A 2006 graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, Smith was recently honored at the Dallas International Film Festival for his first feature-film, ‘Wolf.’ The film won Smith the Texas Filmmaker’s Award and a $30,000 grant from Panavision. Today his films have received worldwide acclaim, screening and winning awards at over 70 film festivals. Nevertheless, not all of his works have been so highly praised.
“The first film festival I remember showing at was the Hollywood Black Film Festival,” Smith said smiling. “It was a disaster. But that’s ok, it was good for me.”
Humble and passionate, Smith attributes his artistic growth to his ability to learn from mistakes and knowing early on what he wanted out of film. “I grew up with movies, but I didn’t really know people made movies,” said Smith. “When I was eleven ‘Boyz N The Hood’ came out. That movie made me want to investigate filmmaking…To see a film that portrayed the environment I grew up in, in a humanistic form, I could relate to that. I knew then that film had power in it. It could make you think of new things, see people in a new light.”
Pausing from student questions, Smith shared an excerpt from his 2010 short ‘Katrina’s Son.’ A story about a young boy who loses his grandmother during Hurricane Katrina and is left searching for a mother who abandoned him years earlier, the film demonstrates Smith’s desire to use film as a tool to help people. Rather than focusing on the political issues surrounding Katrina, Smith offers audiences a new perspective - through the eyes of a young boy. In doing so, “Katrina’s Son” exemplifies the humanity that Smith aims for.
Challenging his audience, Smith asked North Lake students why they want to write. “What turns you on? What do you hate? What do you love? Think about that first,” said Smith. Currently a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, Smith plans to teach as long as the university remains supportive of what he is doing and allows him time to create his work. Work that, Smith says, takes research.
“To make art that is accessible you can’t write in a cave. Yes, you have to write what you know, but you also have to write in a way that’s universal.”
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