Creative Space with Jennifer Logue

Shadae Lamar Smith on the Journey From Acting to Directing and Working With will.i.am

May 21, 2023 Jennifer Logue
Shadae Lamar Smith on the Journey From Acting to Directing and Working With will.i.am
Creative Space with Jennifer Logue
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Creative Space with Jennifer Logue
Shadae Lamar Smith on the Journey From Acting to Directing and Working With will.i.am
May 21, 2023
Jennifer Logue

On today’s episode of Creative Space, we have the absolute pleasure of chatting with Shadae Lamar Smith, an old friend of mine who is doing incredible work in film.

As Creative Director for the Grammy Award winning artist and entrepreneur, will.i.am, Shadae has directed a number of music videos and branded spots, including his music video for “FIYAH.” He also directed the short film “Miss Famous,” starring Kristen Wiig and Jimmy Kimmel, which screened at a number of festivals. Shadae’s upcoming feature film, Throw it Back is currently in development.

On the podcast, we talk about the importance of exploring things you’re passionate about, not letting ego get in the way of opportunity, and so much more.

For more on Shadae, visit: shadaelamarsmith.com.

To sign up for the weekly Creative Space newsletter, visit:
eepurl.com/h8SJ9b.

To become a patron of the Creative Space Podcast, visit:
https://bit.ly/3ECD2Kr.

SHOW NOTES:

0:00—Introduction

0:58—How we met

2:43—Shadae’s early life

5:13—Don’t let your training limit you

8:40—Transitioning from acting to directing

14:30—Shadae’s definition of creativity

18:24—How creativity comes into play as a director

23:34—A day in the life of Shadae

27:18—Staying motivated

32:13—From receptionist to creative director

34:32—The importance of lowering the ego

37:30—The director should be the strongest collaborator

39:08—Shadae’s favorite directors

41:44—Working with will.i.am

43:43—Working with Kristen Wiig and Jimmy Kimmel

46:30—Best practices for bringing a writer’s vision to life

48:16—’Throw it Back’

49:30—The future of the film industry

53:02—Advice for aspiring directors




Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

On today’s episode of Creative Space, we have the absolute pleasure of chatting with Shadae Lamar Smith, an old friend of mine who is doing incredible work in film.

As Creative Director for the Grammy Award winning artist and entrepreneur, will.i.am, Shadae has directed a number of music videos and branded spots, including his music video for “FIYAH.” He also directed the short film “Miss Famous,” starring Kristen Wiig and Jimmy Kimmel, which screened at a number of festivals. Shadae’s upcoming feature film, Throw it Back is currently in development.

On the podcast, we talk about the importance of exploring things you’re passionate about, not letting ego get in the way of opportunity, and so much more.

For more on Shadae, visit: shadaelamarsmith.com.

To sign up for the weekly Creative Space newsletter, visit:
eepurl.com/h8SJ9b.

To become a patron of the Creative Space Podcast, visit:
https://bit.ly/3ECD2Kr.

SHOW NOTES:

0:00—Introduction

0:58—How we met

2:43—Shadae’s early life

5:13—Don’t let your training limit you

8:40—Transitioning from acting to directing

14:30—Shadae’s definition of creativity

18:24—How creativity comes into play as a director

23:34—A day in the life of Shadae

27:18—Staying motivated

32:13—From receptionist to creative director

34:32—The importance of lowering the ego

37:30—The director should be the strongest collaborator

39:08—Shadae’s favorite directors

41:44—Working with will.i.am

43:43—Working with Kristen Wiig and Jimmy Kimmel

46:30—Best practices for bringing a writer’s vision to life

48:16—’Throw it Back’

49:30—The future of the film industry

53:02—Advice for aspiring directors




Jennifer Logue:

Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of creative space, a Podcast where we explore, learn and grow and creativity together. I'm your host Jennifer Logue and today we have the absolute pleasure of chatting with Shadi Lamar Smith, an old friend of mine who is doing incredible work in film. As Creative Director for the Grammy Award winning artist and entrepreneur will i am shall day has directed a number of music videos and branded spots, including his music video for fire. He also directed the short film Miss famous starring Kristen Wiig and Jimmy Kimmel, which screened at a number of festivals and shot days upcoming feature film, throw it back is currently in development. Welcome to Creative spatial day. Hey, how are you doing? Doing great. Oh, my gosh. So we were chatting a little bit before we started rolling, but we first met way back at Fordham Lincoln Center college days, huh? Yep. It was a really great time. Really great experience. I mean, it was New York City. It was, you know, just young millennials coming up and just, you know, just really trying to make it in the big city, you know? Yeah, we had so many fun times. Oh, my gosh. And like,

Shadae Lamar Smith:

it definitely provided a lot of inspiration for us, I think, as evolved completely, I think. I mean, I even I don't know about you, but I chose New York because I kind of wanted to be inspired. I wanted to really be around other artists, other working professionals who, who were working in entertainment, especially theater. I mean, I came from Miami originally. And we have a pretty big theater community. But I mean, nothing compares to New York, New York. There's so much art so much theater, so much dance, so much film happening, so much fashion happening to it, that I kind of want to really want to be a part of it from a very young age. Yeah, we were so lucky to have that as like a formative experience. Like what a college experience, right?

Jennifer Logue:

I remember just going over next door to catch like $10 seats at the Met opera.

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, like we even used to, we were always trying to get Russia gates down all the time to see like, you know, waiting in line drive, see, but you can see like, one of the shows that just opened up or like, you know, something big that was, you know, something big that was happening, so yeah, definitely really amazing stuff. Tons of shows to lots of great food to kitchen. Yeah,

Jennifer Logue:

we were spoiled. Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness. Um, but let's talk about you. Okay, you were studying theater at Fordham. And we're gonna go way back. Okay. To the beginning. Where are you from originally shot day?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Yeah. So I mean, as I said, I'm originally from Miami, Florida. So that's where I'm from, but my family's actually from Jamaica in the UK.

