We had the good fortune of connecting with Danial J. Smith & Kendra T. Ruczak and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Danial J. Smith, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
We both absolutely love filmmaking and creative storytelling, and we have always known we wanted to build careers in the film industry. When Danial survived a life-threatening injury in 2015, it was a wake-up call to pursue our goals with more passion than ever before. We had the realization that we could combine our skills to form a company that handles all aspects of film production from first concept to final delivery. Starting our own business has given us the opportunity to build a passionate team of collaborators who bring their unique strengths and interests to each project. We love pushing ourselves creatively and we learn so much from each new challenge we take on.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Starting our own business has taught us so many lessons about being resourceful. We’ve learned to take the reins and make things happen on our own. We’re always learning how to apply our unique skills and experiences to new challenges that seemed impossible at first. All of our past ventures, from photographing weddings to building puppets, have helped us become better filmmakers and business owners. Both of us have learned how to take our unique skills and combine them to tackle new artistic challenges that we wouldn’t have been able to handle on our own. We’ve learned how to team up to pursue a creative career where all of our skills can be useful.
One of the most valuable lessons we’ve learned is that it never hurts to ask. We’ve learned so much and made so many things possible by simply asking. The worst thing you can get is a “no”. If we don’t know how to do something, we ask someone who might know. Even if it’s not the answer we were expecting, it’s always useful and teaches us something for the future.
When it comes to art, we’ve learned to not shy away from a challenge. Instead, we focus on finding creative solutions. One of our most challenging projects was a music video that recreated iconic scenes from the film ‘Blade Runner’ with a very limited budget. We had to take on a lot of new and exciting artistic challenges for the project, such as building a miniature futuristic city from scratch. We came up with a plan, asked creative people for help, and used all our resources to bring the project to life. It was a very daunting challenge for two people to take on, but we made something we are proud of and learned so many new skills along the way. We’re very excited to take everything we’ve learned from working on smaller projects and apply it to larger projects with more resources and larger teams of collaborators.
Another important lesson we’ve learned is that no matter how hard you’re knocked down, you can find a way to bounce back even stronger. Ultimately, it took a very negative event to shock us into finally pursuing what we truly wanted to do. We took one of the most difficult, life-altering experiences in our lives and made the decision to turn it into something positive and motivating. We’re still nowhere near achieving all of our goals, but we’re focused on moving forward every day. Every challenge brings us closer to where we truly want to be in life.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If we had friends visiting the area, we would take them on a tour of the filming locations from their favorite LA-shot films or shows. Our neighborhood in the Valley is packed with locations from shows we love like ‘The Office’ and ‘Parks & Rec’. We’ve lived here for years and are still discovering more of them!
Pepperoni pie from Prime Pizza in Burbank and sushi from The Little Izaka-ya in Sherman Oaks would definitely be on the menu. Macleod’s in Van Nuys would be next on the list for local brews and a round of darts.
The Huntington Gardens in Pasadena is a beautiful place to spend the day. The Wat Thai Temple in North Hollywood hosts an amazing array of food stalls on the weekend. The Iliad Bookshop, also in North Hollywood, is the perfect place to browse rare books and spend time with the adorable shop cats, Zeus and Apollo. If you’re lucky, they’ll climb up on your shoulders for a catnap! The New Bev theater is an awesome place to watch 35mm prints of classic films from Quentin Tarantino’s personal collection.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
We would like to dedicate our shoutout to our amazing family and friends. Their love and support mean the world to us and inspire us to keep learning, creating, and telling stories! We’re also so incredibly grateful to have had teachers who encouraged unique, outside-the-box thinking and showed us that it was possible to turn our weird little ideas into a creatively fulfilling future.
Danial J. Smith, Kendra T. Ruczak, Aaron Kremen