Making It Real

Ringling College Collaboratory Offers Students Professional Experience

In late 2014 the college formalized its commitment to providing every student on campus with professional experience.

By Cooper Levey-Baker March 15, 2016

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Actor Dylan McDermott and Ringling College student Alexa Schara.

Real clients. Real pressure. Real results. That’s the essence of Ringling College of Art and Design’s Collaboratory Commitment, a guarantee that any student who wants professional work experience can get it. For years, Ringling classes have connected students with outside clients. But in late 2014 the college formalized its commitment to providing every student on campus with professional experience, two years after the school partnered with The Patterson Foundation to create the Collaboratory and one year after Ringling hired Cynthia Gravino to oversee the program. Clients include national giants like GM, local nonprofits like Southeastern Guide Dogs and government agencies like the Sarasota Police Department. Here are a few examples:

A Little Bit Country

CLIENT: Nash Next


GOAL: Edit, animate and add motion design to music videos for emerging country music artists

RESULT: Ten music videos that promoted singers and bands participating in Nash Next’s national country music competition

Ron Berryman, the founder and CEO of Sum Entertainment, had seen press releases about the Collaboratory, but it wasn’t until he visited Ringling that he understood the wealth of talent there. Five interdisciplinary Ringling teams worked with country singers and bands to edit and create animation and motion design flourishes for 10 music videos that were used in his Nash Next, a national country music competition. The company was so pleased that it’s working with Ringling again, this time collaborating with students on tour and merchandise branding.

Designed for Speed

CLIENT: General Motors


GOAL: Create speed form designs for vehicle development

RESULT: Storyboards, sketches, 3D renderings and clay model sculptures developed in coordination with GM designers

GM has hired Ringling grads for years, so the company was eager to take advantage of students’ creative thinking through the Collaboratory. “[GM] teaches the technical side of things,” the Collaboratory’s Cynthia Gravino says. “They can’t teach the creative.” Students signed up for a full-semester elective course developing storyboards, renderings and clay models of potential vehicles while learning about the principles of vehicle design from GM experts and working with state-of-the-art industry software. Impressed by their work, GM is repeating the program again this spring, with a new crop of students.

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Actor Justin Long, in green, discusses his video with Ringling students.

On the Web

CLIENT: Justin Long and Christian Long


GOAL: Create and film an Internet video series

RESULT: Eight short videos that spoof travel shows, shot in and around Sarasota

In addition to bringing Hollywood movers and shakers to town, Ringling College built a pipeline that helps students land work on film and TV projects. As with other Collaboratory Commitment programs, the key is to get industry leaders to campus to show them that Ringling students are the real deal. Justin Long, best known for roles in Apple’s Mac vs. PC ad campaign and films like Live Free or Die Hard and Idiocracy, came to campus in 2013. After visiting, he and his brother, producer Christian Long, turned to students to create a web video series mocking travel shows. After lengthy meetings discussing tone, lighting and production with students, the brothers began filming the series in Sarasota in March.

Filming With the Stars

CLIENT: Dylan McDermott


GOAL: Write and shoot a dramatic online video series

RESULT: Sixteen five- to six-minute episodes written and produced by Ringling students

Actor Dylan McDermott (Steel Magnolias, In the Line of Fire) is another talent who came to visit Ringling and ended up working with students on a project. McDermott had already mapped out a 22-minute pilot for a new series, Sugar, but he worked with Ringling students to develop more than a dozen more episodes. Pre-production begins here in April, with a 22-day shoot that will include a significant amount of student work. McDermott's project is developed with e-commerce in mind. Since actors today have strong personal brands with built-in audiences, Ringling students are learning how this new business model works, experience that puts them at the forefront of entertainment trends.

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