Jennifer Logue:

Oh, very cool. And what was your childhood like?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Oh, my childhood was pretty cool. Like, I think for me, in general, like, I grew up in a household where we study me where I was definitely, like, asked to read like a lot of really like big pieces of literature. And I was really kind of like, pushed on by my mom and my grandmother to like, read a lot of European literature, but also like, look at like a lot of like, African folklore and beginnings and things like that. I really take pride in like my culture, especially my family's culture, from Jamaica, and things like that. So I kind of really like approach school with like a really, I think, well rounded knowledge. And then I think at the same time, from that, from that point on, I was put in performing art schools from fifth grade on. So I was always studying theater for like, a very long time, from elementary school, through middle school, into high school. And then I began studying dance, in high school in in conjunction with my theater training, so that I could be a more well rounded performer and then an actor. Love, love,

Jennifer Logue:

love, love, love. So, back in the day, maybe it was an actor, but what did you want to be when you grew up? Um, yeah.

Shadae Lamar Smith:

So you know, like, when you're when you're little UK is like, you have like a bunch of things. I think at some point, it wants to be a doctor. At some point. After that I kind of wanted to be I wanted to be a physicist. I wanted to be a geneticist. I wanted to be I want to work mainly in science. But I think at some point, and I think I just kind of did acting because people said, hey, look, you know, you're super creative, or you're really good at this thing. So why not just just keep it going. So I was doing it and doing it and doing it. But from high school came around, I was like, I want to work in entertainment for real like I'm looking at like all the science stuff. I'm like, I'm good at science. But science is boring. I can see my lab all day long. So I kinda was like, Okay, I'm going to go ahead and I'm going to take theater and take entertainment very seriously. So I think from high school on I had decided I was going to be an actor.

Jennifer Logue:

Love it. And then you went to Fordham where we met and you studied theater performance. What was the biggest lesson you learned from your studies there?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

I would say my biggest lesson that I learned from my study at Fordham was I think always talking to a lot of my friends about this is is kind of like not to let like the training that you receive kind of limit you but actually, like continue to explore continue to grow, continue to expand, because what you see yourself as and what what has naturally always kind of been taught to you might not necessarily be all of who you are, and to just continue growing. I think at Fordham, we particularly study like, you know, like a particular set of techniques. And then I think I kind of went into the world and realized like, hey, look, those techniques weren't always going to be relevant to me as a performer, especially who I am, you know, and then so I was able to like, when I when I got out of Fordham, I began to explore more and found that hey, look, I'm more than just the actor. I'm more than just the Stanislavski techniques. I'm more than just checkoff, you know, there's so many other things I can do, and so many other things that could fit more closer to me than then what I was just taught at Fordham theater program.

Jennifer Logue:

Yes, you have so many gifts, and it's like, how do you combine all these things to fulfill that highest purpose?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Oh, completely. And I don't really necessarily, I mean, I love boredom as a school. But I think the Fordham theater program was particularly really dedicated towards being an actor of being a very particular kind of actor. And it wasn't necessarily, I would say, super, I don't think anything that I was in growing up with super well, geared towards developing me as a whole entire artist, you know, that's a very different thing. And I think I really wish more programs would just take more of an opportunity to say, hey, look, how can we develop you more as an artist, you know, because an actor is an artist, but so many actors nowadays branch out to so many other different things, besides just acting, but I think you go into the schools, and they just make you think, hey, acting is going to be it, you know, and

Jennifer Logue:

don't be, don't do anything else, because then you're gonna lose your focus. Exactly. I don't think that's true anymore.

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Not true anymore. Because if you're gonna lose your focus, you're gonna lose it either way. You know what I mean? Nothing's gonna stop you, you're going to move. So I think it's just important for you to explore those things that you're really passionate about and, and move forward. And I think I continue to do that after Fordham. And I mean, if I didn't do that, I wouldn't be where I am today. And I'm actually happy with what I do.

Jennifer Logue:

Yes. Oh, you shouldn't be because you're doing incredible work. shoddy? Oh, my gosh, it's so cool. When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

It was about two years out of boredom, I would say so. Funny thing is I was having a conversation with my grandmother the other day, because she brought up she was like, Oh, so you kind of left acting because you didn't like how things were going for you in acting? And I was like, No, that wasn't the case. Because I was only studying. I mean, I'd only been out in the industry for two years. That's not nearly enough time to say, Hey, I failed at this, or I wasn't doing good at it. You know, I think for me, I began to realize that I had more to say, you know, I was doing acting, I was going through these auditions and you're going to audition, it's always somebody telling you, this is who we have to be able to go into the audition as blank slates, you know, and you have to put these characters on and become those people. And a lot of times to be frankly, very honest, and I'm very honest nowadays about these things. In the entertainment world, especially when you're acting people tend to look at you and they want you for a very particular types. And there really aren't that many types available in entertainment or in in film or theater for that maybe, you know, for for for people, you know, and I feel like as a black man coming into coming into film and theater, the roles are very limited. To be honest. It was like I had auditioned for Raisin in the Sun at multiple regional theaters so many times. And I was like, there has to be more, you know, the film work that I was getting even was super small was really small under five role. I mean, under five lines, for parts that weren't really that interesting, you know, and as an actor, I really wanted to delve into like more character things are more complex, more developed. And so I was, I would sit home and my apartment or other friend's apartment and we'd have all these ideas, all these stories you'd come up with together. And I was like, I kind of want to tell my own stories. You know, and a lot of this particularly I've and I kind of think for them for this too, because for them through. The Fordham had the program called global outreach. We could go around the world and travel and we had an I had traveled to Ghana, literally a month after I graduated with Fordham global outreach. And when I went to Ghana, it was really amazing because I got to see another part of the world I was really open, my eyes got open to like, all these places where I could tell stories about and tell stories, too. And I was like, I want to be a storyteller. You know, I wanted to be a director, I was like, there's so many more things I could be doing, telling stories, instead of just being a part of somebody else's story and somebody else's version of me. So from then on out, I began to say, okay, cool, I'm gonna do this, how am I going to do it, and I researched and I was like, Cool, I can either go ahead, and I can intern at various different places and try to learn film that way and become a film director or film producer, or I can apply for college. And so I decided two years out of school to go ahead and apply for a master's program for film directing. I was blessed enough to have gotten into UCLA, some directing program, you know, Francis Ford, Coppola had gone there, and so many other directors. And I was like, This is great. And so I got in, and I spent four years at Ford, I mean, four years at UCLA after that, so

