An Interview With The Haitian-American Filmmakers Who Won Greenlight’s $25,000 Prize, Part 1

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Joshua Jean-Baptiste
When it was announced that Joshua Jean-Baptiste and his creative partner Edson Jean had won the prestigious $25,000 Project Greenlight prize for their Haitian-American themed web series, chances are most people knew they were not an overnight sensation. And they were right. Miami-born Joshua graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting from Miami’s New World School of the Arts. His journey didn’t stop there. A few film gigs here and there eventually led to a major role in a short film entitled The Adventures of Edson Jean, directed by fellow Haitian-American Edson Jean. The film aired on the cable network HBO, following a win in the Short film category at the American Black Film Festival.

Following this triumph, Joshua wrote for theaters in the Miami area, and started work on what would become #Josh. He and Edson had become roommates, and he became inspired by his transition from young adulthood to adulthood to create a story based on this period.

I conducted separate interviews with pair. We’ll hear from Joshua Jean-Baptiste first, and then Edson Jean in Part 2. Shall we get started?

Kreyolicious: Did the love of film grow in you during high school, or was it college that brought it out of you?

JOSHUA JEAN-BAPSTISTE: In high school, I did the morning announcements and was granted the opportunity to “spice it up” by making a short funny video every week. It was called “Wacky Wednesday”. Cohorts Max and Frank were a delight to work with. But I never thought anything of it. Fast forward to college, when I met Edson. I grew to appreciate the professional film making progress. I realized it was not as difficult as it seemed, I began to understand the endless possibilities of story telling. It became a lot easier to be involved after college. I appreciate the film, but creating in general is my true “love”. Whether it’s film , theater, or writing a review on yelp, the process of bringing something to life is what I’m passionate about.

Kreyolicious: If you could recommend three films to aspiring filmmakers that you feel exemplify great filmmaking, which films would you choose?
JOSHUA JEAN-BAPSTISTE: I’m not much of a film buff, so it’d be difficult for me to give an earnest suggestion. However three movies that I love are; Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind and a 70’s movie called The Skin Game.

Kreyolicious: You and Edson are creative partners. Being that sometimes filmmakers have the reputation of “My vision, or else” mentality, how does a collaborative relationship work for the two of you?
JOSHUA JEAN-BAPSTISTE: The creative partnership that Edson and I have is simple and pleasant. Either we agree on something, or not. If we don’t we explain each others point of view ad nauseam. A majority of the time, which ever Idea was expressed the most passionate is the one we go with.
Joshua Jean-Baptiste

Kreyolicious: How did your web series come about?

JOSHUA JEAN-BAPSTISTE: After moving in with Edson my sophomore year, I learned a lot. From keeping a clean room, to cooking rice, and most notable – talking to girls. I wasn’t the most confident person, so he and my other roommates would find ways to set me up with girls. And most of the time I would fail at making a move, missing a signal and in turn ruining a lot of potential opposites with girls. He and I would laugh at these follies enough for me to start documenting them. This is when we got the idea to make this into a show.

Kreyolicious: Have you been to Haiti? How do you stay connected to Haitian culture

JOSHUA JEAN-BAPSTISTE: I haven’t had the chance to go yet. But Edson and I make sure to stay connected to our families. His mother occasionally visits us in Downtown, and I frequently bring him to my grandmothers house for some cooking. Sharing stories of our upbringing is one of our favorite past times along speaking in Creole every so often.
Joshua Jean-Baptiste
Above: Joshua in model-mode. Photo Credit: Alexandra Barbieri.

Kreyolicious: What were you doing when the announcement came through about your winning the Project Greenlight prize?

JOSHUA JEAN-BAPSTISTE: I was at work, and was forced to contain my excitement for about forty-five minutes. I will say every customer that I rang up got me at my most cheery, and efficient form.

Kreyolicious: It’s not unusual for a creative to win a huge prize, to never be heard from again. How are you planning to keep the fire going?

JOSHUA JEAN-BAPSTISTE: Thankfully we live in Miami during a creative boom. With the amount of community support we are getting with this project people are eager to work with us and are open to collaborating and helping out in any way. With so many resources it’s almost stupid not to jump into something while the momentum is hot. In addition, Edson and I share a creative itch. In all the years that we’ve known each other, we’re always, always working on something. The simple fact that we won this prize is because we kept moving. Those that fade away don’t have enough to say.

Joshua Jean-Baptiste on Twitter| Joshua Jean-Baptiste on Instagram

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