“It’s pretty spooky…” says Travis Devonport. He’s talking about an exhibit he helped put together for 2020’s Hallowe’en at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth. It’s a collection of ghost stories Travis gathered from former residents of Africville, the Black community in Halifax that was demolished in 1969.
“There’s one from Irvine Carvery about a set of dishes in a cabinet that started to smash and fall off the shelf for no reason…”
There is more and scarier stuff to that tale but for Travis, as fun and spine tingling as the stories were, the interviews yielded something even better.
“We got more than just the ghost stories,” he explains. “In the interviews the people told us about their lives growing up in Africville. It was great that I was able to use my skills from King’s to actually document history. These stories will be at the Africville museum in their archives.”
It was a good first gig after a rather tumultuous but hugely successful final year of his journalism degree. In late winter Travis was part way through the video documentary workshop when the pandemic threatened to derail his final assignment—a doc called The Lonest of Wolves. He was making it with his friend and fellow student Ellery Platts BJ(Hons)’20. When the two found out King’s was shutting down they had just three days to figure out how to complete the project.
“I think that’s exactly what King’s prepared us for,” says Travis. “Anyone that goes to this university knows the insane pace we worked at. When news broke that the world was flipping upside down, for us it was just another day in the classroom.“
They completed The Lonest of Wolves long distance—Ellery in Calgary, Travis in Halifax. For their efforts—artistic, journalistic and no doubt for their sheer determination—each was awarded a two thousand dollar scholarship from the Radio Television Digital News Foundation.
Then came the next big news. The documentary was accepted into the 2020 FIN Atlantic International Film Festival. Instead of showing in a theatre the pandemic pushed the festival on-line. But being part of FIN was gratifying.
“It showed that the work we did was serious and it was good. Even as young as we are the hard work and the passion we put in was acknowledged and valued. We could have just scrapped everything. We had that option. But we didn’t. We saw it through to the end and showed it to the world.”
The RTDNF scholarship, a spot in the film festival—that’s enough for some to sit back and rest on their laurels. But not Travis. He enrolled in the master of journalism program focusing on investigative data journalism. It’s another tool in his kit as he looks to the future.
“What I learn in studying investigative journalism will help me dig deeper into stories that people aren’t thinking about,” he says, “but I am open to whatever happens. There is no longer the opportunity to be a one trick pony. But I do have that passion to be a documentary filmmaker. I don’t have a direct path, but I have a direction.”
Posted: September 2020