Ryan Smith, son of Christian music superstar Michael W. Smith, says his father never pressured him—a wannabe cartoon animator—to enter the music business. If anything, Ryan wanted nothing to do with it.
The elder Smith was fine with that, because he saw film aptitude in Ryan from the start.
"He's got so much talent and an eye for the camera," Michael says, noting that he saw it in Ryan's home videos and how he enjoyed French films and "artsy kind of stuff. His senior year in high school, I thought, This guy's got it."
Ryan worked on his father's music video sets regularly, but after he and Mark Cowart worked together on several other projects, they were ready to pursue their film dreams. In 2005, Michael and the two young men founded Seabourne Pictures with the intention of making thought-provoking feature films—not "Christian" films, but films told from a Christian worldview.
Michael says that Ryan and Cowart want to help shape culture.
"It's unbelievable what's at the theater and to make something that combats that," says Michael. "These guys want not only to be believers in the marketplace, but also to be in the mainstream making films that will win."
Today, the younger men make Seabourne's day-to-day decisions while Michael serves as the executive producer of the company, based in Franklin, Tennessee. "He's entrusted us with a lot on the artistic side of things but he's definitely there as an advisor," Ryan said.
Michael sees himself more as a network or connection for the younger men. He signs off on financial decisions, but wants Ryan and Cowart to secure their own investors. Most days Michael makes contact with Seabourne offering advice, attending meetings, making connections, and approving decisions.
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The Critical Difference
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