At an early morning press conference in the Keating Center, Ringling College of Art and Design revealed plans for its latest expansion, the Ringling College Soundstage Complex, in what appears to be a milestone for the development of Sarasota’s burgeoning film community.
The facility, to be constructed in the block between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way and 25th Street and stretching from Cocoanut Avenue to Central Avenue will be home to not only a soundstage, but also a professional post-production studio. Current plans predict a roughly 30,000 sq. ft. complex with around 25,000 sq. ft. dedicated to the soundstage and 5,000 for the post-production studio, both fundamental assets to creating an environment rich with not only talent – which Ringling has plenty of – but the resources necessary to large-scale film production, formerly missing in Sarasota.
“We are becoming the preeminent art and design college in the country,” Ringling College President Larry Thompson told the gathered crowd. Since its inception in 2010, Ringling College’s filmmaking program has quickly ascended the rankings, with The Hollywood Reporter naming it a Top 25 Film School for three of the past four years. “But we’re not satisfied with that. Where we’re going will really put us in that top box.”
Made possible by a combination of support from public and private entities, the project received a $1.7 million grant from the county and notable investment from Semkhor Networks, of which Digital Filmmaking Studio Lab co-founder David Shapiro is a partner, and BHS Properties. Oscar-nominated writer/director and frequent Wes Anderson collaborator Roman Coppola has signed on as a consultant, bringing real-world experience to assist in the design.
Once completed, the Soundstage Complex will open doors for many in the community. Ringling students will not only have top-notch facilities for their own projects and training, but also a space to collaborate more fully and productively with the esteemed artists the college brings in each year, who have expressed admiration for the students and interest in working together, but have not had the opportunity due to lack of sufficient professional facilities.
In addition, plans are underway to allow commercial enterprises a place within the complex, bringing economic development to the Newtown area and further opportunity for Ringling students to garner technical experience. When asked, Thompson also revealed plans to provide educational opportunities for local schools not directly affiliated with the college.
“We are tied to and love Newtown and want to make sure we all thrive,” Thompson said, commenting on the likely influx of business and visitors to the area once construction is completed. “This will be a huge shot in the arm for the economic development of Newtown.”
“You brought change to this city, you’ve always brought change,” said Sarasota Mayor Willie Shaw to Thompson, expounding on the profound effect Ringling’s development has had on the Newtown area. “It’s not only going to increase Ringling, it’s going to increase the whole quarter. This collaboration creates a catalyst for the community as a whole.”
The project is estimated to cost from $5-7 million. Construction is planned to commence in 2015, finishing in 2016.