Matt Dillon Talks New Documentary at Ringling College

Actor Matt Dillon still recalls a visit to Sarasota in 2006 when he made a trip to a local arthouse to see an Irish film he was surprised to find in this market. “The theater was jam packed,” Dillon recalls. “The film was called The Wind That Shakes The Barley, and you won’t see that in a typical cineplex, so I saw that there was a real audience here interested in independent films. You think people go to Florida and just go to the beach, but that’s not the case here. I don’t think that film got distributed in Miami, but here there is an appetite for cultural stuff.”

Of course, Dillon also learned through the years the reputation of Ringling College of Art and Design, where he visited this week both to see the impressive animation and filmmaking programs and to work with students on Fellove, a documentary Dillon is putting together after years of filming. The film is about the history of Afro-Cuban music, including the life of the late El Gran Fellove. At a public event at Ringling College on Wednesday evening, Dillon compared the film to Wim Wenders’ Buena Vista Social Club, which looks at the lives of Cuban musicians who stayed on the island even after the rise of Fidel Castro, but said his film looks at those musicians who got out of the country and spread the influence of Afro-Cuban music in Mexico and the United States.

The fact he is coming to work with talent at Ringling College shows the value that visiting talent places in the skills of students here. “People think we are bringing in celebrities, but we set it here so they can be artists,” said David Shapiro, co-founder of Future Films, the driving force bringing talent to the Ringling College Digital Filmmaking Studio Lab. The program has attracted such talent as director Werner Herzog, actor Forrest Whitaker and actress Anna Paquin to teach guest classes and work on projects here.

At the public event last night, Dillon fielded questions about his most famous acting roles from his early days in The Outsiders to more recent work like his key role in the Oscar-winning Crash. He listed influences on his acting, including James Dean and Marlon Brando, and he shared stories of filming with such legends as James Caan. The goal of the work at Ringling, though, is to have him work with students full-time for a period. He may end up doing a second documentary later this year as well, officials said.

Dillon said he still loves acting and will continue to take on fun and challenging roles in dramas and comedies. But he also loves working on a documentary, which has been a learning experience. “If I stop learning at any point I am disappointed,” he said. “I have been living in a three-act structure my entire career, but in documentaries there is this whole other way of telling stories.” SHARE:

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