We had the good fortune of connecting with Chan C. Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Chan C., how do you think about risk?
Taking risks has been a huge part of my career. Since the very beginning of my career, I started as a freelance videographer doing videos for friends. I was working a food service job at that time, and it got to the point where I had to leave. Unfortunately, I didn’t have another job lined up afterwards so I put all of my faith towards my business.

It was not easy. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in establishing the parameters of my business. But the more I started working with other people and producing different types of content, I determined what were the best practices not only for myself but also for my clients. I researched video production contracts, websites and everything else I needed to make sure I was doing business properly.

Eventually that led me to being a Content Producer for the iconic EBONY and JET Magazines. There, I was able to gain corporate level experience, work with high profile individuals, and push the limits of my creativity. I also wrote, directed and produced my first short film while I was working here.

After leaving EBONY and JET in 2017, I took another risk and put all of my energy back into my business. At that time, I had more credibility as a journalist and content producer, but I wanted to learn as much as I could about directing and cinematography. This is the point where things really started to shift because my vision was sharper than ever before.

From there, I’ve been able to work on productions in different cities across the country, I’ve worked with the Biden/Harris campaign, Nike Chicago, American Crime Story: Impeachment and so many others. Currently, I’m a represented director with Tessa Films, a commercial production company based in Chicago and Los Angeles.

I recently took another leap of faith and moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in April of 2022. I made the move because I wanted to explore more of the film industry and be surrounded by fellow artists and storytellers. This has been one of the most eye-opening, challenging, and healing journeys I’ve ever been on and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m looking forward to all of the unlimited possibilities that LA can offer, I’m super excited for this chapter in my life!

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a filmmaker and photographer from Chicago, IL. Being from the South Side of Chicago and growing up in a low income, single-parent household, my perspective in life was very limited. I was always curious about other people’s stories and their perspective because mine was very sheltered. I spent a lot of time by myself as a kid and often times, movies were my only way to really experience the world outside of my mother’s apartment and school.

I’ve always been involved in Art in one way or another, from illustrations, to music, to storytelling and writing. When I got older, I decided to study filmmaking in college and it helped me understand why I was drawn to certain movies, whether it was the cinematography, the writing, the music score, etc. Being able to study other filmmakers has also helped shape who I am today.

Currently, my art is comprised of authentic human experiences and perspectives. Very much like Gordon Parks, I like to capture people in their natural environments and in candid moments. My documentary work is focused on tapping into my subject’s raw emotions and making sure their stories are heard and brought to the forefront. In college, I also studied journalism which helped me to tell real stories and really understand people in a unique but intimate way.

This journey was not easy. I’ve had several moments where I’ve wanted to give up and just get a regular job. But honestly, I don’t think I would be able to do anything else if Art was not involved. Art speaks to me in a very spiritual way. It always seems to draw me back in no matter what point of my career I’m in.

Any time I’ve experienced a low point, I always took it upon myself to learn something new. Whatever lesson I felt was necessary at the time, I kept my head down and studied until I was ready to execute on what I just learned. About 5 or 6 years ago, I told myself I wanted to be a director and a cinematographer. So I studied as much as I could, and opportunities came pouring in, specifically for those roles.

Along the way, I’ve learned that half the battle is just showing up. You can’t be afraid of something or count yourself out if you don’t even put in the effort to try. A lot of people get discouraged but I’ve always been the type to take the risk or the opportunity and see where it leads. I’ve always thought that if I could just physically get there, I’d know what to do or figure out what to do while I’m there. It’s either going to be a blessing or a lesson, but you’ll never know unless you put yourself out there and give it a shot.

I would consider myself more of an artist than a brand. Although I spent a lot of time building a brand early on in my career, I realized that there was too much pressure to be “on” all the time. I feel like being a brand requires a lot of consistency, and sometimes I need to reset and recoup from things that happen in life or in my career. Being an artist requires that you take the necessary time to create the art you want to create. There’s no limitations, there’s no deadlines, there’s no pressure. You can say “no” when you need to. My goal has always been, and will continue to be, to create and deliver authentic and impactful work. Work that changes lives; work that inspires and empowers.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m still getting acquainted with LA lol, but some of my favorite spots to go are Laurel Hardware in WeHo, anywhere in Malibu, Venice Beach.. Granville is one of my favorite places to eat, Castaway, and if you’re looking for some soul food, Annie’s Soul Delicious. Leimert Park, Baldwin Hills, and Mulholland Drive Overlook are some of my favorite places to visit or hangout. OutletLA has great parties, and Everyday People LA is a good time.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There’s so many people that have played a part in my life and my career. Just to name a few:

Dr. Gaylena White, she has been my pastor, my mentor, a mother figure; She created her own church called Cutting Edge Global and she is heavily involved in tech, music, and social justice.

Kyra Kyles, the former Editor-In-Chief at EBONY and JET Magazines; She is now the EIC at YR.Media based in Oakland, CA. She is an incredible mentor in media and entertainment and she really helped shape how I operate as a creative.

Lisa Masseur, she is the Executive Producer at Tessa Films and has be instrumental in leading me in the commercial film world and establishing me as a versatile director for narrative and documentary work.

Website: www.chancsmith.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/chancsmith_

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chancsmith/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/chancsmith_

Facebook: www.facebook.com/chancsmith

Other: Vimeo.com/KiliadFilms Vimeo.com/chancsmith1

Image Credits
Headshot – Dajuan Smith In order of upload: 1. Terrence Porter 2. Bridget Johnson 3. C’airra Cortez 4. Mahdi Gransberry 5. Ericka Looper 6. Ashley Mills 7. LaToya Cross 8. Airri Cole 9. Shauniece Armstead 10. Isavel Gonzalez

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