Kevin Smith Gives Back to "The Kids" at Ringling College

Arts & Culture

BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY FEB 26, 2020

Hollywood and the beautiful faces of its celebrities can seem out of reach for the average person, same for the less visible but equally renowned directors and producers whose work wields outsized influence on the cultures in which they are consumed. But sometimes, a Hollywood figure comes along that closes the gap between creator and consumer, and Ringling College has built a relationship with just such a figure in Kevin Smith. Known for his satirical celebration of outcasts and his humorous commentary on popular culture, Smith has also been a part of Ringling College’s push to gain real-world experience for its students. And on Tuesday night, Smith and the College unveiled the trailer for a film called “Killroy Was Here,” a horror anthology filmed mostly in Sarasota in which Ringling students comprised most of the production crew.

Dressed in jean shorts, skateboard shoes, a baggy blazer and with his Dachshund Shecky in tow, Smith took to the stage of Ringling College’s Morganroth Auditorium to talk about his personal journey to Hollywood and why it’s important for him to give opportunities to “the kids” with collaborations like “Killroy.” “Working with the kids is inspiring as f---,” says Smith, who recalled the magic of his first film, “Clerks,” and the audacity of its critical and commercial success. Humble in spite of his well-respected place in the canon of American filmmakers, his collaboration with Ringling students was in many ways an homage to his 23-year-old self, whose unbridled optimism paved the way for his career. “It was all passion,” he says before pivoting to the joy of working with the students and why good filmmakers should be receptive to the ideas around them.

“Your voice is your currency,” says Smith, “and every creative executive is dreaming about the artists in this room.” Smith assures the film students in attendance that, in spite of the misconception that Hollywood cares only for sequels and reboots, every production company still hungers for something bold and new. It was the perfect anecdote to sum up the lofty goals set forth by Ringling’s president, Dr. Larry Thompson. “We are all about shattering the myth of the starving artist,” says Dr. Thompson. For the film program, the collaboration gives students the sense of agency that comes from working with a professional filmmaker and, of course, it looks great on a resume. So, “Killroy Was Here” provided a win-win scenario for both filmmaker and college. “Investing in students is a good investment,” says Smith, “because somebody in this auditorium is gonna make the next big thing.

Photo taken by Andrew Fabian.

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