We had the good fortune of connecting with Smiley Stevens and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Smiley, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
My superpower is trusting that I can and will figure it out. Each new project that I take on is its own creative puzzle — from directing campaigns to designing pitch decks for films to branding for start-ups — you have to trust that it will all come together in the end, even when you have no idea what the outcome will be. I am self-taught in all things creative and studied Environmental Science & Sustainability at NYU. Without a deeper background in any specific creative field, I soon found myself immersed in the design world and had to teach myself everything from Graphic Design, to the Adobe Suite, to Concept Development, to Filmmaking along the way. Currently, I’m working out the creative puzzle as a Production Designer on my first feature film – it will be coming out on Netflix later this year.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The thing I’m most proud of is my decision to leave my full time job as Executive Creative Director at RYOT Films in 2019 and go freelance after five years at the company (right before the pandemic!). While it was a scary move, it’s opened up so many amazing possibilities and opportunities, and taught me that betting on myself as a creative is the way to go. Since then, I’ve been able to focus on incredible projects with different brands – from working with the World Economic Forum to announce their initiative The Great Reset, to designing the free streaming app DOCUMENTARY+, to working with the amazing skincare brand OSEA – it’s been awesome getting to flex different creative muscles for each. These are all opportunities that I wouldn’t of been able to take on if I hadn’t taken the leap of faith and left my full time job.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Eat: Get the ceviche at La Isla Bonita Taco Truck on 4th and Rose in Venice. Drink: My friend Jeff has a Tequila Room, hidden behind a secret bookshelf, in his house. My favorite place to have a drink. Day Trip: Malibu Seafood – My dad and I used to play hooky from elementary school and get Fish and Chips here all the time. 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?
I’ve worked with Bryn Mooser and Hayley Pappas for six years straight – that’s 12,480 hours of working together! They’ve both championed me so much in different aspects of my career since we all met in 2015 at RYOT, the company Bryn founded. To this day, I still work with both of them and they’re my people. I am working with Hayley on the Netflix film and working with Bryn on the branding, creative and marketing for his new streaming channel DOCUMENTARY+.
Photo 1: Magdalena Wosinska Photo 2: Trevor Traynor Photo 3: Brianna Capozzi Photo 4: Charlotte Rutherford Photo 5: Smiley Stevens Photo 6: Smiley Stevens Photo 7: Brianna Capozzi Photo 8: Magdalena Wosinska