It’s a hot summer Friday in Miami Beach. Most 15-year-olds are enjoying the spoils of summer by lounging at the pool and sleeping in late. Elijah Nathaniel Wells isn’t about that life. At least not while the American Black Film Festival is in town (June 19-23). He’s making the most of the 17th-annual festival. Like the rest of the filmmakers, producers and actors, Wells is one of 5,000 in attendance trying to make contacts that will help to launch them into cinematic success.
“When I write a film or think about a film, it makes me feel like that 8-year-old kid again,” Wells said. “I feel like I can write anything and make it something great.”
Its this passion that brought Wells to be participate in ABFF 2013 and spend his summer in and out of workshops and, like many industry folks, hang out in the lounge areas at Ritz Carton South Beach — where the festival was held– hoping to rub shoulders with TV and film executives.
Despite his age, Wells had an advantage. He’s among the few who could boast that his movie is a part of the program. On Sunday, “Welcome to Miami,” showcased at The Colony Theater on Lincoln Road. The same screen that featured this year’s standout films, such as “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” which was executive produced by Alicia Keys, written and directed by Michael Starrbury and included actors such Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks and young actors Skylan Brooks (Mister) and Ethan Dizon (Pete); and “The Magic City,” which was co-executive produced by NBA Champion Udonis Haslem of the Miami Heat, written and directed by Malcom R. Jones, and featured stars such as Jenifer Lewis, Keith David, Jamie Hector, Latrice Jackson and Amiya Thomas.
Wells’ film, which is his second (he made his first short film, “The Gift,” at age 14) focuses on James Picket, a 15-year-old boy who struggles with settling into Miami after he and his mom left California. Picket finds it difficult to trade in West Coast cool for East Coast swagger.
“I always had a passion about film,” Wells said. He remembers being attracted to camera angles and lighting as early as 8-years-old.” But during those days, he spent most of his time rapping and making beats, which is why friends thought Wells was going to be the next Jay-Z or Kanye West. “I knew I was a good rapper, but film was even better for me. “