This 15 minute documentary tells the story of Denis Smith. Two years ago he was in a high pressure sales job suffering with depression, debt and alcohol problems. Then he discovered light painting, and his life changed forever…
This light painting documentary is good on so many levels, when you watch it you may be inspired to walk into work and scream I QUIT, (I know I wanted to) but that is not exactly what Denis would want you to do…recently I got the chance to talk to Denis and ask him some questions about the film and where his life is headed now that he has found the light…
LPP ∇ First of all WOW, what an awesome documentary, it is a very honest and inspiring story. I’m not sure if your story will inspire more people to quit the jobs they hate going to everyday and live their lives as they should or if it will inspire more people to start light painting, either way you are making the world a better place…so how did this documentary project come about?
DS ∇ I was at a large Artist/designer market late last year. My stand seemed a haven for men, funnily enough, and Sam Collins came onto the stand showing some interest. We had a great chat about our loves. He contacted me after the market and suggested the Ball of Light would make a great 3 minute short film. At our first meeting we started talking about how I came to be doing what I was doing. Sam quickly realized there was more to the Ball of Light than just Balls of Light, and thus the project was born. Sam was such a soft and genuine guy I just felt super comfortable about taking it in that direction.
LPP ∇ The film is pretty personal, where you apprehensive at all about being so open with your story?
DS ∇ Interesting question? I didnt really. Sam and I were so comfortable together, so quickly, and this meant I could just relax and be myself. I wasn’t thinking to much about the end result when we were chatting so just went with the questions Sam was asking and it just came out. I suppose it was a really positive experience for me. It was a real reminder of where I have come.
LPP ∇ How long did the documentary take to shoot?
DS ∇ We started working on the project in November 2010 and finished it March, so about 4 months. It was pretty relaxed though. Sam was mixing it in with other projects, so when the time was right we worked on it. We seemed to have such a synergy together, so when we put time into shooting it was pretty smooth.
LPP ∇ Did anything crazy happen while you guys were out shooting the film?
DS ∇ Sure did! We were out shooting at a copper mine. Sam was tired due to the lateness of the hour. He must have dozed off right on the rail track. I heard all sorts of stuff going on behind me and turned around to find the Ball of Light trying to wake him up because there was a train coming! Luckily for Sam it worked. Who would have thought the Ball of Light would save a life! There would have been no movie, that’s for sure. I captured the whole thing (pic below).
LPP ∇ What are the plans for the documentary are you guys going to be entering it into film festivals?
DS ∇ Sam and I discussed this quite a lot as we were making it. But the response we have had since placing online has been incredible, and has opened up a lot of possibilities. We see it as both a film making and photographic project. Sam will no doubt use it as a showcase for his amazing skills as a film maker/editor/musician at festival type events and websites. I will be using it as a promotional/marketing tool. But what is becoming blatantly clear to me is the film has some inspirational and motivational merit for people wanting to make some change in their lives. I am looking forward to sharing the film with these groups.
LPP ∇ In the movie you talk about your life going on this downhill slide and how you were trying to live a life that was not really making you happy, what was the turning point in your life when you said enough was enough?
DS ∇ I came to the crashing realisation that I was going to work purely to keep my head above water financially. I was getting tired of treading water and realising that I was an emotional and nervous wreck constantly trying to figure out how to make more money to fill a hole.
I had spent years living in excess with no obvious way to fix it. It took the strength of my wife Kyrie to support me in removing myself from the machine. Without her I would have simply driven myself into the ground (literally). So the real turning point was when I knew I had the complete support of my wife to make the change.
LPP ∇ When you decided to quit your job did you just say screw it and quit one random day or did you plan it out and give the two weeks?
DS ∇ I wish. I had so much debt that I had to make the move in a very structured and managed way. In the end the company made me redundant, which to their credit, made it easier for me.
LPP ∇ So you and your wonderful wife decide to pack it up and move to Australia, you pick up a camera but become bored and then you discovered light painting, who were some of the artist that inspired you to start your own light painting work?
DS ∇ There are so many great light painters. I joined a Flickr Group called Light Junkies. This was a really well moderated group full of variety and quality work. Jeremy Jackson was my first real inspiration. The guy has such a varied array of ability, and he was just so open when I had queries. I am always excited when I see Jeremy turn up in my contacts! From a technical aspect Michael Ross blew me away constantly and made me push my tool making to the limit. He is technically brilliant! And I am again, always keen to see his new stuff.
