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Communications grad Robert Smith finds success in Hollywood

“I learned early on that education is a very important part of one’s personal growth,” says Robert Smith. “But it’s what you do with your knowledge and talents that helps you succeed in life." Photo courtesy of Robert Smith

Today he’s a seven-time Emmy winner who’s well-known for his work on TV shows and commercials, but Robert Smith (BA ’85) didn’t always want a career in show business. He started at DU as a music major but changed his mind and decided to study film and video instead. He graduated with a degree in mass communications and a minor in art.

As a child, Smith admired his father, a weekend nature photographer who built his 9-year-old son his own darkroom. Smith started a photography program at his middle school, then discovered his love for cinematography in high school. “I realized as I got older that I didn’t care for the introverted process of still photography,” he says.

While at DU, Smith produced a documentary about the University’s theater department. He also wrote movie reviews for the Clarion. He met the Denver Broncos photography staff and landed a filming job with the team, where he captured John Elway’s first year as a Bronco.

“These were pre-video days,” Smith explains. “Frame by frame, coaches would analyze plays until the film broke or melted.”

From there, Smith interned with a motion picture and television rental house. A few years later he started his own business, Lightsmith Electrical and Grip Co. By the 1990s, Lightsmith had become Colorado’s second-largest lighting rental company, thanks to Smith’s advocacy for local film production. But Lightsmith doesn’t limit itself to local projects; the company supplies equipment to production companies all over the world.

Smith’s resumé is heavy on TV commercials — he has partnered with the Colorado Lottery, Denver Film Festival, cable channel Encore and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, to name a few. He even filmed a series of commercials for John Hickenlooper’s first mayoral campaign. Smith has seven Emmy Awards for his work on local and national television commercials.

Despite his expertise with commercials, Smith still has the movie bug. He served as director of photography on the 2007 independent feature Skills Like This, which was filmed in Denver and won the Audience Award at the South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. The movie follows a young man who decides to quit writing and start robbing banks. According to Smith, “It’s about a bunch of affable screwups.”

Smith moved to Los Angeles with his family in January 2000. He has worked on TV shows for Comedy Central and Animal Planet, as well as on commercials for American Crew hair products and K-Swiss shoes.

Although he spent years educating himself in video production, Smith sees his success as a result of his ambition.

“I learned early on that education is a very important part of one’s personal growth,” Smith says. “But it’s what you do with your knowledge and talents that helps you succeed in life. I still enjoy what I do for a living after 30 years.”


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