Brett Smith is the writer and director of his latest film “Freedom Path” and I was able to sit down with him and talk about his work on the project.
Richard: I’m here with writer and director of Freedom Path Brett Smith. I’ll just dive right into it. How did you get started in the business of filmmaking?
Brett: Great question. It’s not anything I ever consciously told myself I was going to do. I, you know, I kind of grew up, loved sports and just kind of messing around and having fun. I always had a camera with friends just kind of doing some you know, doing funny, goofy videos, and as we got kind of later into high school, I was wanting to do projects that were more serious and dramatic and my friends didn’t want to cry on camera. And so really quickly I realized, OK, I’ve got to start reaching out to real actors now and elevate things, and so I think I just have always had a love of storytelling. So that’s kind of I think where, where it came about for me.
Richard: OK, so you have this new movie called Freedom Pass out right now. Tell it. Tell us more about that movie.
Brett: ‘Freedom’s Path’ is a project I’ve been working on for about 13 years now. It’s been a very, very long road. Lot of energy, effort and sacrifice has gone into it. I have a real deep love for, I guess I’ll just say this. The story is about a Union soldier young man who wants to run off and go be a war hero. And he gets to war only to realize that he’s terrified of it. So in his first battle he deserts, he runs away and injures himself to appear dead. He injured himself significantly and he’s in need of help and that rescue comes by way of free African Americans looking to join up with the Union Army. They rescue him. They take him deep into the woods to the safety of their adoptive home. And it’s here that really the story becomes this relationship story about this soldier and this free man overcoming preconceived notions and and about each other, learning to become friends and brothers and ultimately family and so the story for me at an inspirational level was something that, you know, I have a deep love for history and I felt like this period, you have a country brand new predicated on liberty and freedom and yet it denies that freedom to a large subset of people and that there’s so much unexplored in that and what was interesting in my research is that I found that there were over 250,000 free African Americans living in the South, leading up to and during the Civil War, which is actually a larger number than lived in the North, and what was even more surprising, there’s never been a film that centers around free African Americans, especially those that lived in the South. So this is actually the first film that centers around free African African Americans living in the South, but really, I want everyone to know that this is a story that is about humanity. It’s about people learning to see each other’s unique individuals.
Richard: OK, so who are your inspirations?
Brett: Oh, my gosh. Good question. I like, I’ve got to say, I’ve got to say Spielberg. I love like as a kid, you know, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, like any of these classics, anything he does. I like Terrence Malick a lot. I like, Oh my gosh, Steve Mcqueen’s great. There’s so, there’s Christopher Nolan. I mean there’s so many just I’m. I’m just a fan of. I just love films. I’m not one of those filmmakers that’s dissects it. I just want to go into a movie and just get totally lost in it and love it. So I mean I like them all.
Richard: So where do you see yourself in like 5 to 10 years?
Brett: Hopefully not working on Project #2. Hopefully, hopefully the next project is a little bit quicker than this one. Five or ten years, what do I see myself? I mean I’d say, hopefully, working on a project hopefully being fulfilled. Hopefully, you know, happy and not stressed and and hopefully still optimistic and enjoying the process.
Richard: What advice do you give to future filmmakers?
Brett: Chase your dream with everything you have. Give it everything. I would say find. Find the project or the story that you can’t not tell. Find the story that you’d be willing to do. You know. Find that, find that story that you know. I guess that when you feel the urge, you know when you’re hungry, you have to eat, and when you’re thirsty you got to drink. Find the story that you have to tell to the point where it feels like that, and then go all in on it. And then I’d say the other one is, is anything in the arts is challenging and hard and you cannot do it yourself. Network with people. Reach out for help with people and above all have a support system. Lean on family or friends or loved ones or you know, people that support you and because you’re going to need them in the process of chasing your dream. And know that you can accomplish your dream, but it may take you much longer than you anticipate. You’re going to go through a lot more hardship than you initially anticipate, but every little step along the way, every little success. Celebrate those and you will succeed. You just, you just. It’s an endurance game. You’ve got to just believe. Believe in yourself and don’t give up.