With the arrival of the new year and start of the spring semester at Ringling College of Art and Design this week, I feel compelled to share how constantly amazed and inspired I am by the drive, passion and creativity of our current students and esteemed graduates.
Here’s the story. Due to Hurricane Irma this past fall, the college extended the fall semester by a week to ensure our students receive their full amount of required instruction. Although not required to do so, we decided to reduce winter break by a week. Despite the need for some well-deserved rest and relaxation, more than 33 Ringling students, as well as nearly 10 recent graduates, chose to remain on campus and work throughout their coveted holiday break on a project that is bringing great value to their careers and our greater Sarasota-Manatee community.
Why would students give up their winter break and not go home like everyone else? The reason: The college brought in acclaimed director, writer and actor Kevin Smith to film the second installment of his horror anthology film, “Kilroy Was Here.” Having the opportunity to work with a superstar like Kevin Smith is truly an inspiration for our aspiring filmmakers because of his phenomenal career in independent film.
These dedicated Ringling students – ranging from freshmen to seniors – worked as the production crew and shot the movie throughout the greater Sarasota area. Venues included local homes, Booker Middle School, our new Ringling College Studio Labs soundstage facility and other locations. Kevin and his film were brought to our community as a result of Ringling College’s collaborative efforts with Semkhor Productions’ David Shapiro, who also served as executive producer of this film.
Ringling students were involved in nearly every aspect of the production. They conducted an exhaustive pre-production session after break, and then shot nonstop starting Tuesday through today, completing the complex shoot schedule on time and, more importantly, on budget. It is that drive and passion that portends great futures for these young filmmakers. Their professionalism throughout the process makes a lasting impression on the industry luminaries they have been fortunate to work with throughout their academic journey with us at the college and beyond.
Nick Morgulis, “Kilroy” producer and one of our first Ringling College Film graduates (he graduated in 2012), shared with me that the students working on this production were phenomenal. More importantly, they are going to enter the film industry when they graduate with the credits and experience that would take anyone else 10 years to achieve. And imagine, they gleaned that experience right here in our area during their time at Ringling.
Smith was an ideal partner in this venture because he is a natural teacher and encourages collaboration and suggestions from the students. Several times on the shoot and before, he used input from students to improve scenes. In fact, after the production wrapped, I had the pleasure of doing an interview with Smith, Shapiro, Morgulis and several student crew members for Smith’s SMODCAST, and he detailed several instances where he greatly valued and welcomed student input.
This specific project is part of the larger effort by Ringling College to ensure all students attending the college have the opportunity to work on real world projects with professional clients or, in the case of film, producers before they graduate. Further, it is part of the Ringling College Studio Lab initiative established by Shapiro and myself nearly a decade ago. This program brings professional producers, directors, and actors to Ringling College to help teach and inspire our students. The ultimate goal was to do exactly what happened on the “Kilroy was Here” production – having digital media (film, movie, TV, web series, etc.) productions taking place in Sarasota with engagement by Ringling College students and the local community. It is a true win for all.
We at Ringling College are thrilled to continue working with Smith and his team, and we look forward to welcoming them back to shoot the third and final installment of “Kilroy Was Here” in our area this spring/summer. The word that Ringling College and our region have a great level of talent and a capacity for professional productions is definitely spreading. Smith and many of the other filmmakers we have worked with believe that the greater Sarasota-Manatee area could very well be the digital media mecca of the Southeastern United States.
First and foremost it is about the talent. But, the other main factor so often mentioned by these industry professionals stems from the enthusiastic support for creativity from our vibrant Sarasota-Manatee community. And it is that support for which I as president of the College am most grateful because you make everyone’s opportunities all the richer and brighter.