Graduating East High School senior Evan Wells has a passion for film, though he never thought it would lead to a school project. But an assignment through East's Gifted and Talented program led him to pick up a video camera for the first time to create a short film featuring a younger student's own school project. The result is "Cooking Colfax," which spotlights a Morey Middle School student learning the ropes of professional cooking from Leanne Adamson, co-owner of To the Wind Bistro, 3333 East Colfax Avenue.
"I've always just loved movies," Wells explains. "I always just went home after school and watched movies — and analyzed and dissected them."
Wells was introduced to Denver filmmaker David Wruck, who mentored him in videography and digital editing. The assignment was for Wells to create a piece that could be used as a promotional video for the DPS Academic Mentorship Program (in association with the Big Brain Club), which matches fifth- to eighth-grade students with accomplished professionals in the Denver community.
"The original idea was for me to edit and direct it myself but to bring in others to help me out," Wells recalls. "I ended up doing all of it myself."
Wells knew of To the Wind Bistro because the tiny eatery is close to East High School and because his grandmother lives "literally across the street from them," he adds, but he'd never eaten there.
Adamson met the middle-schooler featured in the video through the student's parents, who live near the restaurant and sometimes come in for dinner. They approached her about mentoring their daughter, something Adamson was happy to do. "If someone wants to learn something, I'll teach them — as long as they're into it," she says. "We always try to give back a little bit when we can."
And her young mentee was very enthusiastic, Adamson adds, asking right off the bat, "How do you make your pork shoulder?" The chef notes that her student dove right in and wasn't afraid to tackle tasks, which made her job as a mentor easier and more enjoyable. They met several times over a period of several weeks, and Wells was there with his camera to capture the teaching moments — and also filmed the student's final presentation and cooking demonstration at Morey.
"I'm pretty happy with what I've done," Wells says of the finished video. "For the first thing I've ever done, it's not bad." But he realizes that the video was a learning experience, and he will remember his mistakes to help improve future projects.
Wells is unsure of his educational plans for the future; he initially intended to go to college and study archaeology, but those plans fell through. His passion for filmmaking has taken off, though, and he's interested in being on both sides of the camera. "This is something that has absolutely shaped my desires for what I want to do," he notes, adding that he has a friend in the art program at Metropolitan State University who is studying film and video, and he's planning on helping with writing and maybe even acting in his friend's projects.
"I've been scrambling to pick up projects," Wells says of his summer plans, and he's considering applying to an arts college to further his education in film and video.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.