Dan Smith

My day job is being a creator of nonfiction content, typically video. Content is the buzz word of late, but that is what it’s all about: quality content. The platform doesn’t matter: A good story is a good story whether you’re telling it around the campfire or on your blog.

If you want to give it a nuts and bolts descriptor, I usually say I’m a TV and video producer and writer and my company is Triangle Media Works.

I got into this business so I could be home with my wife and children.

I was in a musical group and we were good enough that it was a full-time job and I was spending all my time touring. I was a father at a distance, and I didn’t want that—when your kids are little, you’re gone for two or three weeks and they’ve changed so much. I knew I wanted to entertain, but I also wanted to go home every night. So, I got into TV.

I had a comm arts degree but no experience in TV, so I went to community college and got an internship at a TV station. There I got to do everything. I was self-taught, learning on the job and never said “no.” One day I was shelving tapes and the next I was the anchor of a news show.

Many of my projects have been documentaries and you don’t get into writing documentaries to be visible. Wouldn’t you rather have someone say, “Wasn’t that a great story” not “That was really well written”?

The best compliment I ever got was from a man I met while I was touring the tulip gardens in the Netherlands. We were talking about what we did and when I told him I made documentaries, he told me he’d just watched a great one about the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. That was one of my documentaries and he told me how much he liked it before he knew it was mine. That made my decade!

Today I’m still doing some video production. I helped a friend with a documentary on the GM plant closing in Janesville. I’m  doing publicity work for The First Tee, which is a youth development program that teaches life skills through golf.  I’m also playing around with radio—I’ve planning to do some mock editorials under “Grumpy Old Dan” at WLHA (an internet radio station).

Deadlines have made me the writer I am—good, bad or indifferent. And so has the fear of being exposed: I’m the perennial C+ student, who’s struggling to understand. That fear has caused me to work very hard. I have the most fun getting to learn about a topic I never would have learned about on my own.

Someone once asked me how I made being on TV look so effortless. I said, “I’ve done it 2500 times.” Find me someone who’s good at something who didn’t put in the time—a lot of success is just effort.

There’s a lot of fun in creating a piece of art for its own sake. Kurt Vonnegut said something along the lines of “Go home, write a poem, rip it up and throw it away.” I’m currently working on some songs for my grandkids. Little Nas isn’t going to be singing these on his next album. I’m doing it for the inner joy.

My most memorable caffeine was my first. My dad liked to drink and his cousin liked to fish. My dad must have had an extra drink the night before he was supposed to go fishing with my uncle, so he didn’t answer the bell and my uncle got me up instead. I was about 12. We headed out to Wapner Lake, a little lake about 45 minutes outside of Detroit. It was freezing cold. My uncle couldn’t have been happier, getting his nightcrawler on a hook. I wanted to be anywhere else—especially in my nice warm bed.

He got out his thermos and poured me a cup of coffee. It could have been motor oil and I would have drunk it as long as it was hot. I don’t really remember what it tasted like, but I’ve been a fairly regular coffee drinker ever since.

My current caffeine of choice is coffee, black, hot and strong.

My favorite place for caffeine tends to be my own kitchen.

The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with are Bill Bryson and Mark Twain. That would be a hoot. After all, Twain predicted writing for the Internet with his comment that if he had more time, he’d have made it shorter.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: Literacy. I’d like to give every child the ability to read.