Little Forest Hills becomes director’s lair

By Sujata Dand

It’s Monday and Xandy Smith is back in his studio in his Little Forest Hills home in East Dallas. The curtains are drawn protecting his computer screens from any glare. It has to be perfect — this is where movie magic happens.

“‘Solver’ is being released today on Amazon and iTunes,” Smith says. The release was timed appropriately with National Puzzle Day.

“Solver” is the story of a man returning to his roots. Smith directed and edited the film. He describes it as a blend of suspense and escape room type puzzles that’s guaranteed to keep viewers guessing.

“It’s already ranked five stars on iTunes,” he says humbly.

The 38-year-old East Dallas native walked the red carpet with his wife Kara (both are Woodrow Alumni) at the Los Angeles premiere of the film just a few days earlier. More than 200 people were there, a well-earned high point in Smith’s career considering he’s been making movies since he was 4 years old.

“My father operated the camera and I operated the toys that were fighting in the sandbox,” Smith shares. “And, I hummed the music for the soundtrack.”

That’s when it all started. By the time he was at Lipscomb Elementary, he was shooting goofy videos with a third-grade sense of humor with his friends.

At Woodrow Wilson High School, he got more serious about his craft. He was filming around East Dallas and White Rock Lake and began considering making movies as a career. Smith applied early to NYU and got in.

“As I understand it, I was one of the few people who sent in an actual film [as part of my application],” he says.

After graduating, he returned to Dallas for a short stint, but eventually made his way to Los Angeles.

“I got to the point where I was looking for jobs delivering pizzas,” Smith remembers. “And, the first interview I got happened to be at the time one of the most prestigious production companies. I came out to LA for movies and landed in commercials.”

For more than 12 years, he made commercials for large companies like Nissan, Volkswagen and Verizon. And, he also made contacts and built a reputation.

After returning to Dallas for personal reasons, it was his friend and cinematographer Mike Moghaddam who recommended him to Solver’s writer Jack Kelley.

“Mike and I have such a close relationship — a quick glance from me can tell him that I want more negative fill and a wink confirms he got the message. He recommended me, and that’s how I became attached.”

The crew shot the movie in upstate New York throughout four weeks. The experience was exactly as Smith expected.

“A day in commercial or music video or a short film —  it’s just as grueling. But, it’s just a day. With a feature — you don’t get a break. You work six days and then you get one day off. And usually that one day all that you are doing is catching up on sleep, story boarding and shot planning. There’s always work to do.”

The movie includes music from fellow Woodrow alums Trey and Clay Pendergrass, making “Solver” a local collaboration.

In Dallas, Smith has found himself right at home in Little Forest Hills. The art and film community has embraced him and his movie. They organized a townhall style Q and A to show the “Solver” trailer and are planning a movie screening.

“It’s a really supportive community,” Smith says.

Smith sees “Solver” as a launching pad. He has several projects in the works, including a historical fiction drama about feuding paleontologists called “Bone Wars.” But there is a film that may get the greenlight first if the audience gets its way.

“At every screening for ‘Solver,’ the number one question that we get is ‘when will there be a sequel?” he laughs.

Stay tuned.

“Solver” is being released in limited theaters nationwide and is currently available for download on iTunes and Amazon.