Devin Martin – A Developing Expert

Faculty shout-out from Joshua Yumibe: The first thing I remember Devin asking, I think on the first day of class when I’d just met him, was if we’d be talking about Victor Sjöström in FLM 300: History of Film I. Yes! But probably not enough for his taste, nor mine. Devin brings such a profound passion and life-changing focus to the study of film. As he’s just noted, in the opening of his final paper for me as a student, “I watched Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane for the first time when I was sixteen years old because I had heard it was considered by many to be the greatest film of all time and I had just taken a more scholarly curiosity towards the medium; I know it’s cliché to say this, but it was a formative experience for me . . . Citizen Kane and the way it makes you feel for a character that you cannot know, the way it makes you contemplate the way others perceive you and the impact you have on them, the way it makes you think about what one’s life means after death, and of course the way in which all of this is told uniquely through the visual medium in a way that was unparalleled for the time period . . . . Citizen Kane became an obsession for me, I watched it four times within a year.” I couldn’t summarize Citizen Kane better myself, and it’s a film I too have seen uncountable times. Cinephilia is the word for this, and ingrained in it, as Devin reminds us, is a desire and need to get outside of ourselves, to see other ways of moving and thinking and feeling, which is essential not just for our personal lives but also for our political ones. I’m looking forward to continuing these conversations with Devin about  Sjöström and Welles and so many others as he moves forward as brilliantly as he has here.

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

My time as a Film Studies major at MSU helped shape me into the artist and the person that I am today; whether it be the classes I was enrolled in, the people that I met, or the books and movies I rented from the library, I was constantly learning and developing, growing into an expert in my field…well, at least while I was sober.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

MSU is blessed with some of the greatest professors in the world. I remember how excited I was meeting people who knew more about film than I did for the first time. I just kept watching more and more movies and reading more theory and criticism hoping one day I would know more than them—I’ve still got a ways to go, but I’ll catch up given the free time I’ll have after graduation. The most influential of these professors have been Professor Bill Vincent, who taught me the art of screenwriting and has been a constant source of support and wisdom throughout my entire time at MSU; Professor Jordan Schonig, a guest professor whose passion, enthusiasm, and humor were sorely missed this past year; and, Professor Joshua Yumibe who is one of the kindest and most intelligent human beings I have ever met.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

The advice I would give to future members of both the English Department and Film Studies Department is this: use the library as much as possible. Throughout my time at Michigan State, since just after I moved into McDonel Hall early for the job I had at Sparty’s Market—which I would inevitably get fired from for eating chicken nuggets…sorry not sorry—I have made sure to take advantage of the vast assortment of books and films that the MSU Library has available. I’ve probably checked out upwards of a hundred books and two thousand films over the course of my career here and it helped me excel past my peers and I would say my knowledge of art has at least quadrupled since coming to school. If you’re a senior English major and you haven’t read any Dostoevsky or James Joyce, what are you doing? Likewise, if you’re a senior Film Studies major and you haven’t watched any Fellini or Bresson, what’re you doing?

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them? (capstone courses, honors thesis, independent studies, etc.)

What I’ve worked on this last semester, in my independent study with Dr. Vincent has excited me more than anything I’ve done for school ever has: the third draft of my film, Lotus, which is partially about my time at MSU, and which I plan to shoot within the coming year or so.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

My hopes after graduation are to become one of the greatest filmmakers of all time—the only one this century comparable with the best of the best like Kubrick, Bergman, Fellini, Kurosawa, and Hitchcock—and to make the world a better place for people with autism, bipolar, post-traumatic stress, and other mental illnesses using my art.