Many people wait years for their first break in the entertainment industry, if they ever get one at all. But one lucky young man in Liberty City has had the opportunity to work alongside some bold-faced Hollywood names much sooner.
Eighteen-year-old Kamal Ani-Bello recently assisted well-known director Jamal Hill on his movie “Secret Society,” starring Vivica A. Fox and scheduled for release next year.
“At the beginning I was nervous,” said Ani-Bello. “I didn’t know how to be an intern, but [Jamal] welcomed me and I didn’t feel any pressure to be perfect.”
Ani-Bello is a Nigerian-Bahamian American who was born and raised in Liberty City. His first experience in the performing arts happened while he was attending Miami Norland Middle School. In sixth grade, he entered the theater program.
“I was late for registration,” said Ani-Bello. “I’m thankful to [theater teacher] Ms. Cidel for allowing me to audition and giving me my first experience in acting.”
With Cidel’s help, Ani-Bello landed a spot in the 2014 musical short film “Swimming In My Skin Again,” directed by Terrance Nance. After graduating from middle school, Ani-Bello attended Miami Northwestern and entered a theater and film class.
“The class gave me a small introduction to filmmaking,” said Ani-Bello. “But I was still very much a fan of acting.”
Ani-Bello used his theater experience to score a role in local filmmaker Darren Heard’s 2017 short film “Puppy Love” as the lead, Beetle. Once on set, Ani-Bello struggled to transition from theater to film.
“I only knew theater acting, not film acting,” said Ani-Bello. “I was so animated, and Darren helped me understand that film happens in real time; I don’t have to be so exaggerated because I’m not far from the audience.”
The following year Ani-Bello became involved with Overtown’s Urgent Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps youth find opportunities in the community. He joined the 1st Take Youth Film Program, which is dedicated to teaching underprivileged youth career and life skills through hands-on filmmaking. The program was created by Marco “Mall” Molinet, founder of Florida Film House and a co-founder of the Urban Film Festival.
“Seventy-five percent of people entering the program wanted to act, Kamal being one of them,” said Francesca “Frenchy” Gonzalez, a 24-year-old producer at 1st Take. “He did one of the acting lessons and was so humble and got into character. He stood out to us.”
That positive impression is what helped him snag an internship on Hill’s movie. Gonzalez was working on the of “Secret Society” set as a production coordinator and Ani-Bello came to mind. He was preparing to go to work at Target one day in late July when the phone rang.
“Frenchy called me to meet this director,” said Ani-Bello. “I knew it was important, so I called out of work.”
“We want to expose him to all aspects of film,” said Gonzalez. “He doesn’t have an ego and he understands he needs to earn his stripes.”
Between Aug. 3 and Aug. 23, Ani-Bello worked on set five days a week alongside Hill. He had his weekends off. On those days he worked at Target, to make up for the lost hours he was spending on set.
“I took this opportunity not just to learn about film, but to learn from Hill as a director and how he moves,” said Ani-Bello. “It’s amazing.”
He tried to be not only helpful to Hill, but to everyone else on set.
“As an intern, you got to be confident,” said Ani-Bello. “Learn to help everyone on set, you don’t know who you might work with next.”
The one issue Ani-Bello had was driving; he only recently received his license.
“I got all my practice driving through picking up supplies,” said Ani-Bello. “I thank God every day I made it safely.”
Now, he will continue working at Target and await his next call.
“I’m just living day by day,” said Ani-Bello. “That’s all you really can do, just wait.”