Miami Filmmakers Finalists in Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's Project Greenlight Digital Series

Despite it being December in Miami, it’s hot outside. As the breeze blows hot and sticky around Joshua Jean-Baptiste, the actor/writer/director/producer sits comfortably in a brown suede blazer and a black felt hat, paired with a pop of color from round pink sunglasses. The 26-year-old takes a break from his day job to talk about his biggest passion: the arts.

A graduate of New World School of the Arts, Jean-Baptiste is well trained in the craft. And his original play, Voices of the Island: A Caribbean Fantasy, debuted at Miami Theater Center this past fall. (He has another production at MTC this coming spring.) But amid everything else he juggles, he's been developing a digital series he created.

The brainchild of Jean-Baptiste and his best friend, Edson Jean, #Josh is now that much closer to receiving $25,000 to make the series a reality. A few months ago, the filmmaking duo submitted their work-in-progress to Project Greenlight’s Digital Series Contest — the documentary series produced by another set of best friends, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon — and now, #Josh has made it to the top five finalists.

“The show itself, #Josh, is a 16-episode web series,” the filmmaker explains. “And because online content is in such high demand now, we decided to go that route, and then we stumbled upon Project Greenlight’s ‘Get the Greenlight’ digital series contest.

“So we applied and made it through the first round and the second round, and now we’re at the top five. And now it’s waiting to see if they select us,” he says as his eyes widen with a combination of surprise and gratitude.

Of the proposed 16 episodes, Jean-Baptiste says none has been filmed yet. Initially, he had filmed four webisodes with himself playing the title character, but since then, the project has evolved. If they win the $25,000, he says, they’ll recast the show and start from scratch.

“We have a sizzle reel done to show the essence of the show when we go around pitching it, and all new 16 episodes are written, but the goal now is to film them.”

“I thought it was going to be more of a How I Met Your Mother situational comedy. This was around the time Girls was coming out, and the whole awkward person being the main character was getting really popular,” he says with a laugh. But it was his filmmaking partner, Jean, who suggested the series take on a more serious tone.

“Edson is actually the spearhead of the project. I’m the writer, and he’s also written a few episodes, and we kind of work in tandem,” Jean-Baptiste says.  

If they win, the first step would be to film the pilot. The entire series would be filmed in Miami and told from the perspective of a Haitian-American on the cusp of adulthood.

“To be honest, the aim [of submitting to Project Greenlight] was never really to win; it was just to put it out there. The fact that we got recognized is surplus. We’ve already basically achieved what we set out to do, and we got people excited about the project again.”

He adds confidently, “We’ve been getting people interested in the project, so regardless of whether we win or not, #Josh is going to happen.”

Project Greenlight Digital Series Contest
A winner will be selected by the judges and announced January 8. Joshua Jean-Baptiste and Edson Jean hope to release
#Josh in summer 2016.
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Carolina del Busto is a freelance writer for Miami New Times. She nurtured her love of words at Boston College before moving back home to Miami and has been covering arts and culture in the Magic City since 2013.