The Power of Storytelling with Kayla Briët

Project 1324 asked this year’s Sundance Ignite Fellows to describe their experience at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and the effect it had on their filmmaking. Here is Kayla Briët, one of the five winners of our “What’s Next?” short film challenge, on her time at Sundance and how she uses film to preserve her family’s Native American culture:

Hello via the interwebs! I’m Kayla Briët and I’m a 19-year-old filmmaker, composer, musician, and super grateful to now be a 2016 Sundance Ignite Fellow.

Sundance was absolutely incredible—an experience I’ll never forget! I feel so lucky to have experienced it with the other fellows, especially us all being so young—there was an air of curiosity, magic, and excitement that just couldn’t compare to anything else. It was also my first time seeing so much snow! I felt like a kid from the movie “Snow Day” being surrounded by mountains of glittery, sparkly snow and icicles (as you can tell, I could go on about the magic of snow). Sundance Ignite is an opportunity to gather inspiration, soak up information, and immerse yourself in the world of film. Going in I was so excited and didn’t know at all what to expect—it was all so overwhelming and life-changing! Be prepared to learn lots, have a packed schedule, enjoy everything in the moment, sleep later – and wear layers!

There were too many exciting things at Sundance to choose just one favorite! I majorly geeked out after seeing the Sundance New Frontier virtual reality (VR) exhibitions. VR and augmented reality (AR) are mediums unlike any other and each month (yup, month!) is full of new discovery.

I will also never forget sitting in on an intimate chat with “The Birth of a Nation” director Nate Parker after watching a fully packed Sundance screening of the film. There were only a handful of us in a small room — the energy soared. He is such an inspiring artist and offered valuable, honest advice.

The Sundance Ignite program is an incredible family. During this year-long fellowship young filmmakers between the ages of 18-24 are be paired up with mentors who are seasoned professionals in their craft, you get to meet other young filmmakers who will inspire you with their talents in storytelling, and of course, you get to attend the Sundance Film Festival! So far, I’ve truly valued learning so much from my mentor Kat Candler, who is such a talented, inspiring, and nurturing soul. Shout out to the badass film fatale Kat Candler! I’m so very grateful for each moment spent at Sundance. I encourage all young filmmakers to apply to the Sundance Ignite program and Adobe film challenges — don’t get stuck in any self-doubt because you have nothing to lose!

After recovering from the festival, I’ve just completed the full-length version of my short film “Smoke That Travels” – a 13-minute personal documentary that explores my Prairie Band Potawatomi heritage, my fears about the future, and what it means to be Native American today. It’s a very personal piece that I shot, edited, and scored original music for, and I’m very grateful to be able to share it with others in the world.

The film was recently accepted into the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY) in Seattle and will be playing during their closing night, May 1st! NFFTY is one of my favorite festivals and home to so many talented, inspiring friends and young filmmakers who I consider family. I’m so honored that “Smoke That Travels” was also chosen by NFFTY to screen at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) for the FutureWave Shorts Program on May 30th. If you’re in the area definitely come check out the festivals! So many of my wonderfully talented friends will be there to screen their films as well! My film will also play at film festivals around the nation and internationally! These festivals include the Seattle International Film Festival, the Chicago CineYouth Film Festival, DOQU Festival in Mexico and the Miami Independent Film Festival. It’s such an adventure!

On the music side of things, you can catch me playing live original music as a one-woman- band, armed with a loop pedal and multiple instruments (guzheng zither, keyboard, guitar, vocals). You can find my singles on Spotify and Soundcloud and look out for more music on the way very soon! I’m so excited that “Smoke That Travels” will be having its premiere at the Los Angeles RAW Film Festival on April 24th, and I’m honored to be playing a set of music during the festival! It’s going to be so fun and I hope that there are more musical shows in store for 2016!

If you’re in Southern California over the summer, stop by and catch me at Vidcon June 23-25. I’m very honored to be invited as a featured creator and will be speaking on a panel about content creation (and possibly performing! woohoo!)

To add to new journeys and experiences, I was selected as a USC Institute of Creative Technologies Research Intern as part of a competitive summer research program where I will work with some of the leading minds in virtual and augmented reality. As a huge science geek and techie, I’m so excited to fuse my loves for the arts and sciences and explore how these innovative technologies will be used to create positive world change.

I feel very lucky and don’t take one moment for granted. I hope in life I can keep creating and telling the stories that matter through many beautiful mediums. There is so much to explore and discover in the world, and I encourage you to share your voice with the world too! You never know who you can inspire.