We spoke to Patrick Milling-Smith, co-founder and CEO of SMUGGLER and Jury President of Production about his inspirations, predictions for the year ahead and highlights from this year’s Festival.


So Patrick, what did you set out to achieve this year?

Well I was excited to lean in and engage with CICLOPE. Serving as a Jury President is a great privilege and a really productive way to take a good look at lots of work you may not have had a chance, or the time, to see.
It’s a great showcase for craft and innovation around the world.I feel much more informed, aware and motivated for the experience.

What’s your personal definition of craft?

I’d say craft is primarily about care. It’s that mix of intention and attention. Great craft elevates everything, and excellence doesn’t just happen by accident. A large amount of effort, ambition, talent, clarity, and a little touch of obsession seem to be the ingredients to get there, from what I’ve seen.

What’s the remedy for too much safe work, how can creatives take bigger creative risks?

The remedy is brave work. To succeed at CICLOPE, you need to get attention. We are at an inflection point, I think, between conceptually or executionally lazy content that is thrown at your attention and (maybe) does the job, and work that is ambitious, crafted with care, and seeks to leave a real impact and engages through its own ambition, creativity, and intention. One is junk food but can fill you up, and the other can nourish you and sustain you.  

What piece (or pieces) of work from the 2023 SMUGGLER cannon are you particularly proud of?

That’s a tough question to answer. The standouts would be Aoife’s showstopper, Squarespace ‘The Singularity,’ Mark Molloy’s latest Apple installment, ‘Swiped,’ The New Original’s “Mathlete” from rising star Ebeneza Blanche, Henry-Alex Rubin’s all too urgent and important Dove ‘Cost of Beauty,’ Upwork “This Is How We Work Now” by Ivan Zachariáš and the impeccably crafted Vanish film about Autism by Tom Hooper

As the Jury President of Production, what’s the one piece of work you saw at the Festival that you wished you had produced?

Again, tough question to answer as there were so many pieces, but the Adidas campaign from Love Song definitely made me feel jealous, and Andreas Nilsson’s Apple ‘R.I.P. Leon.’, from Biscuit, made it all look so effortless.  

What was your experience like in the jury room  – any takeaways?

Stay caffeinated and remember to not come into the room without any preconceived notions. It’s a very necessary reminder that taste is subjective, and there are always some surprises. The hardest thing with festivals is staying true to what the category description is and trying to judge with clarity.

When you’re judging, how do you separate the overall impact of the piece from the category it’s been entered into – cinematography for example?

For cinematography, as an example, you have to separate the different aspects of the overall piece of filmmaking. There is a tendency to judge the idea or the overall impact of the work, but we tried to focus on the craft and ambition of the cinematography. By the time we are in the room, most of the work that has made it to that final round works decently conceptually, so there is already a floor for quality of idea and execution.

Do you have any insider tips on entering work into the festival?

Put some attention and effort into a strong, short case study film, if applicable.  Assume no one has a clue about how you made something, what the journey was, or how it did. Be reasonably judicious about entering the same piece into too many categories. There can be a degree of fatigue for some great work that’s just watched too many times in the room.

Technology is rapidly changing production. In your view, how will AI impact production in 2024?

I don’t think I can begin to answer that yet. Hopefully, it can make certain bits of the process more efficient, and as the cost of things go down, so too may the incredible pressure that’s put on everything. Perhaps it ushers in a period of time where more creative risks can be taken; more swings can be swung.

How is 2024 shaping up for SMUGGLER, what’s on the horizon?

2023 has felt like a slog in the industry, which is one of the reasons why getting to see so much great work at CICLOPE was a welcome dose of inspiration. If 2023 was slightly paralysed by economic uncertainty, causing clients to shy away from much that was bold, then 2024 has to be the counter punch to that. 

Clients need to earn attention and really win engagement. I’m always excited for a new year but this coming one feels like necessity will usher in bravery.  Our industry always feels like you are building on what you’ve just done, especially with directors’ reels and relationships. I feel like we will enter 2024 with the bit between our teeth with a potent balance of new talent and seasoned experience.