There are so many amazing light painters on the net, way too many to note, but they are all on the Light Junkies crew.
LPP ∇ What camera are you shooting with?
DS ∇ I am currently shooting with a 5dmk2. I mainly shoot with a 24-105L. I am using my 50 1.8 more and more. Great cheap glass that gives some incredible results! I am crazily saving for a 24 1.4L, I shoot almost everything at 24mm so think this will be a real investment.
IMPORTANT: I had, and still do, a 450d with the 18-200 kit lens that I took nearly 80,000 shots on that was an incredible light painting rig! Some of my best and most popular images were made with this camera. I like to stress this! The 5d was to go big with prints. GEAR IS NOT THAT IMPORTANT!
LPP ∇ What kind of Light Painting tools do you use to create the “Balls of Light”?
DS ∇ My gear is pretty basic really. I use LED’s, a really wide selection. I have about 30 “sets” of varying brightness and colour. I use a 12volt supply, so am always ok for power. In the film you can spot a few little pointers gear wise (hint, hint).
LPP ∇ What are you doing for work these days or are you making enough on your light painting to keep you happy?
DS ∇ I wish! I am starting to sell a few large prints. I do several markets and sell plenty there. I have a “normal” job, but its all pretty relaxed so I get some time to work on other projects. I wonder if too many people make the jump too quickly. Things are starting to happen pretty quickly now so you never know. I often imagine flying from one place to the next following the full moon all over the world, hint hint Qantas!.
LPP ∇ In the movie there are some shots of your prints hanging on the walls, they looked really good. Can you tell me a little bit about your printing process, what are you printing on?
DS ∇ I use a local company who are incredibly well set up (www.atkins.com.au) both gear wise and staff wise. I met them all and have developed a rapore with the owner. They are not the cheapest, but this is well offset by the comfort of knowing every print will be perfect. They use Epson printers.
I provide prints mounted onto gator foam. This is really light, but it maintains shape and size really well. I also do framed prints. These look amazing. I am thinking about getting and Epson A2 for myself to take care of smaller prints that are going to be tubed and posted.
LPP ∇ It is a wonderful thing when you finally find the path in life that you were meant for and all the doors begin to open up, do you feel like you have found your calling or are you still searching?
DS ∇ Your right, I have really found something that I really love. It is a healthy safe place for me to be for sure. I am certainly not searching. But I am really open to where this takes me. In the movie I touch on the fact I didn’t dream I would be doing anything like this 2 years ago. But I certainly am going to work hard to make the most of this direction my life has gone. It simply feels so rewarding and positive.
I spent so much of my life trying aggressively to reach goals that I now realise were unhealthy for everyone involved. I have different values now. My own health and sanity come first, and by nature this will benefit my loved ones. So am I searching? No. Am I open to new paths? For sure!
LPP ∇ It really is an incredible documentary, I’m sure it will go viral and you will get massive exposure from it. Other than the exposure what do you want out of the film?
DS ∇ When we thought about making the film I suppose exposure and traffic to my work was exciting and a goal. Now that the success of the project is set in stone, I want it to continue motivating and inspiring people to realise there own health and sanity has no price and that making change is super hard, but super rewarding at the same time.
I also hope it gives inspiration and encouragement to others to pick up a camera and experiment. I did not own a camera two years ago. Now I am making pretty pictures.
LPP ∇ Should we quit our day jobs?
DS ∇ Classic! Fundamentally, NO.
But, if working where you do is making you sick, either physically or mentally, and you have the support of your family. Then have a go. No one should be a slave to the dollar! Work hard at getting yourself out of debt. Own everything! And the chance may come.
You have the ability to be happy and healthy. My wife said to me when we were at our absolute worst, wondering how we would ever get out of the hole I was in, “work on making yourself happy, do not worry about anyone else. In the end you will be happy, and so will I”. I spent too long focusing on making others happy, and trying to please the wrong people. When I took the time to fix myself, the by-product was happiness around me.
LPP ∇ Congratulations on the film and the success you are having, the world is glad you found the light!
DS ∇ Thanks Jason. I am so elated the light found me too.