Writer, director, actor, DJ, musician
Current hometown: Schenectady
Current project: Post-production on a short film called “Our Harlem,” in which he also stars
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It’s tough to pin down Jermaine Wells into a single artistic discipline, as there’s very little he hasn’t done. His on-stage and on-screen abilities are complemented by his behind-the-scenes production skills in audio, video and music; all of these are further complemented by his emerging abilities as a writer. His current business, aptly called Superjermaine Entertainment, has adapted to the pandemic by offering virtual DJ shows, concerts, and livestream production services.
If I were to ask you to describe yourself as an artist… what’s the headline?
Right now, my focus is on writing, directing and acting. I won a couple of film festival awards for my short film “Time Crunch.” I had a very small crew; I’ve done commercials and I’ve done shorts, but I hadn’t done a 16-minute chunk of change of a movie. I did it to have a proof of concept for a superhero series.
Tell me about that.
“Time Crunch” is basically bridging my loves of hip-hop and superhero movies. The backstory is that these demigods have the power to help control time. There is a catastrophe in the world, and they have a servant that they send into the time continuum.
Overall, it’s about giving people second chances: If I can control time, I can change events.
And music plays a central role in the story.
Absolutely, because with music, and especially hip-hop… you have to have skills. Crowd control, being able to read your crowd… and if you’re creating music, you have to know timing, you have to know music theory. All of those combined, to me, is the science of manipulating time.
(The main character) realizes why he’s able to do this. He’s able to go back in time, with this skill and understanding of what he is, to go on to his destiny.
You’re trying to sell the concept?
I would love to sell it, and I would love for there to be a graphic novel based on the series.
It was also a way for me to hone my skills… with very little, I was able to really make something cool. I feel like each project is going to scale up to be something better and better… and I’m already knee-deep in other projects.
So you directed it, you wrote it, you wrote the music for it, you acted in it — all of those things?
Yes, all of those things. It was nuts. (But) I was like, “I want to try to do this.” You’ve got to set challenges for yourself.
I should probably segue into what’s my day-to-day, and what are some of the ways that I’m able to make a living?
Yeah, that’s definitely on my list of questions, so sure!
The pandemic really shifted a lot of things. I had a lot of things going on with acting, with modeling, with music. I have a band, Ill Funk. We’ve done some really cool stuff; we even have a song where we collaborated with the legendary Quincy Jones.
So I have that, and I DJ… I’ve done several national commercials over the years which I’m very proud of, (such as) Nu-Skin, which is like a liquid Band-Aid. Last I looked — because I’ve got to drop something — I was at like 11 million views.
The pandemic got you to slow down?
I was on a nice run… I felt this trajectory. (But) the time to try to really get better at what I’m doing wasn’t there. It forced me to actually sit down and really crack into writing and conceptualizing and storyboarding, and even get better at video editing and audio editing, because I didn’t have this wall of never-ending things.
I really needed to get in touch with my community… I looked into using my skills in the production area. I already had a tie to Hamilton Hill Arts Center, helping them with several things on the production/event-planning side. They did a virtual Juneteenth I helped organize, and I controlled the stream of it after I helped to grab all the artists and help film things and put it together. Recently, I’ve been working with Community Fathers Inc.; we had a CornerStone leadership bootcamp with City Mission of Schenectady. I was able to document that with video.
I’ve helped several people in the community do their commercials. I can help scale to their budget for commercials and radio commercial voice-overs. I have the ability to film, edit, record…
You’re a one-stop shop.
Yeah: One stop, no sleep! What I’m working on currently is a couple of clients’ audiobooks. So I’m going into the community, seeing where there are ways where I can sort of make a living but also be a service… that’s been beautiful.
My first business, Jermaine Rises, is what started it all. About nine or 10 years ago, I was doing a lot of DJing and I needed to upgrade my equipment. I was like, “Well, I shouldn’t just take the hit without starting to do everything way more professionally.” I did a DBA (so) I could write off wear and tear on the car, write off some gas, write off some expenses… it was a way to legitimize what I was doing.
If I were to say to you “I don’t think the arts are very important,” what would you say to get me to reconsider?
I would start off with: We love our kids, our youth. Not everybody is going to learn to be a team player by shooting a ball. What do we do with the kids that may not be physically able and blessed to play a sport? How can you get a kid to build self-esteem, to understand teamwork, to learn something? That’s where the arts can really come in.
To do a play, not only do you need somebody that can sing and somebody that can act, but you need people to do lights, stage manage, sound. You can really show how to build something up with a kid who just doesn’t have an interest in doing sports. Another thing is learning an instrument. Of course, at the beginning, it’s a very solo task… but eventually, you’re going to play in some sort of ensemble. And now you have to understand that it’s bigger than you.
Do you have a family of your own?
I certainly do. I have three beautiful kids, and actually my son is helping me with editing. Between you and me, he might be getting better than me, honestly. He’s really taken off!
It is a super-duper hard juggle, but totally worth it.
It sounds like you never stop.
I think I lead a decently content life, but I’m never satisfied. Not being satisfied is not necessarily negative — unless you can’t stop and smell the proverbial roses.
There’s plenty of people that dive fully into their work, where you’re never without access to them. They’re always on email, always checking their phones. Then they lose what’s around, what’s here, what’s the now. The now is so fast, it’s so fleeting.
So you’ve got that ability to slow down and appreciate it.
I didn’t always… but eventually I was like, “The race is my own.” I’m not racing on anybody else’s time. This is my marathon.
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