Digital Filmmaking & Video Production
Video Production and Acting Instructor
The Art Institute of Austin, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston
Be honest, respectful, and helpful to everybody on a crew, regardless of their role. Lee Smith , Video Production and Acting Instructor , The Art Institute of Austin, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston
In eighth grade I had an interest in photography. A teacher took me to the zoo and we shot a roll of B&W film, then went straight to the darkroom. We developed and printed what I shot that day. Seeing the image appear in the developer tray of my first photograph was that moment. Money from my summer job went to the purchase of my first camera.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?
I share insights from past productions I have worked on to inform students about the various challenges they may face in similar situations. I show programs I have produced and give students the back story on these productions. I also have pulled raw footage from the field tapes of these programs and created short sequences to show the class exactly how various events and assignments were covered. I show the good stuff, as well as shoots that I didn’t cover very well, so they can analyze the mistakes I made and what could have been done to get better footage.
Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?
One of the challenges in teaching fundamentals is getting students to think fundamentally. Many are excited to take the course and begin emulating and surpassing their favorite directors. So for one assignment, I have the students shoot a short narrative video, completely in sequence, without any editing afterwards. This forces them to carefully plan each shot and deeply consider how each shot will move the story forward. Many students are initially startled by the concept and display palpable anxiety about not being able to “fix it” later. Once they get going, however, their focus becomes intense. First, they become fixated on mechanics so as not to make a mistake. Some, as they gain confidence, learn to trust their judgment (and others’) which can free their creativity. This assignment helps them slow down, simplify their craft, and focus on telling a story.
What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?
Everybody brings their strengths and weaknesses with them. The best students learn to draw on others’ strengths and assist when others need help. When operating out of their comfort zones, some students will discover talents and aptitudes that they didn’t know they possessed. This can lead to greater confidence and self-esteem. It also facilitates team building and a more open mind to problem solving.
In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?
Be honest, respectful, and helpful to everybody on a crew, regardless of their role.