"I was 28 years old, out of college and I'd never had a job that paid me more than $7 an hour in this area. I was college educated and they gave me first shot working on a lottery commercial."
Looking ahead, he hungers to do more work combining film and music. One labor of love was "Give Up the Fuzz," an interview with McDowell County native Clarence "Fuzzy" Haskins of Parliament Funkadelic. Schmidt turned the interview into a mini documentary, complete with childhood re-enactments, about the rise of the band.
Then, Iggy Pop and the Stooges invited fans to enter footage into a contest. Schmidt, a huge fan, landed a half-hour interview with Iggy and crew in New York, which he flipped into a longer piece now out on DVD and Blu-ray as part of the band's contest, "In the Hands of the Fans."
"I feel very effective putting the video with the music," he said. "In 10 years, I'm hoping to be the go-to guy to get this kind of work done."
Meanwhile, there are always rattlesnakes to shoot. With a camera.
He has become a regular location shooter in this region for the "Animal Planet" cable channel, he said. "There was an episode shot in Jackson County, a fellow who lived in a trailer with a bunch of rattlesnakes. They sent me out to shoot a demo of that."
They had to delay the shoot until an EMT could be onsite -- just in case. Schmidt smiles. "I had bills to pay, OK?"
But his tryout with the show has borne fruit, as his long résumé and reputation preceded him when national production crews enter the state looking for a reliable hand. "Animal Planet" has since used him on two other episodes with more to come.
"I don't know if things have changed, but I'm supposed to be one of the -- if not the [lead] -- B-camera for the East Coast of the show."
Whatever comes next in these changing times of film and video production, "I'm in it for the duration," says Schmidt.
"I complain all the time about things I have to put up with. But I'm still here, I'm still going to take the job. If you call me, I'll be there tomorrow. Or next week. Or whenever. I may get a little more curmudgeonlike about it, but it's what I do. It's where I'm at."
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.