Jennifer Logue:

Oh, my gosh, amazing story. And that light bulb moment for you, would you say it was when you went to Ghana, when he saw that how much more there was to tell?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

I would say, yeah, if that light bulb definitely happened. I was actually I would say it was a spark, a spark happened. When I went to Ghana, the light bulb happened two years in, I was auditioning for a show at a particular Theatre Company. And I had, I had, I was also called to do another show at another Theatre Company. And I didn't necessarily like how I was being played between these two theatre companies, like one person wanted me for their show, but the other person also wanted me for there. So and they were kind of having like, back do conversations about what show I should be in. And I didn't like that. I feel like I had no agency as an actor, I feel like these people were choosing which show I should be instead of letting instead of just saying, hey, look, he is right for you know, instead of give me the best opportunity that was out there. And so at that point, I said, I ended up being in a show that I did not want to go to, you know, and then from that point on, I said, I can't do this, I don't want to be anybody else's pawn, I kind of want to do my own thing. I want to create opportunities for other people. I want to tell my own stories, I don't want to do other people's stories that I also felt like were outdated. I was doing it. Again, I was doing a story that had been told multiple times in multiple theaters. And I was like, I don't want to do this anymore. I want to do something else. So the spark really happened after that really big event, because that event really left me like torn and left me like in a very dark place. Because I was like, I can't live like this. I can't live in a place where people are moving me around as an actor, you know. And so that's kind of been that's been a light bulb turn. And then after that, I was like, you know, what, I was applying for school, I started applying for school. And at the same time, I also started I also started interning, and being a being a PA on unlike short film sets, I'll start doing that, because I really want to see like, do I really like this where I really like directing? Do I really like being on film sets, you know, like, not in front of the camera, but being behind the camera? Because it was scary. You know, you go to Fordham, and everybody tells you Oh, you know, like, nobody says how nobody talks about how great it is to be behind the camera. Everybody talks about how great it is to be in front of the camera, you know, like, it's like, they push you to be seen you get the most reward out of being seen. But I think things have changed nowadays. Like you can be seen behind the camera. Now everybody wants to get behind that big creator behind everything so so I would say yeah, things change. I experiment to try different things. I interned after school, you know, like, you know, people want to intern in school, but I'm interning after school. And then from there, I was like, I really liked this. And then the universe is kind of lined up. You know, God just said, okay, cool. Like the here's a school you like this, everything came together. So

Jennifer Logue:

everything came together. I love it. Oh my gosh. So this is creative space. And I love asking this question of everyone because everyone has a different perspective on it. But Shadi, how do you define creativity?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

How do I define creativity? Creativity, to me, is the force.

Unknown:

That

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Creativity to me is a force that God uses to communicate ideas and concepts from him through through to everybody else, you know, and I feel like we as humans, especially creative individuals aren't vessels for that, you know. And I think it's important for us to, like really just kind of close our eyes have a time and tap into creativity. So we're able to communicate what needs to be said, you know, especially, and I think people are most creative, whenever they're really tapping into that whenever they really have something to say. I think oftentimes, whenever I'm creating a film, and they're always like, people look you scripted, like, what are you trying to say? What do you want to say? What is their What do you have? What is your this need to communicate? You know, and I think there's something very defined about it. And so to me, that is creativity, I don't for me, creativity isn't just, I would say, you know, making pretty images because people can make pretty images. But creativity is something else, it's a little bit deeper than that. I think creativity is just a small, miniscule, like. It's just, to me, creativity is just a small, miniscule representation of what it took for God to create the universe. Yeah. When I create a film, it is just in a small way, an example or a small way, a representative of the amount of creative energy it take to create this entire thing that we are in, you know, so yeah,

Jennifer Logue:

it's like exercising that bit of God that's in us

Shadae Lamar Smith:

eggs, a completely completely completely, you know, I don't mean to get religious or super, but I feel very, I feel very spiritual when it comes to like creativity and things like that, like, especially when I'm creating films, I always look at the fact that I'm creating a world. Every time I create a film, I have to think about characters the world and how the world literally like sits and works together, you know, and if one particular part of this character or this world is off, the entire world is often a falls apart, even though and so I tried to make sure that every part of the world world works perfectly. So the story is told perfectly, and it reaches final result and tells and tells the idea, the overarching idea, that that that this world is meant to say and to communicate, you know, for the greater good of everybody. So,

Jennifer Logue:

because film is what connects us. I mean, look, we're in the golden age. Well, film and TV are the golden age of streaming. And it's just like, people are watching TV and film, you know, off of streaming services more than they're watching the news, probably. And it's like, it's a way for us to come together to it is

Shadae Lamar Smith:

a way for this coming. But it's always been like that. I think ever since the dawn of man, storytelling has always been a way for people to come together. Whether you are dealing with Agrio in West Africa, or you're dealing with the bard in Europe, like people come together to hear stories, you know, and it's something that's always brought together and film is just another evolution of that. Yeah.

Jennifer Logue:

Speaking on those universal truths, Mm hmm. Yeah, connect us. Exactly, rather than the things that divide

Shadae Lamar Smith:

us. Oh, yeah. Completely.

Jennifer Logue:

So I always say like, being an artist is a service to the world. It

Shadae Lamar Smith:

completely is, especially when you're tapped into that. And you understand that, hey, look, I have a service to do for the world, I have something that I have to say, I have something that I need to need people to know so that we can be able to move forward and and evolve as human beings.

