May's Insights Program features Nick Smirnoff
BVS Cultural Arts Presents
Do you like movies? Ever seen Star Wars? How about the television show Cheers? Have you ever seen a commercial featuring the "Marlboro Man"? These three names are just a small part of the works that Nick Smirnoff, now of Tehachapi's Bear Valley Springs, has made during his career that has lasted more than 42 years.
If you want to learn more about the man behind the camera, and the director's right hand man, call Jeanette at (661) 972-2344 to make a reservation for the free Insights Program talk on Saturday, May 6 at 4 p.m. in the Bear Valley Springs Equestrian Center Clubhouse, 26800 Bear Valley Road. The clubhouse has limited space, so get your reservations now. There will be hors d'oeuvres and beverages available. This special program will give you some background stories about Nick's road less travelled that brought him to be an integral part of California's renowned film industry.
During "Hollywood Insights", Nick Smirnoff will pay homage to the thousands of artists and craftspeople who love working "behind the scenes". These men and women are integral to the high stress business of bringing to life the images we see on the "silver screen" and more recently, the electronic screen.
Living in the San Fernando Valley was a convenient location for people interested in the film industry. Nick's older brother worked at Bill Burrud Productions, and this is where Nick received his earliest lessons. His brother got him an unpaid internship, while he was still in high school, carrying heavy cameras and equipment. Bill Burrud had been a child star, television host, and a producer, who is best known for the making of early travel/adventure programs for the television audience. Bill Burrud has been honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This Star is located next to Elvis Presley's Star.
Nick graduated from high school in 1963. He got a job making television commercials for a company called FilmFair, which was founded by the American animator and film maker, Gus Jekel. Nick worked at FilmFair while attending college. Within a few years, Film Fair became a highly competitive worldwide commercial production company, with offices and film studios in New York, and London.
As the Viet Nam War was in full swing, and Nick's Student Deferment was coming to an end, Nick decided that joining the US Navy was the thing to do. After all, life aboard ship can't be all that bad...or so he thought. The Military had other ideas for Nick, but not immediately. He went through US Navy Basic Training. During this time, it was determined that Nick's skills as a photographer would be useful in documenting the war. But, to do this, he needed to be on the ground. So, Nick was assigned to Advanced Infantry Training with the US Marine Corps. After US Marine Corps Basic Training, Nick was used as a photographer for three tours of duty with a US Naval/Marine Corps unit in Viet Nam. By day, Nick's job was to record and detail the daily life of the Marine combat units and numerous military construction units "in country". To do this, he had to carry three cameras and a side arm for protection. He was able to go to various sites to photograph the action. Many of Nick's "stills" have been published in the military publication, "Stars and Stripes". The film footage is stored at the Military Archives.
When Nick returned to the States, his job at FilmFair was restored. He continued to hone the craft of directing and producing. With added experience, Nick wanted to grow in his field. This meant that he needed to become a member of the Director's Guild of America. The film industry is heavily entrenched in numerous unions, and Nick finally had to contact an attorney and the National Labor Relations Board to help prove that he had the qualifying credits for membership in the DGA. He has been a member of the DGA for approximately 43 years. Additionally, he's joined SAG, NABET, IATSE, and EQUITY, all film industry unions.
Membership has its privileges, and Nick became an integral part of the Hollywood magic making machine. It was while making films, television programs, and commercials that Nick hired and/or worked with thousands of talented people involved in the making of entertainment. In Nick's words: "We re-create the world, then film it. If it's a fictional setting, we must pre-visualize it, build it, and then film inside the setting."
Nick has many good stories to tell. He has been part of many of the shows we know and love. A small sample is: "Happy Days", "Switched at Birth", "Miami Vice", "Felicity", "North and South", "The Francis Gary Powers Story", and even Disney's feature film "The Cat From Outer Space". There are untold hundreds of "second unit" shoots featuring action and stunt production and process work on such really well known features as Star Wars and Star Trek movies. "There are far too many of them to remember them all", mused Nick.
The film industry is a "contract" or "freelance" worker style of job. It's not for everyone. Workers work crazy hours, finish the job, and look for new work. This goes on and on. Nick is a 40-plus-years survivor of this nomadic, all-encompassing life that is the free-lance entertainment world we call Hollywood. Even after Nick advised his son not to go into the business, Chris did, and is now the recipient of three Emmy Awards as co-producer for "Modern Family".
Come to BVS' Equestrian Center Clubhouse to hear Nick describe his high stress Hollywood job of being an Assistant Director, a Production Manager, Producer, and even an occasional Director. Tales abound! Nick finished thoughtfully, "Despite the stress, the travel, and missing my family...I loved every minute of it".