Smith studied filmmaking at Curtin University of Technology, where he completed a Graduate Diploma in 2002 and a Masters in 2009. He also studied under prominent Australian film critic David Stratton at the University of Sydney's Centre for Continuing Education. In 2011, Stratton wrote that Smith's enthusiasm for film matched his own.
Smith lectured in filmmaking at SAE Institute, Perth, from 2007 till 2016.
Smith's short films have screened at over three hundred festivals around the world. They include:
- Mere Oblivion (2007). Kenny Bunkport has nothing but trouble the night he takes his elderly grandmother out to dinner. Burleigh Smith, Elizabeth Caiacob. Winner of the Nicole Kidman Best Actress Award at Tropfest, the world's largest short film festival.
- Gentle Persuasion (2008). Frank Fenner decides to practise psychology without any qualifications or ethics. He is soon blackmailed into helping a man exit his daughter from a cult. Burleigh Smith, Sarah Louella, Greg Higgs. Competed as one of eight finalists at Tropfest New York.
- Love Like You've Never Been Hurt (2009). Problem gamblers orchestrate a romance between two broken hearts so that they can bet on the outcome. Burleigh Smith, Taryn Leggett. Opened the Perth International Arts Festival's Lotterywest Films.
- Then She Was Gone (2010). Basil pursues Mia. But Mia is only interested in men who are masculine. Burleigh Smith, Sarah Louella.
- Ragtime (2011). Ernest is set up on a series of blind dates with various hard and damaged women. Burleigh Smith, John Waters, Geoff Morrell, Bridie Carter, Daniel Henshall, Penelope Andrews, Phyllis Foundis, Jennah Bannear, Ashleigh Galipo.
- The Things My Father Never Taught Me (2012). Melvin gives irrelevant dating advice to his three-year-old son. Burleigh Smith, Aiden Papamihail, Bridie Carter.
- Blue Drag (2013). A morose advertising executive has an unexpected romance with a potential client. Burleigh Smith, Jennah Bannear, Tiriel Mora.
- Fixed (2014). Jemimah wants Tilly to have puppies. At any cost. Screened as one of sixteen finalists at Tropfest.
- Why I Hate the Left (2015). Ronald explains Right and Left politics to his six-year-old daughter. Burleigh Smith, Amara Harnisch, Rachel McCann.
- Ava (2016). Ava's parents put their daughter to the ultimate test.
Smith's debut feature will be a romantic comedy titled You Can't Play the Game If You Don't Know the Rules, inspired by the self-improvement book by Dr. Irene Alexander. The film will be released in 2017 and features Zoe Ventoura, John Waters, Tiriel Mora and Bruce Spence.
The screenplay won the annual Garden State Film Festival's Screenplay Competition and was performed on stage in Atlantic City in April 2014, directed by Diane Ladd.
Book: As the World Falls Down: A Screenplay (2014). Wavebreaker. Melbourne, Australia. ISBN 978-0-646-92757-2.
Book: Daisy's Getting Married: A Screenplay (2015). Wavebreaker. Sydney, Australia. ISBN 978-0-646-95157-7.
Book: Goliath: A Screenplay (2016). Wavebreaker. Sydney, Australia. ISBN 978-0-646-95665-7.
Book: Ballads & Sighs: A Screenplay (2017). Wavebreaker. Sydney, Australia.
Book: How Equality Works: A Farce (2018). Wavebreaker. Sydney, Australia. ISBN 978-0-646-97376-0.
Reviewing The Things My Father Never Taught Me, Hal Astell wrote "It's obvious that Burleigh Smith dreams of being Woody Allen and he's clearly doing much better than most wannabes ... He's great at making a mild idiot out of himself without ever losing believability. This is a wonderful little short on many fronts."
The West Australian film critic Mark Naglazas described Smith as a "prolific Perth auteur who has made a string of Allen-inspired comedies that have played in festivals around the world and won numerous prizes".
Smith won Best Director at the 2011 West Australian Screen Awards for Then She Was Gone. In his acceptance speech, he dedicated the award to a Curtin University lecturer, who had told Smith on several occasions that he would never succeed as a director.
Smith has also received a West Australian Screen Award for his 2004 documentary on W.A. truck drivers, Grinding to a Halt. He was nominated for Best Experimental Film for Party For One (2007) and Best Director for Love Like You've Never Been Hurt (2009).
Discussing Mere Oblivion at Tropfest 2007 for Empire magazine, Oscar Hillerstrom wrote "Melange of stylistic influences leads to a black and white story about a man and his grandmother. Not quite funny, with sharp, truthful barbs."
Reviewing Love Like You've Never Been Hurt in The West Australian, film critic Mark Naglazas wrote "Smith skilfully replicates a Woody Allen movie, right down to the black-and-white credits and the old-time jazz-inflected soundtrack, making for a kooky and charming contrast: the sophisticated New York romantic comedy relocated to a daggy Perth setting that climaxes (cringe) in front of the Bell Tower".
Then She Was Gone screened at twenty-six festivals around the world. Winner of Best Drama at the Katoomba Short Film Festival, Best Director at the West Australian Screen Awards, Best Screenplay at the Angry Film Festival and an Audience Award at the Sydney Underground Film Festival.
Caught Short programmer Katharine Rogers described Then She Was Gone as "Smith's playful observation of unrequited love and the gross transformations people undertake in order to win affection. Confidently written and uniquely styled, Smith's film is an original take on a common theme."
Smith's Ragtime screenplay was a finalist at the Beverly Hills Film Festival, the Charleston International Film Festival, the Mexico International Film Festival and the Alaska International Film Awards, was placed second in the Short Screenplay Competition at the Honolulu Film Awards and received Honourable Mentions at the Canada International Film Festival, Renderyard Short Film Festival (Spain) and the Skyfest Film and Script Festival (North Carolina).
The Things My Father Never Taught Me has been accepted into over one hundred and thirty international film festivals. Festival screenings include the Arizona International Film Festival, the Asiana International Short Film Festival (South Korea), the Boston International Film Festival, the Cambridge Film Festival, the Canada International Film Festival, Clint Eastwood's Carmel Art and Film Festival, Mike Leigh's Cornwall Film Festival, the Dungog Film Festival (Australia), the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, the Humboldt Film Festival, the Indianapolis International Film Festival, the Melbourne Underground Film Festival, the Mill Valley Film Festival, the Montreal World Film Festival, and the Long Island International Film Expo (New York), where it screened on Opening Night.
She Will Be Mine, an unproduced, short screenplay, was winner of Best Short Drama at the Woods Hole Film Festival Screenplay Competition and Best Overall Screenplay at the Sidewalk Film Festival's Sidewrite Screenplay Competition.
Fixed has been accepted into over ninety five international film festivals across ten countries.