Rocket Science: Ian Lynch Smith
Ian is founder and CEO of Ghostwheel, a company focused on making software for the Film industry. In a previous life he founded Freeverse, an award winning game company for the Apple ecosystem.
What was an unexpectedly amazing live music performance you’ve been to?
I saw the Raconteurs right before the pandemic hit and I was blown away. This was at The King’s Theater in Brooklyn, which is gorgeous. The feel, it had such great energy. I was really excited about that.
On the opposite end, I saw English Beat at The Bell House, and that was a little disappointing. There was one of the original people, then a lot of new band members, and the venue wasn’t quite right. You can never go home again.
What’s your favorite outdoor space?
It’s got to be Prospect Park right now. I go for a walk almost every day. The whole area past the Vale of Cashmere with some hills and stairs, ends up, eventually by the boat house. It meanders and you’re in a totally separate world.
There’s also a giant graveyard in the center of the park. It’s almost impossible to see and harder to get into. I love the artifice of hiding dozens of acres through “natural” berms and “organic” twisting paths. It’s high design. Almost half a million people use the park, 99% don’t even know it exists. (It’s an old Quaker graveyard.)
What’s something first-time founders should absolutely not do as they’re building their company?
They should not spend money before they’re ready to use what that money buys.
If they’re making a film, they shouldn’t first fly to Iceland and shoot location shots and b-roll. Basically, they shouldn’t get the cart in front of the horse, which is very easy to do because some things are easier to set up than other things.
You want to be dynamic, and you want to be responsive to how your business is going. You can waste a lot of time building a piece or contracting for something that won’t actually fit what you need by the time you’re ready for it.
Your most recent product is all about storyboarding. What’s a TV show or movie you feel is really well-structured from a visual point of view?
I think The Expanse does a great job with the large ask made of the crew. To show different environments, and different worlds even. I think they do a good job of keeping me in that world and not breaking that 4th wall, which would be very easy to do considering half the shots they do are supposed to be without gravity.
While I was researching Previs Pro, I was surprised at the number of famous directors who swore by storyboarding. James Gunn, the Guardians of the Galaxy guy, posted a few days ago about how he storyboards every single shot in his movie.
I’ve read similar things about the Parasite director, Bong Joon-ho, and the Coen Brothers, Hitchcock, Pixar, etc. No matter how trivial, they draw everything, and the results speak for themselves. Previsualization is how you iterate in film, how you refine your art. (Editing is more like make-up to hide the scars…)
What’s been your biggest parental takeaway from the pandemic?
I’m not sure it’s a takeaway, more like a little grieving. One of my sons was a second-semester Freshman at a big public high school, and he’s going to be a Junior next year. He hasn’t set foot in high school in over a year, and he won’t this semester.
That’s tough, to miss out on such a big stretch of common experiences. Of socializing with peers.
It’s also hard on them because what my 16-year-old and my 18-year-old really don’t want to do is spend 24/7 with their parents. That’s not ideal.
Give us a good book recommendation.
I’ve read (almost) everything David Mitchell’s written, but I’ve never read Cloud Atlas, so I’m going back to read it.
I also just read the first two books in Martha Wells’ Murderbot series, which is really existential – sort of like if Marvin, the Android from Douglas Adams, was designed and built to be a murderbot. He’s struggling against his human-dictated mission. Not great literature, but a damn fine snack.
You’ve unexpectedly won the mayor’s race in New York City. Congratulations. What is your first official act?
Defund the police, and by that, I don’t mean get rid of the police. I mean remove them from non-violent interactions.
Police should have nothing to do with schools. Police should have nothing to do with giving automotive-related tickets. That can all be done by other people, without guns. Police should have nothing to do with being a first responder when there’s a person with mental distress or a homeless person involved.
If we remove all of that – that’s a lot of what the police do – that means maybe we’ll remove 50% of their purview without increasing anyone’s danger. They should be solving crimes, handling violent situations, and that’s pretty much it. I read that the average NYPD officer handles 1 felony a year. They shouldn’t be doing a lot of the other stuff they are called upon to do.
What’s one of the best hotels you’ve ever stayed in?
So many. A life spent traveling. A long time ago I stayed in a hotel in Sofia, Bulgaria – a B&B sort of thing. It was actually just this woman’s spare bedroom and it was $2 a night.
This woman was perfectly egg-shaped. She was maybe four feet tall and so sweet. Neither of us spoke a word of each other’s language. She kept feeding us. It was such a strange and wonderful interaction.
A little more recently, there are these schooners off the coast of Maine, 50-foot sailboats with multiple masts, and crews, and kitchens. They have seven or eight very small cabins, and you sail around all the islands for a few days. They serve you food, and you stop at different places, have lobster, and walk around. Plus the name is great: Windjammer Angelique.
This summer we’re going on a four-day music cruise. We’ll set sail, go to a music festival, then two or three more days sailing around. We’ll be on deck with the creak of the ropes and the wood. My son’s bringing his guitar, and it’ll be beautiful.