South Carolina poet takes second place in arts competition for film shot on iPhone
By Donna Isbell Walker
Photo provided by Antwan Witter
South Carolina poet Antwan Witter has won second place in the film category of the Engage Arts competition for a three-minute film shot entirely on his iPhone.
Witter, who’s 32 and lives in Point South, took second place and a $5,000 prize for his first attempt at filmmaking, for “My Biggest Fear,” which explores the worry of many African American men that they will not survive a traffic stop by police.
The concept for the film sprang in part from a poem Witter wrote about how his worst fear as a child was drowning, but as an adult, he’s now afraid of being killed during a traffic stop by police.
But Witter’s four eldest children, ages 2 to 12, and their questions about police violence were the main inspiration, Witter said.
During a year when the murder of George Floyd sparked both protests and a dialogue about race, the kids had lots of questions.
“They asked me what was going on, and I had a hard time explaining it to them,” said Witter.
“My Biggest Fear” was shot over a weekend with Witter playing both himself and the police officer who pulls him over. The app Videoleap helped with the special effects.
Engage Arts is a competition created by North Carolina philanthropists Bill and Linda Bantz. The categories include film, music video, visual arts and performing arts, and entrants are asked to base their creations on a passage from the New Testament book of Ephesians.
The theme of the Bible passage is a spiritual battle between the forces of good and evil.
The passage from Ephesians “was actually perfect for me to explain to (the kids),” Witter said. “In the Scripture, it says, ‘From the full armor of God,’ so I was able to explain to them that it’s not the actual officer, it’s more the evil spirit. So, I was able to break it down like that. Once I started talking about it, we actually made the film and then submitted it.”
His four eldest children can be seen in the film; his 6-month-old baby was born after the film was completed.
Witter has been interested in film since he was a freshman at Jasper County High School in Ridgeland, South Carolina.
“I was put in a yearbook class, and the moment the camera touched my hands it was like another world,” Witter said. “To the point that when I became a senior, everyone knew me as the camera guy. I even made a senior ‘best wishes’ video with all of the seniors saying their last words and what their plans were for the future.”
One of his goals in making “My Biggest Fear” was to help his children not to fear police officers, and Witter said he thinks the film helped his kids in that respect.
“I was trying to show them different angles and different sides of the story,” which culminates in the police officer returning to his family at the end of his shift, Witter said.
Making the film was a fun bonding experience for him and the kids, and now the children are pitching their own ideas for films.
The second-place showing “means a lot” to Witter, especially as it was his first attempt at filmmaking.
“I wasn’t expecting to get that far, only because it was my first one,” he said. “I just wanted to put it out there and have people have that conversation, and see what I wrote and hear what I had to say. That was more the gist of it, along with explaining to my kids.”
With his $5,000 prize, Witter plans to start a video production company called A.W. Smash Productions, and he’s hoping to upgrade his equipment.
“I enjoyed making that video and bringing my vision to life,” he said. “So, helping other people bring their vision to life would be even more exciting to me.”
He has begun working on another film, “Life Choices,” which he plans to upload on Facebook and YouTube in February.
To watch “My Biggest Fear,” go to https://engageart.org/showcase/my-biggest-fear.