Two young artists learned to become each other’s eyes and ears in the creation of their last film, showing that the secret to success may be the willingness to share a byline.
Chase Devens and David Smith are two University of Wisconsin seniors who befriended one another while studying abroad in Paris this past spring. Devens is a young filmmaker, and Smith is an aspiring electronic music artist. This friendship soon turned into a partnership, and from a partnership to a pair of finalists in the IEP 2019 Film Festival for their film “Les Cinq Mois,” translating to “The Five Months,” documenting their time abroad.
Devens’ film career started back in elementary school, where he would make music videos to Kanye West’s “Stronger.” It wasn’t until his senior year of high school that Devens bought his first “real camera,” and he has been honing his skills ever since.
Devens has filmed concerts for the popular music group Odesza, Badger football games in Camp Randall, and once, a chicken processing plant in West Virginia.
“The camera has just taken me to really interesting and unique places and experiences,” Devens said.
The creation of “Les Cinq Mois” was a completely different experience for him from start to finish, Devens said.
“I liked my previous videos, but I didn’t appreciate them in the way this last video appeals to me because they didn’t reflect a part of who I was,” Devens said. “Communicating the way I see the world and how I interpret situations.”
Devens, whose friends have described him as having strong visual intuition, said he always had the IEP festival in the back of his mind throughout his five months in Paris.
“It was almost like an obligation to myself to make something,” Devens said.
The inspiration for this film all stemmed from a song Devens couldn’t get out of his head. Beach House’s “Space Song,” also featured in the end credits of the film, inspired Devan’s vision for the video.
“If I hear a song, I have some sort of music video for it going in my head,” Devens said. “So the whole video was started by the thought of the end credits.”
For the rest of the film, Devens had Smith’s music to inspire him.
“I would send David a 10-second video clip, and he would come back with a minute and a half of audio for it,” Devens said.
Smith started his musical path, like many kids, through forced piano lessons. Smith, in open rebellion against classic note reading and the desire to want to play songs more like the ones he heard on the radio, found a new way to learn the instrument.
“I realized I could listen to a song, and then play it by ear and actually be decent at it,” Smith said.
A few years ago, Smith started using different computer software to create his songs.
Smith and Devens’ partnership kept the two artists on track throughout the entire process, even with them living in entirely different states during its creation.
“People probably won’t realize that we were just talking on the phone and doing this online together,” Devens said.
However, the boys insisted the partnership was still crucial to effectively tell their story, since they experienced abroad together.
Smith said despite their distance, collaboration was like second nature to these two creative minds, especially after spending an entire semester together.
“Chase is a visual guy, and whenever he looks at a scene, he sees it in a visual sense,” Smith said. “It’s motivating for me to be like okay now I have to see it in this musical sense and marry those things together.”
Devens said this type of collaboration is becoming more commonplace for younger artists.
“Remix culture is something that’s really exploding now that the various entry for music production is you just have to have a computer and a program you can collaborate with basically everyone,” Smith added.
Throughout this process, the two learned a lot about what they were capable of and what it meant to sacrifice things for the bigger picture.
“I know I need to put in the hours right now and do something I really enjoy, but do it hard and well,” Devens said.
When asked to give advice to novice artists, Smith encouraged them to just start, as starting something new can often be the hardest part. Devens added that artists should find their own niche and be themselves.
“Don’t try to be like someone else because you’re just wasting your time,” Devens said.
The winners for the IEP Film Festival will be announced on Nov. 7 in Chicago.