Storm-chasing and film making students passions

Dustin Smaby rolling up his sleeves at the hilltop

When the tornado sirens go off in the Midwest, most people run for shelter. Others, like Dustin Smaby, a senior criminal justice major from Cedar Rapids, choose to run towards it. Along with attempting to adapt his dreams to art, Smaby also has a passion for living and learning about storms.

Smaby, who is also vice president of the leisure club, said, “Usually, during a tornado warning or severe thunderstorm warning people seek shelter. They go from outside to inside, where as I go from inside to outside.”

He originally pursued storms for personal reasons and for the adrenaline rush, later he discovered how it could also help protect people by registering with the National Weather Service. Once registered, there is a good reason to chase storms.

One problem with current Doppler radars is how they can only indicate the existence of tornadoes. The National Weather Service relies on storm-chasers to confirm tornados on the ground to inform the public in the vicinity to seek shelter.

Smaby said he almost went to Iowa State University to major in meteorology. He changed his mind once he learned how there were fewer job prospects in weather fields and said that storm chasing doesn’t pay very well.

He decided upon Mount Mercy University because his brother graduated from the school and also because he said, “Mount Mercy has the best criminal justice program.”

Before Mount Mercy, Smaby attended Kirkwood Community College for three years, where he received an Associate of Arts (AA) degree. He focused much of his energy on theatre and film arts classes by taking every elective and core class related to film or theatre that he could fit into his schedule.

Besides storm-chasing, Smaby said his other passion is writing and directing films.

“Most of my film ideas, 75 percent of my material, comes to me in dreams,” said Smaby. “I wanted to just put it all together in a film because otherwise they would just be ideas in a book. So I wanted to express them for film.”

His film career started in his sophomore year of high school on short films, later graduating to feature length films averaging two hours in length. One feature could take as long as two years to complete through preproduction, production and post production.

Smaby is currently pouring much of his free time into his next film endeavor. “It’s a zombie comedy, a zom-com.”

This Student Profile was written by Aaron Ostrenga, Staff Writer, and was originally published in the Mount Mercy Times in the November 10, 2010, issue.