Every so often, we’ll be spotlighting alumni and what they are up to these days. These Q&A sessions will give you a bit of insight into where the world has taken them since graduation.
This week, the spotlight is on Devyn Bisson (BFA/Creative Producing ’14) who has premiered her feature length documentary The Wave I Ride.
DODGE: Share your career path with us – how did you get where you are now?
DEVYN: I really don’t believe we have careers, but that we have our life’s work. My name Devyn which means “The Poet.” and my Mom’s intuition must’ve been strong when she named me that. Ever since I can remember I was rhyming words trying to make sense of the world. Early turbulence & trauma in my childhood made storytelling a necessity for me. It was my way of healing; as an avid writer, I soaked up biographies and documentaries of those who had persevered & re-written the course of their life. A matter of fate landed me at Chapman, studying documentary filmmaking. Thank God because coming to this school is what gave me the tools to accomplish all that I have. I was not the kid in high school who said, “I want to be just like Steven Spielberg when I grow up!” My attachment wasn’t to the medium of film, but just to the fact that there are stories in the world that need to be elevated & told, and for each story there is a best way to do so. Sometimes that’s film. For my documentary film work, there is nothing this school didn’t provide for me. Within 4 months of study I was working on my first story, Sikh Formaggio, a short documentary on Sikh’s saving the craft of Parmesan cheese in Italy, and the magic of making that project captivated me so immensely that I’ve never looked back since.
DODGE: Did you face any challenges in your transition from being a student at Dodge to entering the professional world?
DEVYN: Thinking I could make a feature length documentary film as a 21 year old (6 months before graduating) was quite a challenge. I tend to be incredibly persistent & do things to the beat of my own drum, which often leads me down a weeeee bit more difficult path. Consequently I didn’t really have a transition from being a student to a professional, but I don’t think I ever will. I believe being an artist means being a student of your craft for a lifetime, and hopefully my life gives me decades of diving deeper into the possibilities of storytelling.
DODGE: What have you taken from the classroom and applied to your career?
DEVYN: Storytelling is a craft that our world depends on. It’s human. It’s in our DNA. We are wired for it. It’s how we motivate—army generals tell the story of freedom to send their forces into battle. It’s how we learn—we tell stories of consequence to remind those to not make the same mistakes. It’s how we shape cultures.
Who can step up to be a storyteller for our world? For their life? Whoever chooses to do so will define the culture, or at the least their own path. What could be more powerful? I strive to be that person by a dedication to my craft. Storytelling is a sanctuary to have the courage to live in, Professor Alex Rose displayed that to her grateful students & I.
DODGE: What skills do you believe have been essential to your profession?
DEVYN: Passion. Kindness. Reflection. Acting on Intuition. Willingness. Pacing. Breaking rules, especially my own. Malleability. Grace. Knowing my creative process deeply. A dedication to reading Mary Oliver’s poetry.
Picture Credit: Bryce Vickmark Orange Coast Magazine
DODGE: What is the best advice you have received and/or what advice would you give current students?
“Go deep, not wide.” are the words I hear every time I hit a road block in navigating a project or my own life, given to me by Professor Jeff Swimmer.
1. “Honor your story, know your story.” Next to love, I can’t think of any tool more valuable in life than what knowing your story can provide for oneself. This means: who you are, what your past looks like, what your demons scream, what your boundaries are built out of, what your present moment is, what your visions feel like. It can inspire. It can alleviate pain. It can help us move through transformational grief. It can help us reflect with grace. This kaleidoscopical world we live in today is a messy one to navigate, commonly providing a lot of noise & distraction. Yet, your best work will only come from acting on your authentic heart. Reaching your highest potential is imperative on listening to that heart of yours. This is also, where your story lives. Don’t know where to start? Go for a walk. Get in the water. Take a car ride. Get your malleable brain into a state of flow, and pay attention. It’s right there.
2. Have a favorite poet. Read all of his / her work.
3. You & only you have the ability to tell your stories, authentically. In any form, you must. You may not have money, resources, or the pre-requisites, but when you have the story you have the power. When a story is called for, it will be birthed. Through your hands? Up to you.
DODGE: What’s next for you?
DEVYN: As much as I love documentaries, having the courage to tell my own story is something I’m still fully trying to soak in doing. There’s a depth that’s truly painful if you reach it, but can also reveal so much more. I believe understanding how to act on our own & true personal narrative is how the world feels our greatest influence. It’s truly limitless. A compelling story comes from when I ask these questions: How did it change my heart? How did it transform me? What new lenses do I see through because of it? A storyteller should be surprised by the answers, as the audience will be. I’m listening deep to hear the answers in my art studio in Costa Mesa, California. Experimenting with some new art forms, my next film idea is also brewing inside there! Follow along at huesofblue.com
Passion & Grace,
Thanks so much for sharing, Devyn!