Genre provides field for impassioned storytelling
There’s “American Ninja Warrior.” “UFC Countdown.” “Sports Unfiltered with Dennis Miller.” It’s no surprise A. Smith & Co. has produced so many shows centered on sports, athletes or the desire of the ordinary person to compete with the pro athletes.
“I was always a sports guy,” says co-founder Arthur Smith, who grew up in Montreal. “But I think I always was interested in great stories, and sports is an area where it’s easy to tell great stories, so I definitely seeing us getting more involved in that area.”
Smith has a long history with sports programming. At the age of 22, he began producing at CBC Network Sports. Smith was named head of CBC Sports at 28 and served as executive vice president of programming, production and news for Fox Sports before starting up A. Smith & Co. with Kent Weed.
Weed is a DGA award-nominated director for “I Survived a Japanese Game Show” and has also helmed the sports-centric “Skating with Celebrities” and “Crash Course.”
Though Smith and Weed both love working on fast-paced shows with a sports theme, the pair are quick to point out that it’s still all about story, regardless of what they do.
“For me, something has to be relatable,” says Weed. “You want people to be able to put themselves in the situation they see on TV and relate to what’s happening, and that goes for any show we do.”
Smith has specific things in mind when he works on a show as well.
“It has to make me feel something,” says Smith. “Sometimes it makes me cry and sometimes it makes me angry, but I have to feel something and it has to make me want to watch more of it.”
The producer always aims to make the big moments – whether in sports or any kind of programming – take on as much meaning as possible. Smith likes to give viewers a backstory and a sense of who they’re watching so that the moment a ball is caught — or dropped — becomes even bigger.
“It’s not just about following the ball,” says Smith. “It’s more about, ‘How do I make you care about the guy who catches the ball and make you feel something when that happens during a game?’ And that’s the kind of television I was to see and make.”