Contagious Swagger at Sarasota Film Festival

Arts & Culture

Pictured: CJ Callins behind the scenes of his Ringling Senior Thesis film, Contagious Swagger. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“It’s been a wild ride. It was a four day shoot in total with the first shooting date in late September, but the second week got postponed a whole month because of the hurricane that ripped through Florida,” says CJ Callins. “My actors weren’t students, they were real-life, full-time actors–my lead was from Miami and we had to alter his looks to look like he did a whole month and a half ago.”

Callins, a Ringling College Branded Entertainment Film major, is speaking on his senior thesis film, Contagious Swagger, which will be airing this week at the Sarasota Film Festival. The 11-minute comedic short, which focuses on a Black man meeting his Asian girlfriend’s parents for the first time, is a rarity for the Sarasota Film Festival–Ringling College thesis films typically aren’t completed in time for submission to the festival. “I don’t know the last time a Ringling College film has been in it because usually senior thesis films are completed until around late April or late May, but I made it a goal to get it in there in time. This is actually the first branded entertainment film to be in the festival which is kind of historic and exciting for me,” says Callins.

A branded entertainment film, as Callins puts it, “is more like a sponsored short film than a commercial”. It’s a film that connects with a brand to tell a story. Callins, interested in exploring the intersection of Black and Asian cultures, picked a brand that he felt was resonant in the Black community: Air Jordan. “The biggest message of this film revolves around cultures coming together. In the film, the boyfriend has to take off his Air Jordan’s when he steps into his girlfriend’s home – it’s like taking a piece of himself off,” says Callins. “I didn’t really get to experience or educate myself about Asian culture until I came to Ringling College. My suitemate from freshman year was Asian and I’ve lived with him ever since. The similarities between his culture and mine really inspired me to make this film.”

Pictured: CJ Callins behind the scenes of his Ringling Senior Thesis film, Contagious Swagger. Photo courtesy of the artist.

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