His was a real-life Super 8 — minus the supernatural visitations, of course.
As a boy, Bryce Cyrier explored the acres of woods around his grandparents’ home in Elgin, South Carolina. Armed with a Hi-8 camcorder, he started making short movies with his brothers, already captivated by stories — and storytelling — from a young age.
“I’ve been fascinated by stories for as long as I can remember,” Cyrier says. “As an avid reader, I was totally enamored by the worlds that books opened up.”
That passion for stories initiated an interest in discovering how to tell his own stories, which only grew as his family moved often (ten times by age ten!) and he saw more and more of the world.
“Because of my dad’s work and my parents’ wanderlust, I saw a lot of different places at a young age. This combination of loving stories and realizing how big the world was…it made me feel like I could be a part of it.”
As Cyrier grew, he continued to make films, which gradually grew more sophisticated as subject matter changed. His involvement in musical theater programs continued to educate his craft.
“Theater helped me develop my sensibilities for engaging an audience,” Cyrier says. “Then in my later teenage years, I took those formative experiences and tried to express myself through a larger project.”
That project? A full-length feature film, written, directed, and acted in by Cyrier, with help from friends and family. Lacking “any real knowledge or formal training” and no budget, Cyrier and his older brother shot and edited a post-apocalyptic feature film over 8-9 months that the crew debuted at their local movie theater. This black-tie movie premiere brought more than 300 people, but it was the accomplishment itself, the “stick-to-itiveness of it” that profoundly affected Cyrier’s mindset — and his future career path.
“It was empowering that we thought up something and brought it into existence,” Cyrier said. “The movie was horrible. I could feel it in the audience that so many things about it didn’t work. But I left that experience knowing that I knew how to make something happen.”
It was this “cringey” film (one that he hesitates to revisit, even now) that led Cyrier to the Creative Producing program at Chapman University, where his eyes were opened to the true role and responsibilities of a producer, both creative and logistical — a fit that felt like a perfect combination of his own talents and interests.
“I realized that I love being a part of the engine of a production and providing the scaffolding required for a story to be told,” he said. “Film school gave me a more complete picture of the filmmaking process and helped solidify what my role could be as a I started off my career.”
Gaining experience, Cyrier soon realized that so much of what ends up on screen depends on how a project is led and managed; it requires a delicate marriage between creative vision and logistical management — the “human” side of it, and the physical side of production management.
“There’s so much behind the story that you see on screen,” Cyrier said. “There’s the story of how it’s made. And I wanted to be a part of that story, along with the dozens of other crew members and craftspeople that are essential to the creative outcome of a project.”
Cyrier’s passion lies in the collaboration aspect of a project, even taking into account the messy and difficult and challenging aspects of trying to bring something to life based on one creative vision. As producer, Cyrier finds himself in the center of that effort, making sure that the two sides of the task coalesce into something that works as a whole.
“That’s a big storytelling challenge to me,” Cyrier said. “The quality of the collaboration determines the quality of the finished story that the audience ends up seeing.”
Already, Cyrier has built an impressive body of producing work, ranging from music videos to commercials to podcasts to documentaries.
His journey even led him to work with Erin Gruwell of Freedom Writers fame. After Gruwell visited one of Cyrier’s classes at Chapman, he introduced himself and discovered there was an opportunity — telling her students’ stories today. After making outlines and delivering pitches, Cyrier produced a series of videos and a podcast, working “knee-to-knee” with the Freedom Writers and aiming to use education to make a difference, and promote peace, tolerance, and love.
Most recently, Cyrier co-produced Prodigy for the new video platform Quibi. This bite-sized documentary series, created and executive produced by Rand Getlin and Janina Pelayo, powerfully tells the stories of the best young athletes in the world.
“At the heart of it, I love being on teams that are committed to telling emotional stories,” Cyrier said. “Documentaries are especially rewarding. I like the puzzle of figuring out how to capture real life in compelling ways and edit it into something artful and smart. It’s an opportunity to package people’s real experiences in cool, creative boxes for audiences to unwrap and enjoy.”
Over 45 shoot days, countless hours, and in more than 20 cities, Prodigy was born out of the work of a tight-knight team dedicated to captivating storytelling.
“We really covered a lot of ground with this small but insanely talented team. It feels like we went to battle together. There’s that bond.”
As a freelance producer, Cyrier resume has grown to include projects of all sizes and types. But what hasn’t changed is his commitment to each and every project he brings his name to.
“When it comes to starting a career in a creative field, it’s important to give your all to every opportunity. You never know what will lead to other things,” Cyrier said. “That doesn’t mean you should take every opportunity that comes your way. But when you do join a team, you should never phone it in, even on smaller projects. I feel like I’ve been able to leap frog from one thing to the next because I always try to bring my best to every little thing I’m doing. I think that makes an impression and can develop into bigger projects.”
Taking advantage of every opportunity to prove your value to a project is crucial, Cyrier said.
“Like any industry, it’s about understanding what value you can bring to an organization or a project. You lean into that and find ways to deliver that to your team. You also have to understand what motivates you on a personal level. Being passionate about a project, the cause that you’re a part of — at least for me, that’s really important. I need to feel like I’m a part of something bigger than myself. You really get that experience in filmmaking. You can’t do it alone.”
Understanding and proving your value, determining a career trajectory, and building enough relationships to build a sustainable career — they’re the biggest challenges for Cyrier, but ones he faces head-on.
“It’s a challenge that I inherently embrace and enjoy,” he says. “I have an entrepreneurial spirit and I like the risk and the novelty of it. It’s empowering that I can go out and meet people and learn what I need to learn in order to do what I need to do. The challenge will never really end, if I continue as a freelance producer. It will just evolve. It can be scary sometimes, but it’s also cool and exciting to me.”
Even with all he’s already accomplished, Cyrier knows that the journey is one of adventure and growth. No one has all the answers at the outset, and it’s the discovery that makes it worthwhile.
“I feel like everybody, no matter where they are in their career, is still figuring it out,” Cyrier said. “I’m definitely still finding my way. The important thing is to be real and honest, to ferociously learn and improve and grow when you make mistakes. I’ll just keep doing my best wherever I’m at, and serve, and provide value, and pour my heart into everything that I do. That’s all part of the journey.”
And of his younger days filming short films Super-8-style in the woods?
“Elgin continues to be a source of creative inspiration for me,” Cyrier says. “I draw on that and it grounds me as I go through the stresses of the productions I work on now.”
What an amazing journey. I’m inspired to “lean in” to what I love and hope to accomplish. Wonderful interview!