Jennifer Logue:

Yes. Oh, so interesting. Um, how does creativity come into play in your work as a director, I mean, I know we just talked about you creating worlds and but high level, okay, somebody's a director,

Shadae Lamar Smith:

um, creativity as a director. It comes in, in so many ways, from the, from the way that I look at characters or actors movements on screen, to everything for, from how colors look on screen, to sound, to music, to performance to the basic structure of the story, it comes into play with all of that, and I'm forced to like really be creative in all of those different aspects of a filmmaking and directing, I actually believe that directing is one of the most expensive or filmmaking is one of the most expensive and, and creatively control consuming art forms that you can do. Because it requires you to think creatively in so many different ways, in terms of movement, in terms of color, in terms of sound in terms of acting and performance in, in, in all these different parts of your artistry that you know, other professionals don't do when you're artists. You're very visual. When you're dancer, you're based in your body. When you are doing music you're thinking about like sound and things like At that, but when you're directing, you think about all of that, you know, and at best directors to me have a complete and strong knowledge of multiple different art forms. So that they can be because of because you have to bring so many art forms together.

Jennifer Logue:

Yes. And what I love about your career so far is that you bring in so much of your past training into like, even before you studied filmmaking, like your experience, as a dancer, your experience as an actor into your directing. I just watched your Bose branded spot. I loved the movement. I'm like, Oh my gosh, like I can feel the heart of a dancer in this.

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Yeah. So good. We definitely had to think about movement a lot when it comes to that. And it's not just moving with the actors on screen, but moving up the camera, you know, What's everyone doing? How's the camera moving? How's the camera feel when it moves. And so you really, really have to think about movement a lot. And not just movement, which is camera or acting, but movement in editing, you know, how is the edit what is the pace of the Edit look like the edits, and I don't think people realize but editing, there's particular dancing that happens. When you're watching sequences in front of you, you know, the pacing of it, to me, that's all choreography, you know, whether it's going fast, or whether it's going slow. And also that pacing intrinsically, I think connects to viewers. And it the dance that happens in the pacing tells a story on a very subconscious level that carries people through through what they're viewing

Jennifer Logue:

so many levels. Oh my god, it's so interesting. We're gonna have to do a part two. Today, you gotta teach like, you know, filmmakers course or something because you have such a unique perspective on it.

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Well, I mean, I'm still learning a lot, even even as I do, like, I feel like we it was with Ernie, or any art form, the more you do it, the more you learn, but I think I mean, I just come with it from that perspective. And that's our approach all of my work. I see dance and all of it like, but I also see, you know, so many different art forms in it. And I think it's just important to that I just remember listening to you make music, you know, when we were back at Fordham. And also outside of just like dance, like I had to do a lot of music because I listened to a lot of musical theater before this. So like, musicality is also important because dance and music are the same thing. So he talked about adding, it's not just a dance with the pictures, but it's the musicality of the picture, you know, in the rhythm of the picture, you know, and how that communicates to people. So

Jennifer Logue:

rhythm is such an important part of language in general. Yes, yes. No. And I found that too, and just writing like even copywriting, like it's making a headline sing, or, you know, making the script saying, exactly, like, it's not just what you say, it's how it said that.

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Yes. You know,

Jennifer Logue:

it's so interesting how these things come together.

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Yes, completely.

Jennifer Logue:

I think it was Steve Jobs. He said things will make sense looking forward. But looking backward. They make sense. Yeah.

Unknown:

Yeah, it's like,

Jennifer Logue:

we follow the right path. So far,

Shadae Lamar Smith:

I definitely look thinking like, because sometimes I used to look, I used to be like, Why am I learning all these things? I'm not going to do that. Yeah. Or direct. Third, directing, I was like, oh, because I needed all of that to direct or to create film, you know, so completely.

Jennifer Logue:

Yes. It's follow your passions. You. It doesn't always make sense at the time, right? But if you have that spark, just go for it. Just go for it. Yep. In the end, you'll meet cool people, it will be fun. Definitely. So what's a typical day like for you, as a director? Is there such a thing?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

There are parts there are typical days, like director. So I mean, like, there are some days where I literally wake up, I walk my dog, I will write for an hour, and then or for two hours even. And then I will continue on with my day job. Because of the day job. I'm creative director for a brand. So I also work in advertising, too. So an advertise is all about storytelling. So So and then and then I plan my day working at that job as a creative director, or creative director for multiple jobs. And then that would be like one type of day. For me that's like my most basic day, I write I creative direct, and then I close a day out. Another day would be me. In pre production for, for, for I would say like either a feature or a commercial. So I'd wake up, I would immediately I start pre production, like I'd be doing all of my phone calls to different to my cinematographer or to my producers. I'm out here storyboarding or I'm out here looking through scripts and things like that. So that whole day is mainly consumed in the pre production process. And then there are those days that you're actually just that you're in production, you wake up, you go straight to set. And you are directing all day long, you come home and you go to sleep. And to me are like the three typical days of me as director.

Jennifer Logue:

Oh my gosh, that was so organized and so clear. I'm like, wow, I got a picture into a little slice of shadows like

Shadae Lamar Smith:

this. Yeah.

Jennifer Logue:

So you've done a number of music videos for Well, I am black eyed peas, like Rick and more. What is your process like when coming up with a concept for a music video?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Um, well, the first thing I like to do is listen to the music, of course, you hear the music and think about what images come to your head when you think about when I think about the music, and I can get those images. And I keep those images to myself. And I talk to the artists because artists, when it comes to music videos are a big part of the art critic part of it. So it's two artists in the room. And unless I'm directing my own feature, film, anything else I'm doing less client work is a collaborative process a more of a collaborative process in terms of activity. Usually, if I'm doing a feature, or doing something that I wrote, on the top of the food chain, everybody pays attention to the idea that comes out of my head, and they add to it to expand on it. When it comes to something like a music video. The artists and I are at the top of the food chain, we have to collaborate to come up with the ideas. And then everybody works to expand and bring that idea to life. So after I come up, after I have my thoughts, I talk to the artists, the artists will have their thoughts. And then we kind of work together to see like what we can create together to bring our ideas together, I would normally defer to their idea before mine, because I'm not really precious about the work, it's their music. It's theirs, you know, so I want to make sure that that they have what they're looking for that that best expresses who they are. And then we direct it. And we go and we and we execute and call it a day.

