PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Northeast Philadelphia is the backdrop to a feature length film that tackles tough issues like LGBT rights, sex abuse and self-esteem. The new film is funded by community donations, but the brainchild behind it is somewhat surprising.
When Aniya Wolfe gets on the set she’s all business. It’s because everyone is waiting for her cue.
“Quiet on set,” she yells, “Action!”
“It can get a little nerve-wrecking,” she says, “because I am usually the youngest one on set.”
The 14 year old is a professional photographer, actor, screenwriter, editor and now filmmaker. She is in the midst of producing her first feature-length film titled, “Beyond My Skin.” The project tackles the issues of LGBT rights, drug abuse, sex abuse and suicide. It digs deep, telling the story of what can happen when all of these issues collide.
“What I do with my films is try to tell different points of view,” she says.
Aniya’s journey to filmmaker began with acting at age 8 and evolved to her producing her first short film, “Selfie Wars,” at just 12 years old. Then by age 13, she produced her second independent short film, titled, “Skin.”
“We are learning stuff every day and we are making a lot of mistakes, but the mistakes are good,” she says, “they help us prepare for the future..
Inspired by directors Ava DuVernay, Spike Lee and Stephen Spielberg, Aniya taught herself film-making via YouTube videos. The home-schooled 9th grader even started a photography business to pay for equipment other necessities for her passion.
“She wants to be an award winning director– and I want that for her,” says Dianne Wolfe, Aniya’s mother says of the entire family. “I’m all about making my kids happy– and this makes her so happy.”
Dianne, a makeup artist and cosmetologist, closed her salon so she could help Aniya pursue her dream. She says she and her husband work together to make sure all three of their children pursue their passions.
“We are willing to do whatever it takes,” she says, “my husband always says– do what it takes.”
What is takes is Dianne, acting as make up artist, production assistant and chauffeur. Aniya’s best friend Lexie, baby sits and fills in on set and the entire family helps out. As for the community, Aniya’s supporters donated $9,000 via kick-starter to fund Aniya’s latest endeavor.
“I have so much support,” says Aniya, with tears in her eyes, “I pray every day- because my mission is to change the lives of youth and I believe God wants me to do it because he keeps blessing me.”
She works closely with a professional photographer Snapshot Anderson, who serves as her assistant on set. She also hires, and pays, teen actors to perform.
“My cast works really hard,” she says, “and they have good attitude– even with long hours.”
The cast and crew worked from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. to film the feature. They’re clearly serious about their passion. Despite lack of sleep, Aniya says she’s focused on changing lives by making her vision reality.
“I am tired in the mind, but not in the spirit,” says Aniya after getting only three hours of sleep, “this is my passion.”
She hopes all young people get serious about theirs as well. To watch Aniya’s most recent short film, click here SKIN.