Filmmakers @ Barnard: Dee Wisne
My beloved suitemate and friend, Dee Wisne, has been making films forever. Even though she came to Barnard having no idea of what she wanted to study but knowing, as many of us do, that she wanted to make an impact in the world in a positive way, film soon became the obvious choice. It was a comment of a film professor in Wisne’s first year that made her fully shift her academic focus from American Studies to Film.
“During class, my professor said, “Did you know that only 5% of film directors are women?” I thought, What? For some reason, I had never connected the dots between gender and film studies and I realized that I could marry my interest of social good with film,” said Wisne, BC ‘19.
Since then, Wisne has directed and produced a number of films, including Distractions, her film thesis, and Cook Out, a short horror film inspired by Get Out. Wisne also co-authored a non-fiction podcast last semester entitled, Pretty, Angry, which attempts to make radical feminist issues accessible to the average middle American. Wisne acquired her inspiration for and first knowledge of film and photography from her dad, who she watched pour over family vacation footage and edit for hours on end as a child. These days, Wisne favors movies that “combine a poetic style and message with entertainment.” For these reasons, Wisne praises Spotlight and The Big Short for finding that rare balance. In terms of documentary films, she admires Michael Moore and The Representation Project. While Wisne does not find The Representation Project’s Miss Representation documentary to be outstanding from a filmmaking standpoint, she really connects with its message.
“The main theme is all about how women are represented in the media and how it affects the female experience. That is the kind of stuff that I really want to be making,” said Wisne.
As a graduating senior, Wisne has spent her due time searching for any and all film production courses offered every semester, taking screenwriting and film history seminars, learning the ins and outs of IMATS, and, overall, finding her voice. Wisne recommends that any underclassmen interested in film should take advantage of the array of courses offered at Barnard and Columbia. Her favorite ones have included Screenwriting with Ben Philippe at Barnard as the material is topical and the classroom format is discussion-based as well as Professor Annette Insdorf’s course at Columbia, Cinema History: 1960-1990, as she gained the skill of writing a fifteen-page paper on a single scene. Overall, Wisne advises that aspiring film majors, filmmakers, and producers, take production courses, utilize IMATS, befriend other film students, start making films with their iMovie on the iPhone, and just take chances and try. Thus, Wisne said, “I think IMATS is really an untapped resource for a lot of people. This is one of the largest perks of being a student here and I will miss it so much when I graduate. So take advantage of it while you have it!”
Additionally, Wisne warns underclassmen of the common onslaught of imposter syndrome in creative majors, such as film. Wisne recounts that “I’m still trying to get in the headspace where realize, Oh, I could actually do this for a living and pursue making a feature documentary.” However, Wisne acknowledges that aside from receiving positive feedback from trusted mentors and peers, the best way to circumvent feelings of inadequacy at a school where the average student is exceptional is to humanize those around you.
As President of Barnard’s female empowerment club, WinkMe, and as a Health Educator for Peer Health Exchange, it comes as no surprise that Wisne desires to become a documentary film producer who travels the world shedding light on marginalized voices and stories. Perhaps she will follow her most recent idea of creating a documentary about the various ways different cultures and religions celebrate or suppress death. While Wisne continues to find her path in filmmaking, we should all feel assured that she will do great things to make the future of the film industry representative.