Exclusive Interview with Director Ya’Ke Smith

14 10 2010

Design by James Logan Gibke

San Antonio’s finest Ya’Ke Smith is a rare filmmaker that everything he touches seems to become an award-winning film.  He is a risk-taking fearless director that is just waiting to burst open your hearts and minds with his films.

Photo by Mario Melendrez

When Ya’Ke and I were emailing back and forth figuring out the best time to meet up for the interview you are bout to hear, he decided on a place he’d never been.  Ya’Ke’s response was simple, ‘it can’t hurt to try something new’.  That fearless demeanor has been instilled into Ya’Ke from a young age.

Ya’Ke’s film-making was all done with out the presence of his father and its that lack of a parent that is showcased in his films.

As you can hear Ya’Ke puts himself, his past, his family and his thoughts all into his films.  There power, like in his most recent short KATRINA’S SON, is based on struggle that the characters have to overcome.  Its just the same as Ya’Ke having to struggle to overcome the obstacles of trying to establish himself as a director.  That inner battle is attributed, not only to a wonderful mother, but also his belief system.

Ya’Ke explains just what a good caring parent can give that child.

That never say never attitude pushed Ya’Ke from the hoods of San Antonio to the University of Texas at Austin and the film world.  However, he’d have one stop over before making it to the Capitol.  The University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio was Ya’Ke first real introduction into the film-making process.

And now we breakout the burnt orange and discuss the weird world of film at UT.  Ya’Ke explains the structure of the UT Film program.

Photo by Daniel Borris

He quickly glossed over his earlier work, but at UT he gained himself accolade after accolade.

2007: The Second Coming, Super 16 MM
Winner: HBO Short Film Award; American Black Film Festival
Student Academy Award Nominee
National Broadcast: HBO

2006: Hope’s War, Super 16 MM
Director’s Guild of America Student Film Award- African -American Category
National Broadcast: Showtime Black Filmmaker’s Showcase; BET J The Best Shorts Showcase
Official Selection: Cannes International Film Festival’s Kodak Emerging Filmmaker Showcase

2004: Shoppin, Super 16MM
Best Student Film Award: Houston Multicultural Independent Film Festival
National Broadcast: Badami Productions’ African-American Short Film Series
Official Selection: Cinematexas International Short Film Festival

Yeah that’s correct.  HBO, SHOWTIME, CANNES FILM FESTIVAL and so much recognition.  Don’t worry Ya’Ke will comment on all of those experiences, but he first talked about KATRINA’S SON.  Specifically he talked about the big obstacle he placed on him and his DP.

I would like to say sorry for all the background noise in the clips.  We were at an English Pub and so it got a little rowdy.  Yeah I know the black guy, the jew sitting in an English Pub, all you need is a preacher and you’d have one heck of a golf joke.   Haha, ok back to All those awards Ya’Ke accumulated over the years.

The reason why he’s gained such recognition is because his films are just that well made.  He rehearses like crazy, he scouts rigorously, he discusses his idea to his DP often, and he frequently encourages improvisation from his skilled talent.  He’s gained these qualities because he always is looking to grow as a film-maker.

Now Ya’Ke has taken his attitude directly into the teaching world.  He’s a film professor at the University of Texas at Arlington (he just moved up here after being a teacher at UT in Austin). Ya’Ke explains why he teaches.

In Ya’Ke’s film KATRINA’S SON we don’t actually see any hurricane.  Its not a film about Katrina really.

“When a young boy loses his grandmother during Hurricane Katrina, he travels to San Antonio, Texas, in search of the mother who abandoned him years earlier.”

Photo by Daniel Borris

His films are obviously something personal and powerful to him.  He has a presence that seems prepared at all times.  But as usual Ya’Ke has to throw in a wrinkle here or there to keep himself on his toes.  Time was the wrinkle on KATRINA’S SON.

Before we get to the juicy details of how you can see KATRINA’S SON.  Ya’Ke and I talked about the festival I first saw the film at.  Dallas VideoFest had Katrina’s Son in its annual Texas Filmmaker Showcase and of course Ya’Ke won this year’s award for Best Short Film.

Ya’Ke’s film is going to be at this weekend’s Flatland Film Festival in Lubbock, Texas.

Location: The Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts Lubbock, TX
Date: 10/16/10  – Saturday
Time: 3:30 P.M.


Screening 1
Location: The Hideout Theatre: Austin, TX
Date: 10/23/10  – Saturday
Time: 9: P.M.

Screening 2
Location: The Hideout Theatre: Austin, TX
Date: 10/27/10  – Wednesday
Time: 5:00 P.M.

Now check back next week as we’ll begin our AFF series of posts on Wednesday (the day before the festival kicks off).  Ya’Ke an I talked a lot more about the festival run and I’ll share what we discussed about AFF and much much more.




One response

9 02 2011
Gemini Ink » Blog Archive » Building Compelling Screenplays

[…] Redwine introduces a blog about his recent informative interview with Smith during the Texas Book Festival in Austin with the following: San Antonio’s finest Ya’Ke Smith […]

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