Geoffrey Wells was born in the gold mining town of Welkom, in South Africa. The Wells family moved to various mines in South Africa and Ghana as a result of his father’s consulting work as a mining engineer and contractor in the field of shaft sinking and tunneling. When he was a young teenager, the family moved to a farm, and eventually back to Johannesburg where his father joined the university as professor of mining engineering. Geoffrey’s mother is of French and English descent. Her forefathers came to South Africa in the 1820s. She speaks several African languages and would delight Geoffrey and his sisters with stories of childhood days spent with Xhosa tribal friends.
Geoffrey’s young teenage years were split between boarding school and farm life. On the farm, at the age of thirteen, he learned to drive, operate a tractor, and plow a field; but he was never any good at milking a cow. Attendance at the Wells dinner table was always an event as Geoffrey and his three sisters were encouraged to engage in conversation and debate with their parents on any subject that might arise. There were times when the dishes were pushed aside to make way for an encyclopedia, reference books and novels. After dinner his father would read to them; classics such as Robinson Crusoe and The Wind in the Willows. Or his mother would tell stories of her years growing up with her six brothers.
While at boarding school, Geoffrey learned the pain and joy in cross country running and rugby. When the family moved back to Johannesburg, Geoffrey started playing drums with a guitarist friend, and soon a band came together—they started playing Neil Diamond and disbanded a few years later playing Jimi Hendricks. At South Africa’s version of the Outward Bound School he served as one of four team leaders. After high school he was drafted into the South African army doing his basic training with a commando unit based at the edge of the Kalahari Desert; and fell in love with desert nights, sleeping under the stars. He was later called up during the Angolan war to defend the border from insurgent communist rebels and Cuban mercenaries. He reported to a psychotic captain who ordered him to serve as quartermaster and intelligence clerk; and in doing so, saw horrific photographs of the atrocities.
At university he spent vacations with his friend adventuring to places such as the summit of Giants Castle in the Drakensberg Mountains and the Okavango wetlands in Botswana. (Three decades later they climbed Kilimanjaro to the summit.) As an economics and political science student in 1973, he embraced the civil rights and free speech ideology of the previous decade, and participated in anti-apartheid protests. He volunteered as an act of defiance—building schools and clinics. That year he and his friend drove to Mozambique, and while there took a river tour to see the hippos on the Limpopo River. This was ten months before Salazar’s totalitarian regime fell in Portugal; the Carnation Revolution that followed became the genesis of his novel, A Fado for the River.
Geoffrey’s professional life started in advertising. He rose to Art Director on the key accounts of Coca-Cola and L’Oreal at McCann-Erickson in Johannesburg, producing print, outdoor and television commercials for the southern African market. The filmmaking process that went into making commercials fascinated him; especially editing and post-production.
In 1980 he immigrated to the U.S., settling in Los Angeles; gaining experience in the crafts of filmmaking—working on commercials as a set carpenter and on features as set decorator, production assistant, and location scout. He helped out on student films (as assistant editor) prior to being accepted in the producing program at the American Film Institute. In order to do this, he worked the graveyard shift as a room service waiter at a Beverly Hills boutique hotel catering to rock stars and celebrities. He glimpsed the after-hours hotel life of The Rolling Stones, The Cars, Styx, Miles Davis and Richard Burton (a year before his death), among others.
In 1984 he graduated in Producing from the American Film Institute. While working for film distribution companies, he developed and optioned properties for feature films, and worked as assistant to the director Robert Ellis Miller, where his primary responsibility was reading and critiquing film script submissions from agents. During this period he spent more time writing and studying story structure than he did learning about the machinations of Hollywood. He returned to his advertising roots as Director of Marketing and PR for an independent film distribution company. He began using the emerging business software tools of spreadsheets and databases.
In 2001, Geoffrey wrote and produced a short animated film The Shadow of Doubt. The entire film was produced on PCs as an extended CGI effect. The film won six awards, and screened at 26 film festivals, worldwide. He also wrote the lyrics to the jazz song in the film. This was followed in 2004 with the first writing on A Fado for the River. The novel was first released digitally in April 2011.
Pursuing his interest in software, he joined the Walt Disney Company’s Buena Vista Television, in the Research Department, from where he was promoted to Director of Information Technology (IT). He headed up development of software for television which included a syndication system, managing the syndication of shows such as Home Improvement and The Golden Girls. He spent the next eleven years at Walt Disney Pictures and Television; managing software development of syndication, pay (cable) television, a film rights system, and satellite scheduling systems. He then spent the next six years at Disney’s ABC Television as Vice President of Information Technology, managing IT at the ABC owned television stations, before moving to Fox Television Stations in a similar role as Chief Information Officer and VP of IT. He resigned from corporate life in 2012 to dedicate his time to writing.
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What is A Fado for the River about? It's a thriller about a man who is accused of murdering his lover when as university students, they were separated while fleeing a revolution in Africa. In the process, it's a story of a man's quest for his own freedom.
A Fado for the River
By Geoffrey Wells
Published: May 8, 2011.
At a film festival in Portugal, a television executive is blackmailed. He decides to disprove the accusation that he murdered a woman when he was a student in 1974. They had fled Portuguese Mozambique, but to survive the revolution they separated and lost track of each other. He is certain she is alive, and did not die in the explosion that he thought had so effectively faked her death.
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