SO Cocktails With — Elisha Baptiste
Sunday, September 09, 2018
Elisha Baptiste Television and film producer
Television and film producer Elisha Baptiste is in chillax mode. We reckon our tête-à-tête is one of those rare ocassions, so instead of her fave glass of water she's enjoying sangria. Back in the twin-island republic after three years in Ecuador as an audio-visual journalist at teleSUR English, she's got lots to share and we're eager to hear.
When, where and how did the creative bug bite?
I was bitten by the creative bug around the age of 14. I started writing poetry one weekend at home in Trinidad. The next thing I knew I had filled quite a few notebooks. It was a good foundation because it led me to songwriting which then led me to creative writing.
What's your fondest childhood memory?
My fondest childhood memory stems from when I lived with my mom and my grandparents in a place called Arouca. My grandmother made the best coconut bake. She would make it and I would eat a slice pretty much straight from the oven with a cup of cocoa tea. I would sit on a bench with my feet swinging as I happily ate my warm slice of bake with butter and cheese and my granny's cocoa tea from an enamel cup. It was the best and she would do it for me often. I really loved my grandmother. May she RIP.
Who inspires you?
My aunt – Annette Johnson. She started off her career as a secretary and worked her way up to a manager. Eventually, she opened a successful business selling medical supplies and equipment. She is no longer with us but the example she set with her strong work ethic and drive has rubbed off on me.
You have just returned from Ecuador. What took you there and how long were you there for?
I left Ecuador in March after being there for three years. I went to Ecuador for a job as a writer-producer for a Latin American multimedia news company – teleSUR English. In a nutshell, I was an audio-visual journalist. Then I was promoted to assistant programme editor where I had to assign stories to writer-producers and video editors, and I produced live 30-minute news shows and three-minute headlines from the studio's control room, just to name a few of my responsibilities.
You are quoted as saying that [creatives] need to “come together and really support each other professionally and respect what each person brings to the table”. Is this doable or a mere pipe dream?
I believe that anything is possible. I would not say it is a pipe dream because I have experienced this myself in England, Trinidad, Ecuador and in North America. Mutual respect and professionalism are just some of the reasons why my latest project, “The Business Behind the Show” actors' workshop, was able to get organised in a matter of a few months.
The creative and the entrepreneur are often miles apart. How does one convey the importance of the business behind the show?
The term is show business so it is already in the name. What makes the entertainment industry is the combination of talent, creativity and the money that it generates. If one is not focused on getting the business aspect of the industry right, then what one is doing is just a hobby. If you do not have a business sense as a creative, then it is important to either learn the business or align yourself with the right person or people who can help you achieve your financial goals.
When and how should the conversation about making money be introduced?
I believe this important conversation should be had early on. Once everyone is on the same page with what the project is or they are using your talent(s) or skills to achieve a goal, you need to talk numbers or appropriate compensation. In my experience, people usually tell you what their budget is fairly early on. If that information is not volunteered, it is best to simply ask or state what your services will cost. Sometimes people negotiate and sometimes they don't. It's all a part of the business of the show.
Tell us about your involvement in the TT Film Festival (TTFF)
In this year's Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival slated for Tuesday, September 18 to Tuesday, September 25, I am producing a workshop entitled “The Business Behind the Show”, which will be facilitated by LA-based, Trinbagonian-raised actor and acting coach Noel Arthur. We want to encourage and provide local actors with the tools to “Level Up” their careers. When I pitched the idea to the TTFF directors, they were very excited and supportive. I am also an associate producer of a short film titled Hush-a-Bye, which will be featured in the festival, and I even have some screen time! I hope to expand my relationship with the TTFF even more in 2019 and beyond.
Who in Jamaica do you have your eyes on?
Hands down, Usain Bolt. Bolt has accomplished so much in the sport of track and field. He could be resting on his laurels right now and I don't think anyone would fault him for that. However, he is pursuing his dream of playing professional football instead — with the whole world watching. When he makes statements like “I don't think limits”, how can you not be inspired by him? I could have stayed at a job that I did enjoy, yes, but I wanted to tell stories and so I took a leap of faith. I am an extremely private person, but Bolt has demonstrated that you should not be apologetic about pursuing your dreams, critics be damned. So here I am, building the Elisha Creates brand, one brick at a time.
Were you able to invite five actors/directors/producers/writers to a weekend retreat who would they be, and why?
I would invite actresses Taraji P Henson, Niecy Nash, multi-hyphenates Issa Rae and Ava DuVernay. Even though they are very talented and successful, they all seem like really genuine and fun people to hang out with. I would also invite the creative executive at Universal Pictures Mika Pryce. When I met her in Atlanta, at the Screencraft Writers Summit in May, she was very polite and approachable. When I told her I was Trinidadian, Mika mentioned she is of Jamaican descent! She worked on the hit movie Get Out and I have so many questions I would love to ask her about that project.