Jennifer Logue:

Oh my gosh, so much fun. I got to ask what is the greatest challenge you've faced in your career so far?

Unknown:

Hmm.

Shadae Lamar Smith:

I would say the greatest challenge that I've faced in my career so far. Motivation, I would say the ability to stay motivated through it all is sometimes very difficult. I think people I think a lot of things, there are a lot of really wonderful, beautiful things about working entertainment. I think like, there's a lot of really fun times, I think there are a lot of really a lot of a lot of times to celebrate great, great work, but there's a lot of also really dark times, you know, like moments where you really, you know, while you're waiting for a project to get off the ground, it's just not time, you know, where, where you're taking meetings over and over again. And it's same people meeting with you. And they're like, hey, they want to meet but nothing ever comes out of those meetings. And you just have to keep trusting and believing that okay, cool. It's not now but it's going to happen later. Because, you know, like, sometimes great things do happen. Like these bowls, commercials that work for Well, I am. Understand there are long periods like and there are projects that are literally boiling inside you that you want to get out. And you just don't see them or they're taking forever to, to come out. And those moments do not sometimes will never, I mean, like your high moments sometimes will never outweigh the moments of you waiting for your dream project to get off the ground. You know, I think and so when your dream project sometimes isn't a waiting, you know, keeps you in the waiting room, it's very easy to lose motivation. You know, it's very easy for you to say, you know, like, why am I still it's very easy for you to be like, why am I still doing this? It's very easy for you to lose motivation, you know, and then so you kind of have to have, you know, great people, great friends around you that can like continue to push you, you know, you really have to kind of like do things therapy have, like, a really good like grounding and like spirituality constantly, like forcing yourself to read and watch new things. Just keep you motivated. Because it's not about you necessarily like saying like, Oh, it's not about the fact that you don't want to do this anymore. It's about the fact that you start believing that you can't do it anymore. Yes, I'm telling you or things keep saying this, this is unsustainable. And so I think our motivation becomes they become very becomes one of the more difficult keeping that it becomes very difficult in the in in my career.

Jennifer Logue:

So I want to ask when you came out of UCLA, how did you go about starting to work in the field? Like, how did you get yourself off the ground? A few years,

Shadae Lamar Smith:

I'm very thankful that I actually went to that lived in New York before living in LA, because living in New York as an actor was very hard, very difficult. But it was a crash course in how difficult the entertainment industry was. So when I got out of UCLA, people, everybody expected me to go ahead and teach as a as a professor at a college somewhere or do something that was super. Everybody expected me to do something that was where I'd be making a ton of money really quickly. And I was like, No, I'm gonna go, I want something small, you know, I want a really small job is gonna allow me the time to write, you know, and really allow me time to to create work that I can sell or figure out. So people were looking to me super, super crazy about that. And then luckily, my friend came to me and was like, Well, I mean, I was like, doing some really tiny assistant editing gigs here and there. I was even studying to become a bartender. Pretty much everything I was doing when I was an actor right out of UCLA, you know, for a good year. And everybody people were looking at me like, Dude, you just got a master's degree spent all this money. Now you're gonna go bartender. I'm like, Yeah, but I had already known what it's like to work in entertainment. Like, guys, you guys haven't worked at entertainment for I've worked in this as an actor. I knew how difficult this is. Buckle up, because it's gonna be rough.

Jennifer Logue:

You're ready for because you have a vision? Yeah, because

Shadae Lamar Smith:

I had the vision. And I had already been through like, some really rough times in New York. So I And then luckily, like I had a friend who came to me was like, hey, well, I am looking for a receptionist. And I was like, Oh, okay. Let me see if I apply. I didn't really expect to get it because they'll be most receptions, to be honest, and it's like, not a sexist thing. But most receptions are women. So I was like, am I gonna get a receptionist? And you know, like, I'm a black dude coming in saying I want a receptionist your front desk, bringing people in. And And luckily, I got the job. I got the job. I was hired, you know, by a really great staff when I was Will i am's receptionist and

Jennifer Logue:

work a little bit. Is that how the relationship began? Yeah,

Shadae Lamar Smith:

I went, I was well, I ended receptionist. And about a year in he needed some video content made to you know, just to make a long story short, by the year end, he needed some video content made. And there was really like nobody in the audit. I mean, in the building that knew about directing and things like that. And will I am he had cameras, he had soundstage, he had all this equipment, you have like nobody that really worked for him full time that could do that. So um, I luckily had some spec work that I had made. And I was I had also made like a spec project with a friend of mine, Dylan, who's a cinematographer, and I made it and I made suspect work up using Will's headphones, which was his his buttons, headphones. Yeah, it's a set work and then wheels. Chef at the time. She really encouraged me to go and show it to well, she'd like show it to will. And I was like, okay, cool. Awesome. What do I really just wanted to keep it as a spec, and had really great friends, some great friends. I mean, like, they all kind of told me hey, look, prepare a budget, because, you know, he might like it, you know what I mean? He might want to make more work like that. I was like, Cool. So I showed will the spec projects I had made using his buttons, headphones. And um, he was really impressed. So he showed it to a lot of his marketing team and creative team and he was like, Hey, guys, like, shot at the front desk made this stuff. It looks really good. He has a degree in the in this thing. And, and will literally that day made I mean, I went from one one day, I was a receptionist. And like, literally the next week I became became his creative director.

