FiWi Short Film Competition winner Joel Miller aiming for Oscar
After last year’s historic win marking his transition from playwright to filmmaker, Joel Miller is doubling down as the only two-time winner of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission FiWi Short Film Competition.
Miller’s victory was announced on Thursday at the screening of this year’s films at the Sovereign Centre in Liguanea. His seven-minute short Blackbird was among eight others vying for the top spot with film interpretations of six Jamaican proverbs: ‘Tek time mash ants, yuh fine im belly’, ‘Bucket guh well ebryday, wan day di battam mus drop out’, ‘Igle jackass falla cane trash go a poun’, ‘Fiyah deh a musmus tail, im tink a kool breeze’ and ‘Ev’bry hoe have dem tick a bush’.
Catching up with the 33-year-old defending champion after his win, He could not contain his excitement. Miller told The Sunday Gleaner, “[It] amazing enuh because last year mi did deh a foreign and mi deeven did know. Mi maybe hear like three hours after the ceremony did done. So this is amazing because one of my dreams is to win an Oscar and this [is] like the precursor to it.”
Among Miller’s competitors was his long-time friend and collaborator who last year accepted the award on his behalf, George Malcolm Walker.
Reflecting on the change in dynamics Walker said, “We still consider ourselves winners. Joel contacted me and he wanted me to work as his cinematographer and film editor as well. And even though I was in the competition, I had to oblige. I love working with Joel. Sadly he couldn’t be here to collect last year because he was abroad so I represented. So it was definitely an opportunity for me to see if I can just clip his wings, but we work together well regardless of that and I am happy with what I am able to collect.”
Walker nabbed the overall second-place prize for his short Cool Breeze.
Expressing his gratitude for the recognition he said, “It’s crazy special. I am really ecstatic and excited. It’s been a rough ride because it isn’t easy to be working on some high-quality productions like we tried to do with these films. It took some sleepless nights and it took as well a lot of communication with team members and so on and it was a short time. But I’m excited that I have an award that I can celebrate today.”
Likening himself to Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce defending their titles, Miller told The Sunday Gleaner that including Walker on his team was a must.
“Di bwoy make mi sweat,” he joked. “It’s amazing enuh, but it was very interesting at first.”
He explained that members of his team had their reservations including a competitor into their fold.
“But mi and George reasoned and mi a say ‘George, mi know seh you want to be a filmmaker so go ahead, just gimme your last week. So mi say take the three weeks and make your film and gimme the last week. Him was very respectable fi that and him make mi film great. Him coulda sabotage mi film and it’s really community and mi appreciate fi have George. George is an honest man and mi wah see great things fi him. A de two a we a win the Oscar.”
No stranger to praise, Miller first burst into the scene in 2012 with his religious horror play, Sins of the Father. He says while these compliments are nothing new to him, they fuel his drive to be better.
“I am humbled by those receptions, and mi just want to solidify people’s opinion of me so [it] just make mi feel like mi affi do more work and do more research and just come better. Mi couldn’t get complacent pon di last year win, mi affi research because me know seh dem a come fi mi. Mi affi come with something new and outta the box, so it kinda challenge me.”