Edson Jean and Joshua Jean-Baptiste, two young Haitian-American roommates, last fall entered a three-minute pitch video in a Project Greenlight contest hoping to get funding for a proposed web series three-and-a-half years in the making.
“Too often we’ve applied for stuff and gotten runner-up or made it to the finals,” said Jean-Baptiste, 26. “You kind of prime yourself to being runner-up.”
But in January, Jean and Jean-Baptiste learned they won the $25,000 Project Greenlight Digital Studios contest, which will help finance their web series titled #Josh.
“Imagine being in labor and finally giving birth to your baby,” said Jean, 27. “Looking at your baby and feeling it was worth it. This contest just helped push things along.”
The Get The Greenlight Digital Series filmmakers contest was announced in November.
“After hustling for so long, like, you cast your rod back out and you hope for the best,” Jean-Baptiste said.
#Josh is loosely based on Jean-Baptistes’s first two years living in downtown Miami with Jean and two other roommates, who are also Jean’s cousins.
“They would always inquire about my situation with girls and I was really nerdy back then,” Jean-Baptiste said. “They would coach me on talking to girls.”
Jean and his cousins would set him up on dates. Jean-Baptiste said he always “flopped” and he would return home having struck out.
Jean-Baptiste said that after a while, Jean told him to start documenting these failures. Jean-Baptiste at first brushed off the idea, but Jean was serious about it.
“At the time, I was writing like a sitcom about living with these guys, who I thought were all characters,” said Jean-Baptiste. “[Jean] suggested we shape it to something more realistic and from there I wrote a pilot. We built off of that and wrote an entire season.”
Jean-Baptiste said they were introduced to each other in late 2009 through a mutual friend, who was also Haitian.
About two months later, Jean-Baptiste said he found himself stranded at a downtown Miami bus stop, with no way home from his cashier job at the time. He had school in the morning and called Jean to ask if he could stay at his place.
“That happened two or three weekends in a row,” Jean-Baptiste said. “And he off-hand was like, ‘Yo, you might as well live here.’”
Jean and Jean-Baptiste each have a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in acting from New World School of the Arts.
Jean previously filmed a comedy short, The Adventures of Edson Jean, which he and Jean-Baptiste starred in. The film was shown on HBO and at the American Black Film Festival as an official selection.
In addition to working on the web series, Jean has been featured on television shows such as Bloodlines, as well as a feature film called Moonlight, which was shot in Miami. He also does editing for the Johnson Administration, a Miami-based video production company that focuses on documentary work.
“I do a couple of side stuff in editing,” Jean said. “But my true passion is acting.”
Jean and Jean-Baptiste say organizations such as Project Greenlight and the Miami Film Development Project were crucial in helping them move forward with their web series.
“#Josh is a part of [Miami Film Development Project],” Jean-Baptiste said. “We’re working closely to develop it.”
They also thank the local project for providing costly professional filmmaking equipment. The Miami Film Development Project is a nonprofit organization that helps beginning and experienced filmmakers find ways to get funding and equipment. It also holds workshops featuring distinguished filmmakers in the Miami community.
Jean and Jean-Baptiste also garnered attention for #Josh online.
“We got a lot of support because we had to film a sizzle reel and we threw a Kickstarter to fund that, and we got the money in like three days,” Jean-Baptiste said. “So that was a testament in just how much community support we got.”
Jean and Jean-Baptiste said they hope viewers will be able to identify with the web series.
Said Jean-Baptist: “I hope they identify with the Miami situation. Or the Haitian situation, awkward black male situation, or just awkward situation. Just looking to relate.”