Jennifer Logue:

Incredible shot a Oprah says, you know, luck is when opportunity meets preparation, right?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

And that's pretty much what happened at that moment. So I mean, beautiful moment, kind of like changed, you know, the course of like, my career, my career, you know what I'm really thankful to will do anything for 12 to my friends. I'm really thankful to delid I'm really thankful to Willow chef Pam at the time, like, it really changed a lot of things. Wow. Yes. Um, so, a lot of things. I'm sorry to say. But I think it's important for people to realize like a lot of it had to go head to came from just lowering your ego. You know, I think if I had a high ego, I would have said, I'm not going to be Williams receptionist. But I said, No, I'm going to be receptionist like this industry is all about you have to release the ego and then see like where the universe is going to take you. You know, so

Jennifer Logue:

I have to say I worked as a receptionist for a while and it's hot. me so much. I don't regret it at all you've been taught me how to be on all the time, even when people weren't friendly, or you know, to always be friendly and always be gracious. Yep. Like, I think it's also like working in the service industry. You know, it teaches you these invaluable, soft skills to Yes, but the ego thing, that's the biggest lesson is,

Shadae Lamar Smith:

it really keeps me well back a lot of this industry is their ego, you know, they think they're too big for this or think they shouldn't be doing this, or they want this. And it's like, look, everybody's talented around here. Yeah. So most talented, what makes you think that you're that you deserve this more than the next person? You know, just work hard, lower your ego and keep pushing forward? You know, and then I think good things should work out at some point, you know,

Jennifer Logue:

exactly, yeah. Because it just keeps the energy flowing. And the egos not getting away. Yes, you know. So what's something about being a director, the average person doesn't realize?

Unknown:

Hmm,

Shadae Lamar Smith:

what's something about being a director, the average person doesn't realize. I think and to kind of bring this back to what I was saying before being what somebody what people don't normally realize about being a director is that one, I believe that best directors have a strong knowledge of multiple art forms, and to being a great director requires being extremely detail oriented. Because you can't just come on set and be like, Oh, I kinda want this to happen. I'm cool, sorta kind of thinking like that. Know, when you approach it, every single little thing is planned out, you know? And yes, there are ways there are times where you give space for you to kind of learn new things. But even those spaces are planned out. You know, hey, look, I'm going to plant time for me to figure this out on set, you know, but detailed, detailed detail, I think, is key to being a great director. And a lot of people don't really realize that people think you just go on set, and an order people around and do whatever they think cameras appear out of thin air. They think actors appear out of thin air, they think money appears out of thin air. Things come out of nowhere. And it's like no, all this stuff is planned out all that stuff is sought after lay. And yeah, it's it's a lot of detail work and a lot of strong understanding of multiple art forms.

Jennifer Logue:

Yeah, because you're moving things at such a pace. And so many people are involved so much equipment, machinery is involved that it's also expensive.

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Yeah. So many different languages in terms of like creative languages. You know, when I'm when I'm talking to the sound person, I'm like, hey, you know, can you bring that sound? I mean, can you bring this down a little bit more? Or can I get more reverb on this particular track? Oh, look, the levels here were too high. Can you bring that level down over here? We're talking to the editor, you have to know how to talk editor talk, when you're talking to choreographers that come on set? Oh, no, can she do a couple more turns over here. And maybe instead of when she talks in that part, cuz you do like maybe a good bot mA here and then turn a run off stage, and you're like, great, cool. So it's like all these different little languages that you kind of have to know, in order to get in order to be I think, a strong director, I think we're still direct without knowing multiple, you know, different art forms. But I think the best directors, the ones that I value, know, they're very solid in talking to all because your job as director is not to merely create the piece, your job as a director is to be the strongest collaborator in the in the project. Your job is to bring all these people together in order to tell a particular story and to really execute a particular idea. And if you can't communicate, then you can't really be a good director.

Jennifer Logue:

That is a beautiful definition of what a director is. And on that note, who are your favorite directors?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Okay, my favorite directors. Um, I would say some of my favorite directors are Spike Lee Lee Daniels, Ridley Scott Stanley Kubrick.

Jennifer Logue:

Oh, nice mix.

Shadae Lamar Smith:

They're not my favorite mean. Like they don't have my favorite films though. But they are my favorite directors like I generally, I would say I've classified my favorite directors as if I like more than two of their films. They can gradually you know, like rise up into being my favorite directors. And those four people generally like a lot of their films,

Jennifer Logue:

and top three films. Okay, cool. So

Shadae Lamar Smith:

my top three films, they don't belong to my favorite directors, but they are black Orpheus set it off. Actually no precious does belong to my favorite directors. That's Daniel. So um, so I actually do like precious. Set it off like Orpheus precious. Yeah, that's top three.

Jennifer Logue:

It's three, you get to five if you want to get more.

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Okay. And then my fourth and fifth. I like Sidney Lumet is the Whiz I just watched that yesterday, two days ago. The Wiz and what else? 2001 A Space Odyssey. That's another debate from one of my favorite right? Yeah, so Stanley Kubrick. So five.

Jennifer Logue:

Okay, required watching every way, way,

Shadae Lamar Smith:

way, way. There's one more sick when I saw this at Canada became one of my favorite films, Uncle Boonmee. Who can recall his past lives.

Jennifer Logue:

Wait, repeat that again? Uncle Boonmee who can recall

Shadae Lamar Smith:

his past lives? Is this from this year? No. It's from 2010. It's by a Thai director. I forgot his name. Not i It's not I forgot his name. I just can't pronounce his name. But, but he did tropical mal lovey and Uncle Boonmee. And, and Uncle Boonmee is probably one of the it's a very beautiful film. It's a Thai film. And I think the imagery and the storyline really captured me. Because it did because it dealt so much with folklore from that particular part of the world. And it dealt with death in a very interesting way. It was very moving for me. So yeah.

Jennifer Logue:

Well, I'll drop a link to it in the show notes. So 100 down. So I got to ask going back to your collaborative relationship with Will i am? What's the collaborative relationship like, now that you've been working together?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Um, well, me. I haven't worked with Wilson's 2020. So we're not going to work together right now. But for the four years that I did work with him, it was a great, it was a really, really awesome. There were I mean, maybe a few times that we butt heads. But other than that, everything was pretty smooth. Like he had an idea. I executed that idea. And I added to it and helped to grow. Like normally everything would be very spur the moment because will is very fast. He has something on his head, he wants to get it done. So he'd say like, I remember the first time when I did the five video, he hit me up and he's like, shot and he's gonna go to London, we're shooting I'm shooting a music video because he went on the voice. He told me about it, I can make a video in I believe this all happened. He went to the I can make a music video by next week. And they're like, Okay, go ahead. We're gonna make a video and I'm like,

Unknown:

Oh, my God. Really.

