We had the good fortune of connecting with Smith Glover and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Smith, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
That’s a very subjective question. If your goal is to be the next Spielberg or Jenkins or McQueen, and it’s Walk of Fame and Oscar or bust, then I think you’ll know pretty early on if you should keep going or not. But the entertainment world is a big one, and I think the answer to this question comes down to expectations.
After college, I knew I wanted to tell stories – I’ve always wanted to do that, even if I wasn’t the kid making short films in his backyard with his friends. It’s what I love doing – watching a play or movie or TV show or reading a book and analyzing how the story is being told, then getting inspired to come up with something of my own.
But in my post college years, I didn’t know exactly how to get a chance to tell them. How does one “break in”? What’s the best path to pursue? I worked for a while making smaller commercials, both for web and cable, and there were a lot of times I wondered whether being in the creative field (or, more accurately, creative field adjacent) was worthwhile or not.
Then a friend gave me a chance to work on a documentary TV series for a couple weeks, and those weeks turned into about 6 months, and I’ve been working in that world ever since. It turns out that all the smaller projects I had been working on helped prepare me for this opportunity – all those commercials taught me how to interview people and to take those interviews and build a story out of them. Which happen to be the building blocks of doc TV work.
Was that the plan at the time, to build up my storytelling skills so that when I got my break I could take advantage of it? Not at all. But I wish it had been because it’s a pretty good one. There are a ton of different spaces in this industry where you can learn your craft and hone your skills until you can find the right opportunity for you to get you where you want to go. I think as long as you’re doing what you love, even if you aren’t maybe doing it at the level you want, then it’s worth it to keep going. You may get to the highest level, you may not. But you’re still doing something you care about.
Now I’m developing my own content, both scripted and unscripted. So maybe I’ll have a different answer in a couple years.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ve been fortunate to work on some great shows so far in my career for platforms like Amazon, Showtime, CNN, ABC, and Hulu. It’s hard to single any out, but I think the two I’ve felt the most passionate about were Season 2 of United Shades of America for CNN (which won the Emmy that year for Unstructured Reality Program) and Active Shooter for Showtime (an Emmy nominated doc series exploring how various active shooter incidents have affected victims, first responders, and family members of those lost). I feel that both of those shows hit the sweet spot of being entertaining, but also adding to the public discourse on important social and political topics.
Ultimately, I’m always most excited for what’s next. That’s the great part of working in this industry – you’re always hopping on something new, with a different set of challenges and people to collaborate with.
However, being freelance also has its challenges. You never quite know where your next job is coming from. And maybe most problematic is that you don’t have a structured path for moving up: generally speaking, you’re not working for one company that knows you and will promote you, instead getting jobs at different places under different showrunners. Even when you get to a very high level, like some of the people I work for, you are never guaranteed that next gig.
This is a business built on relationships, and being someone others can work with is one of the most important assets you can have. I’ve made the mistake a few times of not really seeing when people were trying to help me, and not building potentially key relationships as a result. Talent matters, of course, and working hard, but building relationships is essential.
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?
I come from a family that will talk about how excited they are for dinner while eating lunch. So I’d start with thinking about places to eat, then work out from there. And since we live in Venice, a lot of my recommendations are from the West Side of town.
Places to eat:
Barrique: Excellent Italian food, terrific wine, service and location.
Teddy’s Red Tacos: Do you like well cooked Birria meat? Tasty cheese? All on a fried corn tortilla with a delicious and scorching hot sauce? This is your place.
Sinners and Saints: Best treats around.
Rice Balls of Fire: Food truck that serves fantastic rice balls.
India Jones: Downtown LA, excellent butter chicken.
Places to have a drink:
Top of Erwin Hotel in Venice: Wonderful views of the ocean.
The Edison: An old converted Edison power plant that’s now – it’s hard to describe. Great place to feel like you’re in a mystical version of the 1920’s.
Baja Cantina: By the canals in Venice. Wonderful spot to have a drink, eat some nice Mexican food, and hang out all night with friends.
Sights to see:
Drive up the PCH to Malibu. That’s it – just drive and stop wherever you see an incredible view, which is just about everywhere.
The Getty Villa.
The Malibu Winery.
The Arts District, Downtown LA.
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?
Too many people to count. I got the love of story from my parents, who both care deeply about the arts – my mom more so with paintings, sculpture, etc, and my dad with reading and movies. My dad was very analytically minded, and I think I got my love of creating/pulling apart stories from him. And I get a ton of support from my fiance, Laura.
As for my professional career, there are many. But three stand out the most. Norm Anderson, an excellent storyteller and even better person, gave me my first shot at being in reality/doc TV and showed me the ropes with intelligence and compassion. Tammy Wood was the EP of that first show and others that I have since worked on. She’s incredible at what she does and taught me a ton about the basics of storytelling for TV (and in general) and how to manage being in the business. And Star Price, another incredible EP, has helped me hone those skills and really taught me how to run a show, balancing the thousands of small details and personalities that come with it.