Name: Kayla Briët
Hometown: Cypress, California
With her curiosity combined with a focused desire to learn and experience new disciplines of interest, Kayla Briët is a versatile artist with an appetite that covers a wide-range of areas. Kayla recently won Best Documentary Senior Division at the CineYouth Film Festival in Chicago for her film Smoke That Travels. The film will now go onto the 52nd Annual Chicago International Film Festival this October.
January 2016 was a busy month for Kayla.
She attended this year’s Sundance Film Festival where Smoke That Travels was screened. And earlier in January, she was in Miami at the 2016 National Young Arts Week as one of seven Cinematic Arts finalists who were selected from around the U.S.
Big Little Filmmaker asked Kayla to share her experiences as a multi-disciplinary artist – how she combines the various forms of her art, how she finds time to accomplish everything, and when she finds time to sleep.
I love making music and films.
I am a science and techie geek of sorts.
I love to think of visual arts, music, film, code, and math as languages. The more languages you speak, the more people you can communicate your ideas with. If you’re like me, it’s hard to choose one thing and only stick with that. Maybe you feel like you just don’t fit in perfectly anywhere and that’s totally okay.
As storytellers, we all have the ability to open hearts to windows of new perspectives. Don’t ever be afraid to tell the stories that matter to you most.Kayla Briët
Growing up, I was very shy and mellow. I live in Southern California and attended a regular, public, suburban junior high and high school that were mostly focused on sports. Initially, I was the student who never raised her hand in class, was super shy, and dreaded talking to new people or making class presentations.
I occasionally dreamed about living in video game worlds and I went through stages of awkwardly cutting side-bang styled hairdos. Hey, awkwardly styled side-bangs are awesome! The problem was that during that period of my life, I didn’t feel at all comfortable or beautiful in my own skin. That all changed when I discovered art and music. Like many others, that’s where I found my voice.
Film was a way I could combine my love for music and visual arts together by shooting, editing, and creating little scores for each film piece. I loved creating something beautiful that could make other people smile. That reaction from people to my work instilled in me a sense of purpose and beauty in my own self. As a result, I developed greater self-confidence.
In high school, I had an obsession for all things science-related and began creating educational videos, which included an experiment I had designed to be performed in microgravity on the NASA International Space Station. I also filmed a piece about technology in the classroom, which was an official selection of the first White House Film Festival. (Big Little Filmmaker founder Kira Bursky also screened a wonderful film at the festival and that is where we first met. We have been friends ever since.) Besides science, I also produced a synth pop musical rendition of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.
My projects then evolved into telling more personal stories. Smoke That Travels is a short, experimental documentary about my native Prairie Band Potawatomi heritage. The film explores the fear of being forgotten.
The Hoop Dance from Kayla Briët’s film Smoke That Travels
In between all of these projects, I:
- have been studying computer science as a student at Fullerton Community College,
- have attended the 2016 Blockchain Technology Summit in Washington DC under a scholarship from the MIT Media Lab, which was also attended by the FBI, IBM, and NASDAQ,
- have begun a year-long film fellowship with the incredible Sundance Institute, thanks to Adobe Project 1324,
- have been inspired by brilliant young girls who were participating at the Girls Who Code LA conference where I was a guest presenter, and
- have been super fascinated with the world of virtual reality and game development.
This summer, I will be serving full-time at the University of Southern California’s (USC’s) Institute for Creative Technologies as a research intern. While there, I will be working with a Data-Driven Interactive Narrative Engine (DINE) and prototyping virtual reality solutions in collaboration with the USC MxR Lab, which all feels incredibly dreamy and surreal.
On the music side, I’ll also be performing more live shows this year as a one-woman band, armed with a loop pedal and multiple instruments. This may seem like a whole ton of projects and the truth is that I’m just learning as I go. I still don’t know exactly where I fit in and that’s okay. Sometimes it all feels overwhelming, like tap dancing in between many incredibly different worlds, and sometimes it’s even hard to explain or title myself to others. However, I think that once you realize that virtually everything in the world is intertwined and that your voice matters, you enter into everything with passion and an open heart. You begin to embrace your inner fear of the unknown and the adventure begins.
Never take any moment for granted. Everyday is a learning experience and perhaps you don’t know where you fit in now, but all the knowledge you’ve accumulated will circle back when you least expect it.
Creating music in the studio
I constantly bug my friends for advice on virtually everything from arty and filmy stuff to life itself. You may also find some of your greatest friends here on Big Little Filmmaker. A big thing I’ve learned over this wild, past year is to never be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
As a young person, you’re in the midst of growing up. Finding yourself. Graduating. Worrying about what the heck you’ll be doing in life. Where you’re going to go. And on top of that, realizing that you’re passionate and curious about a wide range of different things but don’t know where to start. You might have heard this quote of advice on many occasions:
“It’s better to do one thing well than ten things poorly.”
There’s some truth to that. We definitely don’t want to suck at everything, but don’t let that sway you from experiencing new situations, subjects, and ideas. As an artist, you never know what will inspire you next. There’s always something new to learn, especially by putting yourself in unfamiliar situations. Keep creating and tell the stories that matter most to you. (That’s something I also have to keep reminding myself.)
Perhaps you love chemistry but also love fashion? Engineering and filmmaking? Program coding and music? Maybe you don’t know what you’re truly passionate about yet and just want to try a bunch of things. The cool thing about the world is that everything is incredibly intertwined in one way or another. If there’s any time to experiment, it’s now.
Kayla Briët making a presentation to the participants at Girls Who Code LA on July 2, 2015
Imagine designing your next fashion line using CAD software and 3D printed materials or coding magical, music-making gloves or crafting a cool camera rig to shoot your next movie on. There are tons of ways to integrate all of your various interests into your work. Luckily, we live in the age of YouTube tutorials, forums, free iTunes University lectures, and super helpful awesome communities like Big Little Filmmaker. You can learn virtually anything in your free time and collaborate with friends.
Here are five of my favorite interactive media artists who use the power of program code, filmmaking, game design, animation, and more to tell incredible stories:
And don’t even get me started on the amazing young artists here on Big Little Filmmaker who have incredible heart, many talents, and a work ethic like no other. They inspire me so much and I know they will also inspire you!
Remember, the biggest class right now and forever is life. Sometimes it can be extremely stressful and angsty, but it can also be rewarding and fun. However, all of the tech, science, and art skills do not matter if you don’t share your story through your unique voice. As storytellers, we all have the ability to open hearts to windows of new perspectives. Don’t ever be afraid to tell the stories that matter to you most.
You define yourself.
You are unique and beautiful.
You should never stop creating and learning.
You’re never alone in this crazy journey!