Shadae Lamar Smith:

The next day, I was on a flight to London, I and he was like, who's master photography, like, Bring, bring whoever you normally bring me a deal are in the same room in London. And literally the next day, the tour bus comes by we're on the tour bus on our way to Manchester, everything's already set, because he wanted to shoot the video on the set of the London. So Coronation Street. So pretty much everything's planned already. And he kind of wants the video to be executed. So I just kind of I mean, the choreography here. He has dancers that he's already working with for this song. So I just had to pretty much make sure that the camera and the choreography and the set and everything worked together that it was lit the way we needed to be lit. worked out well. So

Jennifer Logue:

yeah, I'd love the movement though. The cameras and the dancers like everything just worked so perfectly in lockstep.

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Yeah, yeah, it was really dope. But it was very quick. We had to really be we had to really pull that one together. I mean, I always believe that if I have more time, I could do much more amazing things. But sometimes you have very little time you have to think very quickly. And also that that's where understanding multiple art forms where that comes in. Because sometimes you have to go like okay, boom, boom, boom and knock it out. But knowledge of those various art forms helps to execute things quicker.

Jennifer Logue:

Yes, I love that video. Thank you. Oh, my God. You also directed the short film this famous with Kristen Wiig and Jimmy Kimmel. What was it like working with them?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

It was great. I mean, funny thing was that when I was working with Kristen Wiig everybody would tell me hey, shout out she wants to improv you know, just let her do whatever on set and things like that. And so I assume that you know, is going to be like that was that that was me very difficult. I thought like, you know, like it was going to be super super. I'm actually going to be a big celebrity because I mean, like, you know, when that was she has a big salary, but I thought she was gonna come in with like this, this ego. You know, that's how kind of people made it seem and honestly, like, I had been asked, and I was like, Hey, guys, like, I'm a direct I'm Director Kristen Wiig, and I've never spoken to her. I can I can I talk to her and everybody was like, I don't No, I don't know. I don't know. It's very difficult because I granted I was like when I made misstatements, I was still in grad school. So I'm still considered student director. So um, but finally, like one of the producers snapped me her number and they're like, hey, look, here's Chris's number call her thing. She wants to talk to you. So then I call Chris. I was like, hey, Kristen, is this shot a, I'll be directing you to morrow. She's like, Finally, I've been waiting to talk to you. They told me that I could just like no, I'm just sitting home on my washing machine by my washing machine waiting for it to get fixed. I could have seen talk to you. So we've talked about whatever findings she came on set. And I was like, okay, cool. Improv, she was more like, you know, what do you want me to do? You know, I'm really interested in like, what so she actually came on, very prepared, like an actor willing to give her best performance when they really wanted to give her all and it wasn't just about improv, she came prepared, she came really, really sure about really developing this part in this role. So it was a blessing to really work with her, Jimmy Kim was a little bit different, he didn't really have that much time. So he came on set, deliver his lines, executed it when he needed to when he needed to execute it, and then he was gone. So um, I had no really big or bad issues with the two of them. And I can honestly say that Kristen Wade was a pleasure to work with.

Unknown:

Lovely.

Jennifer Logue:

And how do you work with writers when you're working? You know, when you're working as a director, and you have a writer you're working with? How's that? What's the best practices you think for that kind of relationship, like bringing a writers vision to life?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Um, that is interesting, because writers are a little funny. Because honestly, I think a lot of writers generally want their complete vision, like executed on screen. But sometimes the visions aren't, they are practical, they don't work, you know, either the budget doesn't work for it, a certain things don't work, and we have to change things around. And also my job as directors make sure that story is told some things may read well on paper, and they don't read well on screen. So sometimes, I think my, I think, sorted by time with writers can be a little bit tenuous, but um, in general, in general, in general, I would say that, um, work with writers is not difficult. As long as you guys communicate, again, it's about communicating, talking to writers language, you know, talking about, you know, just, I think, being very upfront about the fact that hey, look, this isn't working, or this is working really well. And also ask them, hey, look, what were you trying to accomplish with this particular part? So I know how to execute it with the characters. Just communication, I think for the most part, I think, normally, I'm, I end up directing stuff that I've written, but with, with Ms. Famous, I was directing something that the writer had written, which was adapted from another story. So somewhat there. It's just more about collaboration, and collaboration. And I think it's mainly about collaboration and communication,

Jennifer Logue:

just being good collaborators and being open to tell the best story. Yes, you can. And you also have your feature film debut with throw it back. What's the story about? Can we talk about that?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Oh, yeah, so throw it back is pretty much based on my high school experiences growing up in Miami. It's all based around the time that train and Trick Daddy shot and music video at my high school growing up. So I pretty much made this entire film about a rapper that goes to high school in Miami to shoot a music video and all hell breaks loose. So it's like a teen drama it filled with dance. I consider it more like a dance musical drama it or actually like, to me it's also considered like one gigantic music video. So yeah, I would say that's pretty much like the just to throw it back. Oh my gosh,

Jennifer Logue:

I feel like it's gonna have a lot of energy.

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Oh, yes. It's definitely a lot of energy. Very colorful, very. I think when we when we actually get it done to execute, it should be very fun. Very exciting. And I think it should really fully represent me my past and I think who I am as a director. Yes.

Jennifer Logue:

Your full self as an artist. Yeah,

Shadae Lamar Smith:

exactly.

Unknown:

I love it.

