There's still time to run!
Thomas Smugala is a man of many talents and interests – all emanating from a strong entrepreneurial spirit and an ability to create opportunities where there were none, and successes from adversity. Writer, director, photographer, magazine editor, and entrepreneur.
Thomas Smugala was born in St. Louis into a poor, chaotic environment. During his high school years, which were unsupervised and littered with loud music, drugs, and freedom, Thomas was raised by his older brothers. It was in this chaos, while no one was looking, Thomas developed into an artistic photographer.
After graduating from high school, Thomas found himself with no place to live, and yet he knew the universe had something more in store for his life. He knew he had to get away so he joined the Air Force. Thomas soon found himself living in England with the time and resources to refine his photographic skills and his education paid for. His experience in the Air Force gave him the confidence and motivation he needed to make his next move.
Shortly after leaving the Air Force, Thomas studied photography and communications and he soon began assisting some of the best fashion and advertising photographers and commercial filmmakers in the U.S. Thomas went on to attend the world-renowned Portfolio Center in Atlanta. It was there that he began writing and directing music videos and short films becoming a highly sought-after commercial photographer/director, working for companies like Dreamworks, Mercury Records, MTV, Vanity Fair, Harley Davidson, Coke, FOX, CNN, Royal Caribbean, Bank of America, Delta, and Anheuser Busch and countless others.
Over the next eight years, Thomas worked and lived in both NYC and LA, shooting celebrity stills and music videos – working with artists like Pink, Outkast, Rehab, Marty Stuart, Goodie Mob, Big Rube, Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, and Toby Keith... When Thomas’ award-winning short film 186 Days premiered at the Atlanta Film Festival, Thomas knew there was an audience for his brand of quirky, in-your-face humor.
In 2004, the passion he once had for shooting music videos and commercial TV no longer challenged him. Thomas wanted more from his life. He decided to make his first feature film. The plan was simple: he would bring his experiences to a place in the world that he had no experience with – outside a major city and in the country - middle-of-nowhere Missouri. It was there that he wrote and directed Apocalypse and the Beauty Queen in 2005 starring Gunner Hansen (Leatherface), Debora Rashuon and rapper Mack 10.
The film was a comedy/horror about a vain supermodel who travels back to her small Midwestern home right before the end of the world. She manages to become the queen of this new world without electric or government or the Internet and becomes a sadistic killer. The film was distributed worldwide by Vanguard Films. In 2007, ABQ went to the new release shelves at Blockbuster and Family Video and spent five years on the new Netflix – a very big deal back then before streaming took hold. It gained limited theatrical in Asia, Spain, and Russia.
It was Thomas’ feature film school – and a big slap in his face. Even though Thomas had been creating TV, music videos and shorts for 15 years, he was not prepared for the cutthroat dynamics of directing a 63-person cast and crew and all the problems surrounding working with a team of producers and not having full control. Turned out everyone there wanted to make their film. Thomas felt the final film and edit was not his film. To this day, he has not watched the finished movie.
After putting five years of his life in Apocalypse and Beauty Queen only to have his heart ripped out and stomped into the dirt, Thomas swore to himself he would never do a film again without more control. He knew he could make a good movie if he maintained control, but he had work to do.
A year later, Thomas began working on a new screenplay and a business plan to make a film the way he wanted to make a film – he knew how to do it and not the way you are supposed to do it. He would make a low-budget film that looked like a $5 million film. He would use a small crew and take his time filming. He would get a few familiar faces in the film and he would keep full control, but he had to solve the most significant problem making an independent - the edit.
The next step was to learn to edit. Thomas spent the next five years learning Adobe Premier. He knew for his plan to succeed, he would have to build a system of filming and edit workflow that produced the best image possible. He needed to be able to compile edit while shooting. A hands-on director, he would do the cinematography himself with a micro crew and build the film out every evening and keep shooting until he was happy with the compile. After the filming, he hired a great editor to elevate the story.
In Interviewing Monsters and Bigfoot, Tom Green plays crazy forest ranger Billy Teal assigned to keep people from discovering the existence of Bigfoot while Les Stroud (aka Survivorman) plays a narcissistic college professor set on proving the beast exists and legendary Bigfoot hunter Stacy Brown Jr. and infamous serial hoaxer Rick Dyer fight for the $10,000,000 NatGeo bounty for catching the creature.
Fast forward, October 2017 and filming was wrapped on Interviewing Monsters and Bigfoot. Thomas’s plan worked. The filming was broken apart to accommodate the schedules of Tom Green, Les Stroud, and Stacy Brown Jr. The cinematography was bountiful. The locations were great due to the support of the small towns of Middle America where he filmed – Cape Girardeau, Irontown, Fredericktown and Farmington, Missouri. The performances were great and unhurried. And Thomas still had the control he desired.
Now it was time to find an editor to bring it to life. Thomas needed an editor who was willing to work with a director as a partner and willing to make the director’s film. Thomas found an extraordinarily talented editor Zachary Weintraub in LA and had him come to Missouri to do the edit. Director, first AD, and editor closed themselves away in a cabin in the forest and worked day and night in the middle of nowhere Missouri. A few Missouri winter months later, they emerged with Interviewing Monsters and Bigfoot filmed and edited just the way Thomas saw it in his head on the first day of writing some ten years earlier.
Interviewing Monsters and Bigfoot is funny with "in your face" humor, beautiful cinematography, and has a very high production value. It is currently in its distribution phase and expected to fully release 2020. Thomas is pleased with the outcome of Interviewing Monsters and Bigfoot (www.interviewingmonsters.com) and ready to start work on his next film, The Spring, a supernatural thriller.