Meet Our Leadership Team
DeSoto Arts Institute is dedicated to supporting, training, educating, and mentoring the next generation of professional filmmakers. DAI teaches the craft of creative, positive storytelling by providing a professional working studio environment which actively demonstrates ethics, honesty,generosity, commitment, respect, and love for one another.
Founded by Robb Smith in 2016, DAI is known as an organization that provides entertainment appropriate for the entire family while offering hands-on opportunities for participation in the collaborative art of film.
Writer and director Robb Smith (aka Robb Rokk) is the founder and Executive Director of DeSoto Arts Institute where he teaches acting and all aspects of filmmaking. Robb’s mission is to provide exposure, education, and hands-on experience in the arts to anyone and everyone interested – and to prove that great entertainment can be produced without in-your-face agendas, shocking language and gratuitous content.
Robb was born and bred a Memphis boy but moved away to the northeast in high school. Playing guitar in a high school heavy metal band was a defining experience in early life. He returned to the area in the early ’90s after starting a family. The next defining moment was his salvation experience. Robb began teaching in the youth of Colonial Hills Church. He led worship for youth, mentored youth and preached to youth weekly. He started a skateboard ministry which led to creating and producing local events such as the Extreme Youth Revolution (XREV) hosting a skateboard competition featuring 10 Christian metalcore bands over a weekend at Horn lake Skate Park in 2006-2008. He produced the Sexual Revolution event at the Landers Center in 2009 which drew over 6000 people to hear music and messages about purity and chasing after God before all else. A new Mustang and a new 4-wheeler were the top giveaways to help draw in young people.
Creating and ever-evolving Robb began making music videos for Nashville artists and then began writing screenplays. Working with students, his last four films have made the top ten cut in the Memphis Film Prize over the last four years with those films among other student films playing and winning awards in numerous festivals around the world.
In 2019, Robb founded the DeSoto Film Festival and found it to be a fulfilling endeavor providing family-friendly entertainment. The festival is returning in April 2021 for its 2nd annual event.
Jesaiah Burnett started as a film student at DeSoto Arts Institute and now serves as DAI’s Program Director and is a founding board member. You’ll find him working day-to-day in the studio editing, writing grant applications, managing the festival submissions, and getting things done for DAI students. He is passionate about film and strongly dislikes most films he views so you’ll soon find him on the upcoming podcast lovingly titled Film Fights.
Nannette Sandy, a lover of the arts, started in the entertainment industry as a talent manager, working with models and music artists. When she relocated to Baton Rouge in 2005, she wrote her first feature film screenplay and has been writing ever since. She wrote for the online magazine, examiner.com covering acting and entertainment and in 2014, she completed the Voice Over program at Clayton University in McDonough, GA. In 2015, she wrote her first short screenplay titled “Torn” that reached the finalist stage twice for different film festivals.
Nannette was recently nominated for writing “Homeless Girl” as Best Short Screenplay at the upcoming LA Under The Stars film festival in Los Angeles.
Jamie Broadaway is an accomplished and awarded dancer and actress. Featured in many commercials and films, her most recent work was on the CMT series “Sun Records.” She has also done voice-over work for Blue Cross Blue Shield, FedEx, and others. Jamie loves volunteering with Tails of Hope Dog Rescue, books, travel, coffee, vinyl records, shopping in antique shops for vintage goods, and The Beatles. She once hung out with Blondie in a backstage dressing room, gave a private tour of Sun Studio in Memphis to Marky Ramone (she still geeks out about that), visited Japan twice, and crashed a stranger’s wedding in India (it’s a long story). She is a DeSoto Arts Institute board member because she loves the idea of bringing dance and film together, and sharing that love with DeSoto County and beyond.
While recording his band’s first studio project at sixteen, he fell head over heels in love with the recording process. Capturing quality audio quickly became a passion and addiction.
His initial audio education came from the Kingsbury Recording Studio where he became a certified recording engineer. Since then, tape and all the hardware has become obsolete. With all of the advancements of the past 3 decades Al landed on Pro-Tools for his studio over 10 years ago. He has produced a number of full length CD projects of original material for local artists and logged tens of thousands of hours at audio consoles, mixing all genres from Rock to Gospel. He has produced front of house audio at churches for over 35 years, and was the audio coordinator for 22 years in a 2000 seat sanctuary with a 100 member choir, a live band and orchestra. Al currently serves on the A/V crew at Life Fellowship, a multi-site church, using video and technology to be one church in multiple locations.
Al teaches Audio 101 “How to” Clinics to area church media & tech teams. He builds and re-build solid body guitars and does set-up/light luthier work. He also play drums and even strums a piano.
Since 2006, AL has been a camera operator at Lander’s Center shooting Riverkings Hockey concerts, rodeo, monster truck, comedians, and all sorts of events and shows, capturing through the lens a vast number of entertainers including Dave Matthews Band, Martina McBride, Three Doors Down, Luke Bryan, Blues Traveller, Blind Melon, Lenny Kravitz, Lady Antebellum, REO Speedwagon, The Steve Miller Band, and many many others.