A look at the people behind the scenes of A. Smith and Co.:
Frank Sinton, chief operating officer
Had he not caught the “bug for TV” while studying at the U. of Illinois, Frank Sinton likely would have become a lawyer. But that idea died when he learned “that being a lawyer wasn’t about being dramatic and saving people,” as police procedurals had him believe.
“I was more attracted to the story,” says Sinton. And he’s still attracted to a compelling story.
Today, Sinton is A. Smith & Co.’s chief operating officer. He has served as executive producer of a number of shows, including Emmy-nommed “Trading Spaces,” along with “Unsung,” his latest which profiles forgotten R&B singers from decades past.
When pressed, Sinton says “American Gangster” has been his favorite show to work on. The Ving Rhames-narrated BET documentary series profiles some of the nation’s most notorious gangsters.
” ‘American Gangster’ was really an incredibly rewarding series on so many levels,” Sinton recalls. “(It) was a lightning rod for the network.” The series was nominated for two NAACP Image awards.
Sinton also works on “Conspiracy Theories with Jesse Ventura,” in which the former governor takes a crack at unveiling major government cover-ups. “I can honestly say I wasn’t a conspiracy theorist going into it,” Sinton says. “I’m still not a conspiracy theorist, but there are some things that are blowing my mind.”
Sinton met Arthur Smith while the latter was starting up Fox Sports Net. The two maintained a strong connection, so when Smith moved on to reality programming, Sinton joined him and continues to tell good stories: “They always say that truth is stranger than fiction. Or at least more interesting.”
Christmas Rini, vice president, development
Development veep Christmas Rini says it was happy accident that made her jump from scripted entertainment to reality programming.
“I thought it was the end to civilization,” Rini says of her first impressions of reality TV. She started work at Siren Pictures, a division of Warner Brothers developing scripted television and films, but never saw her work go to air. “There was so much red tape (in scripted work) that things never got made.”
So she tried something new. “I kind of ended up in reality on accident, and fell in love with it. … I realized I could tell amazing stories in reality TV.”
Today, Rini is best known for helping develop “I Survived a Japanese Game Show” for ABC. The series took 10 Americans to the Far East to compete in a fictive gameshow, employing the absurd gameshow challenges Japan has become known for.
Two more shows Rini helped develop are currently being kicked around at another network: “Panic Attack,” which forces phobics to confront and ideally overcome their fears, and “I Married a Stranger,” which explores the possibilities of arranged marriages in modern society.
“Ultimately, this series is about one person who has decided they are ready to get married, and they have handed over the control to three loved ones,” Rini says. The idea stemmed from the statistic that arranged marriage has a divorce rate of only 4% compared to the more-than-50% for regular marriage in California. “I thought maybe there’s something to that.”
Matt Miller, vice president, development
A. Smith & Co.’s Matt Miller jumped on board the reality bandwagon before most.
“Out of the corner of my eye, I could see it,” he says of reality TV before it became the trend it is today. “It looked really interesting and different and visceral and exciting and immediate. Some of those things don’t exist in scripted.”
The vice president of production says he started early on in the biz writing sitcom specs with his wife. “We had some stuff produced. We had a ‘Drew Carey.’ We had a ‘Home Improvement.'” But the money wasn’t steady, so he moved onto reality producing. Miller recalls the shift “was a little bit tactical and a little bit pragmatic.”
“My first producing gig was on ‘Divorce Court,'” Miller says. “It was a great baptism by fire in the world of producing.”
Since starting at A. Smith & Co., Miller has worked on shows like “I Survived a Japanese Game Show” and in-development “I Married a Stranger.” He also works closely with “Hell’s Kitchen” as coordinating producer.
“I develop new ideas for the company working with the development team and take lots of pitches that come from the outside,” Miller says. And further along in the process, he adds, “I’ve actually worked on the production team once we’re in production.”