A trio of longtime friends from Alabama have joined forces with various other talented filmmakers to produce Wet Seal Cigarettes, a short film about a man who appears to be losing his sanity while trying to maintain his individuality in a consumerist society. Wet Seal Cigarettes, a fictional cigarette brand, serves as a crucial element in the story as the lead character struggles to overcome the pressures he faces on every corner.

“This short film takes every opportunity to inspire the individual to be more than what they consume, whether it be their environment, media, or even the illustrious Wet Seal Cigarette,” Nicholas G. Sims, who serves as the star and executive producer of the movie, told Blavity.

According to the producers, Wet Seal Cigarettes “blends and bends cinematic genres to create a world where consumerism is eating individualism alive.”

“In a series of genre-bending events, Nicholas Bordeaux has to fight to remain sane in a surrealistic New York as he resists a new world order and the temptation of the coveted ‘Wet Seal Cigarette’ within this spunky French New Wave Short Film,” the film’s synopsis states. 

In his previous scripts, Percival Bernard, a writer for the short film, has featured many characters who are often seen with cigarettes in their hands. Now, in the writer’s latest project, cigarettes serve as an even more important part of the story.

“My characters always smoke cigarettes somewhere in a scene. I was like they’re smoking cigarettes so much, why don’t I make the cigarettes kind of like a character,” Bernard said. “So in anything I make, whatever cigarette they’re smoking, that’s going to be a Wet Seal Cigarette. That’s the fictional brand. It was an idea just to write a film about those cigarettes and kind of create this world behind it that encompasses what the vibe is.”

In the case of Wet Seal Cigarettes, the film conveys a dreamlike world, featuring authoritative figures and other peculiar characters who pressure Bourdeaux into giving into temptation. 

Sims has been pursuing his own dream of becoming a movie star since his childhood days in Mobile, Alabama. The filmmaker took a major step forward when he recently joined two of his friends to launch a Black-owned film company, Pyramidal Productions. The company’s goal, according to Sims, is to tell stories of underserved groups.

“We’re trying to create a lens for them to tell their stories…it may not have been told somewhere else,” the Pyramidal founder said. 

The filmmakers chose a Pyramid as the logo of their company, reflecting the symbol that’s often associated with African history and culture. But there’s also a reason why the Pyramid is shown upside down.

“I turned the pyramid upside down because I wanted to look at it from many dimensions,” Sims said. “Because when I say we represent people of color, I’m not just talking about Black people. We represent people from all underserved communities.” 

Bernard is also another one of the three friends who co-founded Pyramidal Productions. Bernard said he started writing screenplays at 16 and continued to work on his craft during his college years. The Alabama native, however, struggled to find people who would support his work and understand his passion. Everything changed when he reconnected with his childhood friend Sims who was willing to read Bernard’s scripts and offer support.

“That’s what I needed, nobody else was trying to read my stuff,” the Wet Seal Cigarettes writer said. 

Blake Greene, another filmmaker who grew up in Mobile with Sims and Bernard, is now serving as head of productions for Wet Seal Cigarettes. Greene and Sims, who remained close throughout their childhood, reconnected with Bernand in 2019 and vowed to launch a film company. 

“All three of us grew up together in Mobile and we haven’t seen [Bernard] since middle school. When we ran into [Bernard], he told us his perspective about writing and everything. That’s when we built the production team together,” Greene said. “Here we are today.” 

The three childhood friends are now joined by Baltimore native Earl Weaver Jr., who serves as producer for Wet Seal Cigarettes. Like many people around the world, Weaver was feeling stressed while staying in quarantine during the pandemic. But he found relief after finding a viral short film created by Sims. 

Weaver said he was able to relate to Sims’ skit, which sent a message about showing compassion to people who are struggling to find hope during the pandemic.

“I stumbled across a viral video of Nicholas that went crazy all over the internet,” Weaver said. “The video resonated with me because I felt like the character that he portrayed. You can empathize a lot with what the protagonist was dealing with. That led to me reaching out to him personally and asking him how he got into film.” 

Weaver, who had been working on his filmmaking skills in college, stayed in touch with Sims and later jumped on the opportunity to work on Wet Seal Cigarettes. The film, shot in Brooklyn, turned out to be a vital experience for Weaver and the rest of the young stars. 

“The whole entire production showed us exactly what a producer is,” Weaver said. “By the time we got to the end on the last day and [Bernard] shot his last shot of the film, I saw him fall to the ground. I can just tell that was just a phenomenal experience seeing him direct it and also being able to immerse himself in the whole thing all the way to the end.”