Jennifer Logue:

Where do you see the film industry going in the next 10 years?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Ooh, that's a loaded question. Um, I've had multiple theories on what the film or the film industry is going one thing I think that like a one had maybe like studios would break down. And we think you'll find like some sort of like strange util system where you just see a bunch of small studios that make projects since like big budget blockbusters really are difficult to get off nowadays, or even middle level films very difficult to get off nowadays. So I think you're seeing that I mean, like That could happen. Another thing is just an industry where the streamers really take control. You know, the streamers become the distributors, and then again that these futile studios begin to, like, just make content to, to head towards the head towards those streamers. But I see it. I see the film industry kind of going in, in that kind of place in terms of content. I don't know. I mean, hopefully I think right now, everybody's looking for fresh new content, but like music and like anything else happening in a digital age is very difficult to necessarily, say or force feed people a certain kind of content because people are gradually going towards what they feel. And it's very difficult nowadays to figure out what people are feeling. You know, so I think people I think the industry right now is pretty much relying on like, old films, remakes, sequels, but at some point, it had like that entire bubble has to burst because people are over it. Like, I think people are gradually just getting over like that thing. I think at some point, you're just gonna find a lot more smaller. I think you're gonna end up finding smaller films that are more nuanced.

Jennifer Logue:

Yes. Because there's so many stories that need to be told. Yep. You know, and we live in such a diverse world. Yep. So many perspectives that like, I think, yeah, I'm with you. I think we're going to start seeing that.

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Yeah, well, we do. I hope we do too. But right now, we're in a very funny place, I think, um, two industries that I think are really doing really well, I think, after working in music, I think music is in a very funny place in terms of how to make money. And that, that that film was kind of in that place, but film actually, I think has more of an infrastructure that's more conducive to making money. I think right now, it's just about getting streamers to pay the money that's required, so that filmmakers and everybody is able to everybody's able to kind of do what they want to do what they want to do and make the work that they want to make.

Jennifer Logue:

What is your greatest hope for the future of film,

Shadae Lamar Smith:

um, my greatest hope for the future of film is that we end up in a place where differing voices can be told and film can be bought and sold in multiple places, besides the traditional market that we have nowadays, I think nowadays, it feels like our markets very geared towards very geared towards the US and Europe, for the most part. And I really wish that our marketing was much more expensive, you know, in terms of just like being able to buy and sell like hardcore films more in South America and in Africa, particularly, and even in parts of Asia, so that we're all kind of like sharing in the entertainment and storytelling experience together. You know, I think now people are really opening up more to films with subtitles, as long as the story is good. Who knows? So, yeah, I'm really looking for something that's a lot more global, where people can really buy and sell stories from different cultures, different people's differing mindsets. And, you know,

Jennifer Logue:

yeah. Awesome. The appetites there?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Yes. I think the episodes there is just about getting the old industry execs to buy into it, and to not be afraid to take risk and lose money in in in getting it to that place.

Unknown:

Yes.

Jennifer Logue:

What advice do you have for directors just starting out?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

Study. I think the biggest advice I have for directors to study to train, it doesn't have to be in a school setting or university setting. But it's important for them to take classes is important for them to learn acting is important for them to learn about all these varying skills, it's important for them to just train, you know, to understand what it's like to being a director, because directing is a skill. You know, it's not just, it's not like other things where you can kind of guess your way through it, you know, like acting at all the acting to me requires skill. But you know, nowadays, people are here just guessing their way through acting and just kind of moving through and becoming big stars. But directing requires skill. And I think of the best and if you want to be a good director, you should get training so that you become a more skilled director.

Unknown:

Yes.

Jennifer Logue:

And all the forms that you're gonna be dealing with all the

Shadae Lamar Smith:

forms that you're dealing with upset taking classes and sound design taking classes in. And that's one of the things that we kind of got at UCLA we had that first year was a super big crash course in production. There were times I had to hold the boom mic, and there were times that I had to go into the sound mix studio where we're mixing our short films. There were times that they took me to see other sound mix sessions at other studios. I had great editing teachers who brought me in and watch and show me how they were editing bigger feature films. For studios, there were all these different things I had to kind of learn, I had to be a gaffer, I had to be a grip and carry, the C stands around, I had to be a cinematographer at multiple points, I had to be an editor editing actually became my site skill, in addition to directing freedom to me to make money. So I had to learn Photoshop, I had to learn after effects, there are all these skills I had to learn. And it only helped me to be able to communicate later and be a better director.

Jennifer Logue:

It's so important. What's next for you?

Shadae Lamar Smith:

What's next for me? I believe what's next for me is continuing to direct like, really getting a story that I've written off the ground. I think that is my next big goal is to kind of do that and to really develop myself in terms of that when it comes to when it comes to directing. And then also just kind of develop myself more as a creative director when it comes to advertising. So I kind of have like those two career trajectories right now. One is creative director when it comes to with advertising and brand work. And another one is directing, when it comes to storytelling, and feature films and sort of kind of in their beginning as my commercial in the middle. Somewhere in the middle of there is my commercial directing, you know, that's kind of a mix between what I do as a creative director for brands, and then what I do as a director for stories and like feature films and short films.

Jennifer Logue:

Very cool. Michel de it's been an absolute pleasure. As I said before, your journey is so inspiring. You are so inspiring. You're too late. For more on Shadi Lamar Smith, visit shot de Lamar smith.com And thank you so much for tuning in and growing in creativity with us. I'd love to know what you thought of today's episode. What you found most interesting what you find most helpful. You can reach out to me on social media at Jennifer Logue or leave a review for creative space on Apple podcasts so more people can discover it. I appreciate you so much for being here in the beginning stages of this. My name is Jennifer Logue and thanks for listening to this episode of creative space. Until next time,

Introduction
Introduction
Shadae’s early life
Don’t let your training limit you
Transitioning from acting to directing
Shadae’s definition of creativity
How creativity comes into play as a director
A day in the life of Shadae
Staying motivated
From receptionist to creative director
The importance of lowering the ego
The director should be the strongest collaborator
Shadae’s favorite directors
Working with will.i.am
Working with Kristen Wiig and Jimmy Kimmel
Best practices for bringing a writer’s vision to life
’Throw it Back’
The future of the film industry
Advice for aspiring directors