Tools of the Trade: Joshua Seftel of Smartypants Brooklyn

By Kyle O'Brien 

Tools of the Trade is a new AgencySpy feature to help highlight the many tools that help make advertising and marketing folks successful. The tools can be anything that helps people perform at their top form, from a favorite drafting table to the best software program to a lucky pen, a vintage typewriter or a pair of headphones.

Next up is Joshua Seftel, 2023 Academy Award-nominated director, founder at Smartypants Brooklyn.

Joshua Seftel gets ready to get in the zone with his Bose headphones.


What is one tool you use all the time at work, and how does it inspire your work?

It’s my old, beat-up Bose Quiet Comfort headphones—the old school clunky headphones with the wire jack and everything. I think I got them around 2010, I’ve had to replace the foam ear pads a bunch of times, but I still use them every day.

Why is it your favorite?

My headphones are my secret weapon and I pretty much take them everywhere. They magically transport me to a quiet place where I can concentrate and “get in the zone.” I use them in airports, on planes, at home. Even when I’m on set, I’ll throw them on when I need a calm moment to solve a problem or make a quick script adjustment. At home, when my 3 and 7 year-old are screaming about wanting to watch “Bluey,” my headphones give me an instant noise-proof space. I’m even wearing them as I bang out the answers to these questions.

How did you acquire your tool or hear about it for the first time?

When I started flying a lot, I noticed that the real hardened pro-travelers in first class—the guys with the monogrammed Tumis and the pastel golf shirts—would pull out their Bose as soon as they got on the plane. I figured maybe they knew something I didn’t, so eventually I took the leap myself.

How does it help you be successful?

At this point, a huge part of it is just the association of putting them on. When they’re out, it means I’m serious about getting stuff done. Then the music I put on is a huge part. Lately, if I need to write something, I’ll put on “Opening” by Philip Glass, or “Faisal” by Fred again. If I need to chill out, it’s “Wading in Waist-High Water” by Fleet Foxes. If I need inspiration I’ll put on “Beautality” by Louie Short. But the playlist is always changing and evolving. And here’s the key: I’ll listen to that one song on repeat until I finish the job.

Does it have sentimental value?

When I was little and I’d go to the beach, I remember kneeling in the shallow water for hours and making little worlds out of sand and water. I could shut out the world and get so focused for hours, like a deep meditative state. In high school, when I got into photography, I found that same intense focus in the dark room, where hours could pass in what felt like seconds. These days, wearing my headphones is a shortcut to that same place.

Do you think your tool could go TikTok viral? Why or why not?

I don’t make my films for TikTok, but maybe my love for my headphones will finally get me on there to make a Bose TikTok.

We want to know what tools you use to make you successful. If you’d like to contribute or know someone who would want to be featured in Tools of the Trade, contact and fill out our survey.