Most Tobagonians would know Jared Prima as the writer and producer of two short films based in Tobago, Redman and The Witness, which were featured in the TT Film Festival in 2016.
He has also worked on the opening night shows of the Tobago Heritage Festival this year and last year.
He is also a teacher, of Literature and Theatre Arts at the Pentecostal Light and Life High School in Scarborough, and has taught Educative Theatre and other performance related courses on a part-time basis at the University of the West Indies.
Now Prima, 33, is adding another major accolade to his resume. He has landed himself a Fulbright Scholarship for a two-year intensive Master of Fine Arts degree in Motion Picture Arts at the Florida State University in the USA.
“It’s a fully funded scholarship from the US Embassy… Their focus is also on cultural exchange so I must return at the end of my studies,” he said of the award open to Latin American and Caribbean applicants.
“It is a major move and I will miss my island very much, but I am very excited about this new challenge and chapter in my life,” he added.
Prima, 33, an only child who was raised by his mother, originally wanted to be a psychologist but life steered him along a path where he developed a keen interest in the creative industry. It all began with a teaching job.
“I started teaching by accident! I vowed to never teach, as all of my family members, including my mother, are teachers. Left one job as a library assistant and stumbled into teaching in 2004. Then I left for UWI and went back to teaching, upon completion of my studies.
“My school entered the Secondary Schools Short Film Festival in 2012. We were not successful then but my appetite for film was ignited. I continued working at my craft and my school went on to win prizes in 2013 and 2014. I also went on to win awards for my short films,” he said.
Prima has also worked on the Machel Montano film, Bazodee, co-ordinating the second team of stand-in actors with Penelope Spencer. He also worked on personal films and have assisted on set with other local projects.
But more than that he is a creative soul.
“I can sing, write different types of creative work such as monologues, plays, screenplays, songs, spoken word, poetry. I can do some dancing and I can act as well,” he said.
He has, of course, had discussions with famous Tobago son, US-based Digital Motion Designer, Sekani Solomon, who had a major role in the animation designs of Marvel’s Black Panther movie.
And he wanted more - more experience and knowledge in his field. And so he applied for the Fulbright Scholarship.
“I was eager and excited to move forward in film, but I needed to be immersed in an environment where film is happening at a higher level. It was the only way to truly achieve more, creatively,” he said.
Married and the father of one child, Prima said he was shocked when he received news that he had won the scholarship but also felt very honoured to be chosen.
And even before heading off to start this new chapter of his life, he is already factoring his contribution to the industry when he returns home.
“We in Tobago have very creative and technically sound crew, writers, actors and directors. We have the components to begin producing content. Until we have more content, or have a focus, there will be no real industry,” he said.
“I hope to see more content being produced at a higher standard. This is not just about camera quality, but rather, great stories being told well by the acting and the choice and style of shooting,” he said.
“I also question whether we can realistically have an industry on an island this small. We should be creating content and encouraging international production companies to come and use Tobago as a location for films. This way, we are contributing to the growth of a Caribbean industry.
“I would like to see a growth in film tourism with the use of our picturesque sites as locations and canvases for film productions,” he said. He believes film tourism would earn foreign exchange, create jobs for locals and see a greater influx of tourists to the island.
Meanwhile, while on his studies, he said he would be focusing on connecting with networks, major producers and A-List directors who want to do work in a tropical climate like Tobago, promising that “if there is no film thrust, I will ignite it myself.
“I want to make meaningful connections and encourage them to come down and assist in building on the talent we have here in Tobago and in Trinidad.”
He admitted that he himself has grown discouraged until his two films were screen at the Film Festival. Now he wishes the Tobago House of Assembly would invest in the human resource through developing writers, actors, camera operators, gaffers, sound engineers.
“These are the people who are needed on any set and will be useful to any film crew that may come. In this way, you can create jobs and a niche for Tobago to fill in the Caribbean film thrust. We also have keen business minds. Get them to start thinking and implementing strategies to market our film products to the world. There are markets outside of Hollywood for us to exploit,” he said.
As for his personal ambitions, Prima said he sees himself directing a major film somewhere in the world in five years’ time and “walking on set every day with a TT flag on my chair.”
As he heads off on this journey, he leaves one piece of solid advice for persons hoping to make a career in the industry – work hard at developing and improving your talent.