Austin Smithard is a shark; (or at least attributes his career to falling in love with filmmaking after seeing JAWS) he’s constantly on the move…although he does admit to indulging in an occasional nap. Discovered at 18 when one of his short films landed on the desk of Steven Spielberg, director, cinematographer, and editor Austin cut his teeth working on films such as JURASSIC PARK and HOOK. Raised on the Isle of Wight, off the southern coast of England, Austin (better known to friends and colleagues as Chief) has directed documentaries covering natural history, medicine, science, and the military as well as commercials for clients such as AFI, American Airlines, Asics, Verizon, Coca Cola, and Audi. Creative to the core, Austin is a one-stop shop: writer, director, and visionary whose ultimate set environment is the sound of laughter.
He’s also our in-house medical liason. If someone goes into labor on set, no problem. In addition to being a commercial pilot, Austin trained at UCLA Geffen School of Medicine in the emergency medical field which led to his joining the fire department in Los Angeles where he works every week on a Paramedic Ambulance. If he weren’t a director, he’d be flying a Search and Rescue helicopter.
Favorite lens: “I only use one lens usually anyway…50mm, 1.8 .”
Few commercial directors can lay claim to 23+ million hits on YouTube for a single spot. Gus Black is one of them. Utilizing his exceptional spectrum of skills including art direction, editing, photography, and music videos, Gus delivers a visual harmony that is seemingly perfect from every angle. Gus began his career as a musician and songwriter before changing his focus to commercial art direction. His time as an art director afforded him the opportunity to watch and learn from other great directors on set and he took those experiences and used them to sculpt his own career as a director. Soulful and unconventional, Gus tells radiant, emotional visual stories that hit on-brand and resonate with his audience. A work junkie, devoted dad, loyal friend, and truly a free spirit, Gus is always out capturing new work and up for the next adventure.
Favorite lens: “Oh fuck. I can’t choose just one.”
Paul Riccio wears size 32 pants and readily admits that he frequented the husky boys department until age 12. Endlessly on
the move ever since, this creative genius got rolling at an early age, breaking into the biz by making shorts with Sally Jessy
Raphael (yes, of the large red glasses) and Steve Guttenberg. Paul has a mind that constantly moves forward, onward, and
outward. He is a highly productive docu and comedy specialist with a knack for improv and bringing out the best in his actors.
He blew away the comedy world with his short doc, The Timmy Brothers – Water Makers, which is currently studied in a
business class at the University of Michigan and became the basis of a Harvard student’s MBA thesis. That’s right, this Boston
University alum has graduated to the Ivy League. When he’s not running the show as a director, he can usually be found binge
watching movies in a huge theater by himself or enjoying a stroll on the streets of hometown NYC at 2am.
Professional to the core, Paul is a collaborative spirit whose joy for the business and artful, hysterical eye keep agencies and
audiences asking for more.
Favorite lens: “Well, don’t they travel as a set in that nice little Pelican case?”
Chris Woods is a machine. He often cycles 30 miles a day before most of us hit the snooze button. He embodies that same determination and discipline as a director/DP whether he’s shooting the iconic landscape running scenes for Forrest Gump, intimate documentary stories, or bringing a product to life. Patient and calm, he’s also a natural with kids. Chris has an innately keen visual eye and freely admits that he operates pretty much solely with the right side of his brain. Outside directing, his other passion is airplanes. Old, new, fast, slow, even sailplanes with no engine, he loves and can fly them all (which does require a little left brain activity). His focus, attention to detail, and multi-tasking skills make him an epic visual storyteller both behind the camera and at a dinner party. If he weren’t such a dynamic filmmaker, he’d be a drummer touring the world…with David Gilmour.
Favorite lens: He won’t commit and sleeps with them all.
Todd Heyman is cool under pressure. Like a fighter in the ring, the crazier and more intense things get on set, the calmer and more focused he becomes. No coincidence that he used to teach boxing classes. A passionate and voracious storyteller, Todd finds a deep connection with the storyboard that makes him fall in love. He pours that passion into every project and it shows. A former actor and walking movie encyclopedia, Todd gets energized by a set environment where a small army of people collaborate to make a vision come alive. He is a believer in the enormous power of the moving image’s ability to reflect who we are and who we want to be. If he weren’t a director he’d be designer or an architect, which isn’t surprising as he has a gift for building beautiful, truthful images through the lens. He finds genetics fascinating and shares the exact same weird pattern in his green/hazel eyes with his dad. A low maintenance guy, Todd loves the spirit of a road trip with no plan in a beat up vintage car with the top down.
Favorite lens: “I have a love affair with wide angles lenses (18 or 21mm Zeiss) because you get scale but an unsettling intimacy in a close up.”