We had the good fortune of connecting with Alan Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alan, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
How I was raised has everything to do with why I’m a filmmaker and photographer. I’m from LaGrange, Georgia, a small town southwest of Atlanta. Being raised in a small town really gave me an outside-looking-in perspective of how to view the world. Filmmaking, photography, and hard work ethics have always been in my family. My grandfather was a professional filmmaker and photographer, and my father instilled in me a love for photography and film at a young age. When I was a kid, I would often look over to find my dad crouched down to photograph a flower, or moving around to photograph us playing at the lake. He was very patient with his photography. Both of my parents would always say “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.” So, naturally, growing up I was always snapping pics and creating films – but it was just as much about the process of creating it as it was the end result. In LaGrange, we had to find beauty in the day as we rode our bikes down quiet roads, watching the light gleam between the trees, or as we roamed the lake shore for hours. Through these experiences, I learned to appreciate the little things; the small imperfection in the flower as it bloomed, or the wind-swept hair in a portrait that shows a well-spent summer day at the lake. It’s these details that tell the story and bring out the beauty of any project; I’ve come to realize it’s also why my dad was so adamant about photographing them just right. That’s why I believe you can make any film or photograph engaging, regardless of the subject matter, if you put in the work and have the patience.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My business, Creative Cabin Studios, uses storytelling to create unique experiences that engage, enlighten, and entertain targeted audiences for businesses and nonprofits. We work with organizations to create narrative-based, short form documentaries that tell the personal stories behind their work. Most of our work takes a deeper, and often unvarnished, approach to expose the genuine stories that lie within. Although we specialize in cinematic storytelling, we also provide more traditional commercial-form videos for broadcast, as well as professional photo services. Like most businesses starting from scratch, building Creative Cabin into what it is today was a long and challenging road. When we first started out, I was literally walking from business to business handing out flyers and constantly cold-calling organizations. This was particularly hard for me because I’m somewhat introverted and like to keep to myself. But looking back, it taught me the intangibles that come with starting a business, and to not take anything personally. Don’t let “no” get to you. Just work your butt off for that one “yes.” If you believe in your craft, there is someone out there that will recognize you. Over time, we built a portfolio that allowed us to demonstrate to businesses and nonprofits our unique approach to storytelling and filmmaking. Ultimately, what I want the world to know about our brand is that we work to reflect the virtues of honesty and integrity through our filmmaking. We pause and listen – not for what we want to hear, but for what the story truly is. We strongly believe that flash and glimmer will never replace the value of a human connection.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Oh snap, where do I start?! Atlanta has so much to offer! I’d probably start by riding bikes down the belt line to show them how Atlanta is a collection of different, unique neighborhoods. Then I would show them some of the historical civil rights locations in Atlanta. After that we’d head over to Little 5 for some vintage shopping. I love live music, so we’d check out some shows at the Tabernacle and Variety Playhouse. For food and drinks, I’d take them to Carroll Street Cafe, Buteco, Lloyd’s, JCT Kitchen, and some classic spots like Fox Bros BBQ and The Majestic. I love the outdoors, so I’d also take them on the trails around the Chattahoochee and float the river. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My brother, Jonathan, is the main reason I chose filmmaking as a profession and took the risk of starting my own business, Creative Cabin Studios. Jonathan is an epidemiologist by trade and is also an award-winning filmmaker. He has always believed in and encouraged my filmmaking and photography, and being a brother, he would always give me his honest take (and still does). Several years ago, he invited me to help capture personal stories on tuberculosis and HIV patients in South Africa, Swaziland, and South America. These stories were deeply personal, and I came to realize that no matter how different the cultures were, the stories were bound by the same human connections such as family, hope and love. We saw our films screened in many different festivals and public health forums, and through this I witnessed firsthand the true power of storytelling through film. In terms of my business in Atlanta, I want to give a special shoutout to Rachel Reynolds at Atlanta Mission, a non-profit that strives to end homelessness in the city. When I returned from South Africa and was trying to get my business off the ground, she gave me the chance to tell the personal stories within Atlanta Mission. We’ve worked together for over 6 years now. I also want to give a shoutout to a fellow filmmaker, John Cassaras. We’ve produced many story-based films together, and he has always pushed me to be more creative with each new project. He has taught me to always think of new ways to visually tell stories, and he’s given me the confidence to continue my work as a filmmaker. For anyone in this industry, I think it’s so important to listen and learn from other filmmakers and photographers. Collaboration is a beautiful thing.
Facebook: Creative Cabin Studios
Other: Vimeo: www.vimeo.com/creativecabinstudios