Tom Smeets Profile
Gidday Tom, how did you come to work in our industry?
I'd always had an interest in films but I didn't think that having a career in filmmaking was ever a viable option. So after high school I decided to study marine biology, although I took an elective in screen studies and it quickly became my favourite subject. I swiftly dropped out of marine biology... and then I enrolled in... nursing?! Which I completed, and spent four years working in hospitals in Adelaide and Melbourne.
Tom finishes off the day in style after a day of filming recipes in the Northern Territory.
All the while, I still held a strong desire to work in film. Alongside nursing I was playing in bands and involved in the music scene, so I became exposed to the process of making music videos. It solidified my interest in filmmaking and inspired me to return to school to study. I enrolled in the Swinburne (Melbourne) Film and TV course, and graduated with an advanced diploma. I won a directing award at school but was always most at home on the camera. I was also lucky enough to travel to India to make a documentary in Mumbai during this time. Once I graduated, I was fortunate to land a job straight away editing a cooking show for a small company in Melbourne. This led to camera work where I shot two 90-episode series of a cooking show for Network Ten, and travelled to the US, Fiji, Thailand and Indonesia shooting a travel show. I was also shooting music videos 'for fun' - highlights included Gang of Youths, Brendan Maclean and Odette.
Tom at the monitor on a music video setup for Okenyo
What has been your most interesting or challenging project so far?
Camera op'ing on the cooking show for two seasons was a tremendously enjoyable slog and one that ingrained a lot of my skills. I was the sole operator on the show and managed two cameras (a Sony F55 and Sony FS7) whilst also managing the lighting and audio for the two (sometimes three!) hosts. We would shoot 8am - 4pm, Monday - Friday, for a few months, filming something like 250 recipes in that time.
Similarly, traveling overseas with the lifestyle program was also a challenging but super rewarding experience. Our crew was very small and consisted of a producer, a host and myself. I remember filming at the most popular pad thai restaurant in Bangkok, Thipsamai - it was close to 40', incredibly humid and busy. We'd finished our pieces to camera so the host and producer were trying out some of the food while I was off getting some b roll. My hand slipped while adjusting the tripod and I crushed my finger in one of the legs. It was so painful and with the combination of the heat, smells and sound I thought I was going to faint, so I laid myself down on the ground. The producer came over to find me under the tripod and thought I was trying to get a quick nap in before our location move! Not long after my fingernail fell off, so that showed them.
Tom where do you think your future lies?
I moved back to Adelaide from Melbourne in 2017 and am currently working at Floodlight Media as a camera operator and editor. This role takes me all over Australia, often working on renewable energy projects.
I'm really interested in expanding my skills in drama, and last year was lucky enough to shoot my first two short films as cinematographer for Tamara Hardman (They Sleep Inside Your Head) and Morgan Wright (Full Stop). So in a dream world, I'd be working on feature films or narrative TV.
Tom filming Full Stop with 1st AC James Wire
Definitely during the short film work I did last year - they were new experiences for me in which I learnt a lot. I was really welcomed into the Adelaide filmmaking community, which I hadn't previously been a part of as I had studied in Melbourne, and it was great to build connections with so many people who were really passionate and experienced (compared to me!) I was proud to be a part of a community that was so supportive, knowledgeable and friendly.
What is your favourite film?
I can't narrow it down to just one but there are three films that have always stuck with me: Beau Travail (1999), Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) and Night of the Hunter (1955). The experiences of seeing these films for the first time were so powerful for me, I haven't gone back to watch them again. The best film I've seen recently is Parasite (2019).
Has anyone had an influence on your career?
Sherwin Akbarzadeh was a tutor at my school and gave me a lot of early extra-curricular opportunities, which I was very grateful for. We worked on an early Troye Sivan music video, spots for Nike and even a feature film. Sherwin's work is so strong and it was great to be around someone working at that level - nothing beats learning from experience.
What's something people don't know about you?
I'm colour-blind - which can make grading tricky sometimes, and is something I'm a bit self-conscious about. I also played Big Day Out and Laneway Festival as a drummer with my bands.
I've got projects with both Tamara Hardman and Morgan Wright in the works, and I'm looking forward to shooting more high-end commercial work for Floodlight in the future.
Tom shooting a TVC for Floodlight Media on TrackShots tracking trailer.
Thanks Tom, great you made the move back to SA and congratulations on recently being a 'finalist in the Craft in Film Cinematography (Campaign) category' at the AADC awards.