Rob Smith

Rob Smith's short film "Sea Bones" released.

Rob Smith wrote and directed the Short Film “Sea Bones”.

Since its completion in 2017 it has been on a global tour of various short film festivals including the following:

This week Rob can finally launch it to the public!

Rob is relentless when it comes to creating short films, music videos and TVCs, constantly honing his skills and pushing his narrative work to new places. Carbon Films sat down with Rob and quizzed him on this short film as well as his prolific approach to film making. 


CARBON: What inspired this particular story?

ROB: There was no particular thing that inspired this story, but rather a combination of things. I first came up with the mermaid side of the film as a music video concept for a local band. 

That video didn’t happen, but after working with Thor Rixon on a mockumentary project, “Don’t Ask Me About Music,” I knew I wanted to adapt the mermaid idea, giving it a quirkier edge by moulding the idea around our comical sensibilities. Very early on in the writing process I added the idea of him being a shell collector, but it wasn’t until I met the president of the South African Conchological Society, that the shells angle became a bigger part of the story. 

This tied the story together for me, exploring the themes of possession and obsession in a unique way. The script didn’t actually have the mockumentary/interview angle, but whilst shooting we decided to ad-lib it, becoming a fundamental part of the film.

CARBON: How long did it take you from initial thoughts to final finished film?

ROB: When I heard Velocity was closing down in mid March 2017, I immediately decided that I would apply to do my masters at NFTS in London - something I’d always considered doing. The only thing was that the deadline was the 1st of May, and at that time I was working on a month long branded documentary in Johannesburg.

I had no script, no locations, nothing. I just knew Thor was keen, and that was enough to know I could pull off something interesting. Through the help of some very talented and generous collaborators, we made it all come together just in time (+-40 days start to finish: 3 weeks prep, 3 days shoot, 2 weeks post).

Russel finds his newest treasure.

Russel finds his newest treasure.

CARBON: Do you share your screenplay with anyone while writing or do you keep it to yourself until you’re ready to share?

ROB: I definitely do have a few trusted friends who’s feedback I value throughout the writing process, including the DOP, Pierre de Villiers. I find it very helpful to get their honest critique to check that I haven’t gone completely mad, and to poke holes in it as much as possible, as early as possible, even if it only reassures what I’ve written. 

More recently I’ve started a writing club, which has been extremely useful, not only in terms of brainstorming scripts, but also in terms of creating incentive to keep writing.

CARBON: How did you pick your cast?

ROB: The script was effectively written around Thor, “Russell,” so the only fundamental person to cast was the mermaid. Over 200 women applied for the casting, but as we could only afford/pull a favour for half a day, they had to limit the casting to 35 people. Charise Anne was the first person to cast.

CARBON: How did you fund this film?

ROB: I self-funded this film.

CARBON: What advice would you give anyone wanting to make a short film?

ROB: I guess the biggest thing, for me at least, is to have some type of deadline. It’s very easy to put off making a short, or feeling like your script can be developed further, but at some point you have to just commit and go for it.

CARBON: What full length feature film do you wish you’d directed?

ROB: “What we do in the Shadows,” directed by Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement looks like it would have been a ton of fun to direct, but I doubt I could have done half as good a job as them. It’s one of my favourite comedies.

CARBON: Do you have any more films in the pipeline?

ROB: I’m currently filming a short film, also starring Thor Rixon, which is another mockumentary which deals with piracy in 2002. Then I’m also busy writing two other short film scripts. One is a thriller, one is a satirical comedy.

We look forward to seeing more of Rob’s work grace screens across the world as well on local shores!

"Sea Bones”

Movie • 12 min • Comedy, Thriller 

Written and Directed by Rob Smith

Completed May 2017

“A peculiar man, obsessed with conchology (collecting/studying shells), one day stumbles upon a beached mermaid. Instead of putting her back in to the water he decides to take her back to his house. Here he keeps her in the bathtub and tries to make her feel at home."


Russel - Thor Rixon
Mermaid - Charis Anna
Teller - Faik Johaar
Goldfish - Penelope Scully


Producer - Rob Smith and Anco Henning
DOP - Pierre de Villiers
Focus Puller / 1st AC - Kirk Morgan & Justin Vincent
Gaffer - Tobie Smuts
Best Boy - Linda Magobodi
Spark - Madoda Mkonjiswa
Art Director & Wardrobe - Jade Scully
Prosthetics - Organic Canvas
SFX Makeup - Lisa Wakelin
Casting - Pammi Joy at Scouts Honour
Editor - Mieke Vlaming
On Set Sound - Keagan Higgins & Brandon Shore
Sound Design - Chris De Wet Bornman & Keith Kavayi
Final Mix - James Matthes
Music - Pressure Cooker Studios : Daniel Caleb, James Matthes, & Andries Smit
Colourist - Kyle Stroebel at The Refinery Cape Town
VFX - Andrew Kerr at New Creation Collective

Special thanks to Carbon Films, Roy Aiken and the South African Conchological Society, Panavision Cape Town, The Refinery Cape Town, LampStand Film Lighting, My Friend Ned, Candice Hatting, Scouts Honor, Simone Griessel, Direction Films, Sally Smith, Esmarie and Pierre F De Villiers, Paul & Amy Speirs, New Creation Collective, Organic Canvas, Tin Toy Productions, Jonathan Searle, Ian Morgan, William Nicholson, Cait Pansegrouw and Arno (From Arno Wouldwork).

Russel and his shell collection.

Russel and his shell collection.