Bolstering Our Film Industry Through Collaboration

Higher Education


When opportunity meets empowerment, the unexpected happens. Ideas and abstraction become plans. That is how I feel about the emerging film industry in Florida and especially the Sarasota-Manatee community. Our region, which I often call the “Creative Coast,” has long been home to artists, as well as art patrons and enthusiasts, including talented filmmakers—both aspiring and recognized. Ringling College of Art and Design is one arm in the collaborative effort to bring, support and retain talented filmmakers to the state and to the region, and we are working with our partners and co-collaborators in the efforts to bring this dream to life.

This week, Film Florida held its annual board meeting at Ringling College, marking the first time the organization has convened in Sarasota. The event was brought to Sarasota by Jeanne Corcoran, our tireless county film commissioner. This group of commissioners and advocates, the national arm representing film in our state, toured the campus and the city and honored Senator Nancy Detert for her continued dedication to and support of the film industry. We are so proud to be connected with this organization and our district leadership to promote our students, our innovative production model and our regional and state film initiatives.

Providing opportunity and support is Ringling College’s piece of this puzzle. Our Film initiative is centered on the idea that the best talent comes from myriad backgrounds, geographies and ideologies, and we aim to bring the best of the best to the region through our rapidly growing Film major—named among the Top Film Colleges in the US by The Hollywood Reporter, our new Soundstage and Post Production Complex and the Ringling College Studio Lab, a collaboration with the private company, Semkhor Networks. Our scholarships help bring students with drive and talent to the west coast of Florida to work with our community and industry partners and take advantage of our professional equipment, opportunities for shooting on professional sets and brand-new facilities. Just last month, we announced an exciting opportunity to partner with WEDU, another member of our community that supports our goals for video and film growth in the region.

And the collaborative efforts of Ringling College and the greater Sarasota community have not gone unnoticed! This month alone, two Sarasota-based films premiered in New York City. First was the Sundance-selected film, Dark Night, directed by world-renowned filmmaker Tim Sutton who used mostly Ringling College students as crew. The second was Paradise, FL, a production of the House of John, TriForce Pictures, Media Management Global and Ringling College. These two films were produced with the support of Ringling College and shot in and around Sarasota. Our community came together to support the production from all angles, from catering to wardrobe rentals, hotels and equipment rentals. And in return, our city and regional economy has benefitted from the collaboration, proving how impactful film production can be to a community. In addition, our students just completed shooting a Semkhor-produced web series with Golden Globe winner Dylan McDermott, a collaboration conceived and created right in our backyard. And the list goes on and on. These achievements are the results of the combined efforts of an entire region coming together. 

Yes, great things are happening right here in Sarasota. But, great things don’t just happen on their own. As the saying goes, it takes a village. We are one arm of the effort, but all of the arms have to work together to create opportunities and support our artists. So many of us in the community are working together to build the ideal environment for existing and emerging film talent to come and stay here in Florida. For one organization it may seem like a giant task, but together we can change the face of the industry. 

Dr. Larry R. Thompson is president of Ringling College of Art and Design.

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