Fans of the American-turned-Cambodian rock band sensation “Muk” will be excited to learn that trumpet player/singer A. Todd Smith (affectionately known as “Smiit” in Cambodia) was awarded this years prestigious “Best Director” Student Emmy! A. Todd and his wife, production designer Amy Leah Nelson Smith, travelled to Los Angeles California last weekend to walk the red carpet and attend the 33rd College Television Awards black-tie gala, held by The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation. The event was hosted and attended by many leading Hollywood stars. Student winners receive cash awards, industry recognition, and the opportunity to network with top television executives.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith attended the gala for their nominated film “Mr. Bellpond“, in the Best Comedy category. Their film took home First Prize! But, what they did not know until they arrived was that A. Todd had also been nominated for “Best Director”, and he was indeed announced the winner! (A. Todd’s impromptu acceptance speech can be found here).
“Mr. Bellpond” is an original story and screenplay with a subtle nod to the Greek myth Orpheus, co-written by A. Todd and Amy Leah Nelson Smith. In this video, they share the epic process of bringing the story to life.
After accepting his award for “Best Director“, Todd rushed to catch an airplane to Cambodia, where he has returned to work on another film project as part of his ongoing humanitarian and documentary work there.
A. Todd Smith’s love for Cambodia began in 2003 while serving a two-year Mormon mission. It was not long after returning home from his mission that he found himself in Cambodia once more doing humanitarian work in the orphanages, and being inspired by stories that he wanted to share. As a Brigham Young University Film student, Todd befriended three other talented returned missionaries Trevor Wright, Jordan Augustine and Joseph Peterson, all fluent in Khmer.
Their lives took an unexpected turn when the “rock band” audition video they filmed as a joke, became a Cambodian sensation and their band was invited to appear on Cambodian National Television! In-between their full-time studies at BYU and being “rock stars” the team worked diligently on their documentary about the people who subsisted daily in the Phnom Pehn garbage dump, called “Steung Mian Chey“ (“River of Victory”).
In 2008 Mormon Soprano wrote a three-part series detailing the journey of these four talented young men. Since then, their schooling has ended and their professional lives are being launched in different directions. Although they still remain close friends, they rarely have time to perform as a band these days.
In the Spring of 2011 while working on “Mr. Bellpond” Todd fell in love with his fiancée Amy Leah Nelson all over again, when the beautiful and gifted artist stepped in at the last-minute to be his production designer. The two were married during a whirlwind April weekend, sandwiched between their busy film production schedule, moving, working, and taking college final exams! This allowed for what Amy describes as their “micro-honeymoon“! But, just a few weeks later they would find themselves travelling to Cambodia for a very unique newlywed adventure!
“From July 2011 to December 2011, we had the chance to live in a small orphanage in Cambodia, in order to follow the lives of about 30 children. Over the course of those months, we shot a feature-length documentary and a short narrative film that will be woven together to tell the story of these phenomenal kids who have rough histories, but are striving to rise out of poverty and trauma by studying hard in school and learning the performing arts.” – Amy Leah Nelson Smith
The documentary “Still I Strive” is currently in final production. A. Todd Smith is Co-Director & Editor, and Amy Nelson Smith is Production Designer & Co-Producer. Here is a preview trailer:
I am so grateful to know these talented young people and to call them my friends. It will be very exciting to watch the promising careers of A. Todd and Amy Leah Nelson Smith unfold. If the first year of their marriage is any indicator of the rest of their lives together, then we can certainly expect an extremely rewarding, adventurous, and successful future! – MoSop
**HOT TIP!: BYU’s Final Cut Film Festival will be showing Student Emmy Award winners “Mr. Bellpond” and “My Hero” tonight (Friday April 6) and tomorrow (Saturday April 7) at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. each night in the Pardoe Theatre at the Harris Fine Arts Center, BYU Campus.**
- BYU Student Films Shine at College Emmys (ksl.com)
- BYU Student Filmmakers win record number of ‘Student Emmys’ (Meridian.com)
- Mr. Bellpond wins Best Comedy and Best Director (ittybittybunny.blogspot.com)
- Part 1: Talented American Mormons Help Cambodia (mormonsoprano.com)
- Part 2: The Band Muk (Mormonsoprano.com)
- Part 3: Unexpected Fame and Opportunities for BYU Students (mormonsoprano.com)
- Muk – Band Facebook Page
- Muk – Band YouTube Page