Filmmaker Ray Dillman Shares his Wisdom at Ringling College

Arts & Culture

BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY MAR 5, 2021

Last Thursday, Ringling College got a visit from one of its most successful alums when Ray Dillman (class of ‘76) popped in to share some wisdom from his storied career. After graduating as a Design/Illustration major, Dillman went on to work with some of the biggest advertising agencies in the country, eventually making his way into directing commercials for major brands like Coca-Cola, Bell and GM. His work with commercials earned him an Emmy award and solidified his status as one of the most emotive storytellers in the advertising industry.

In addition to leading a master class for Ringling College’s film students in which he walked them through the real-life process of producing one of his commercials, Dillman also sat down for a Zoom Q + A with Ringling College film instructor Mark Schimmel. In it, Dillman dished on how his time at Ringling College helped shape his career behind a camera and provided a broader audience with a recap of the insights shared with students.

“I had such a rich experience when I came here,” says Dillman, “and I love that it still feels like an art school, which I think is the heart of the place.” He credits his broad instruction in various mediums as one of the skill sets that helped him find a niche in the advertising industry. “With a lot of the work I do now, it pays to know a little about everything,” he says, “because first of all, I’ll know if I’m being lied to, and second of all, I can do some of it myself if it’s a low budget film.” For his wife’s films, for example, Dillman used his design background to create the credits and title frames.

Dillman also recounted how one of his commercials, a heartfelt commercial for Bell in which a grandson calls his WWII veteran grandfather from Dieppe, still runs on Remembrance Day in Canada. He remembers how that commercial showcased his knack for problem solving. “We held auditions all day for that grandfather character and it was just awful,” says Dillman, “and then we brought in actual veterans and I was able to get this really great performance out of an 80-year-old guy that had actually been there.”

But Dillman’s parting message was short, sweet and applicable to artists in any medium. “Write, shoot, film,” he says, “you’re not gonna get work without having work. My best advice is to just make stuff.”

Pictured: Filmmaker Ray Dillman chats with the media before his public Q + A from inside the Ringling College Studio A. Photo by Rich Schineller.

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