stereotypes the mainstream media continues to perpetuate. Sorrells also designates production jobs for minorities, so they can get hands-on experience on film sets.

“I always told myself, no matter what film project I do, no matter what I’m learning, I’m always going to use it as a way to show people a different side of the minority community,” Sorrells said. “I’m going to show that as minorities, we’re able to be doctors, nurses, and lawyers and that we are intelligent.”

He hopes that his early success in the film industry and the hard work that led to the Emmy win will inspire young people to show that they can accomplish anything.

“To be able to receive that award definitely meant a lot, and it also was a way to show the youth that they can do it too,” Sorrells said. “For me, I feel like this is the beginning and I really want to continue to create content that inspires and gives back.”

Sorrells is figuring out what to do after graduation, but he will continue to develop A’Style Productions with the help and advice he received from the Big iDeas competition. His dream is to create a feature length film about navigating the business world as a minority in predominantly white spaces.

“With the help of SMU staff, I’ve made the first foundational steps that I feel are very essential to me, outside of just my business,” Sorrells said. “My main thing once I graduate is continuing with my business, but also figuring out a way to also continue to educate the people. That’s another thing I’ve learned, the importance of being grounded, remembering that we’re all just people.”

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