Thanks to the partnership between Ringling College of Art and Design and Semkhor Productions, Hollywood actors and brothers Christian and Justin Long are bringing their latest project to Ringling’s campus, where they will work in tandem with a team of select students to bring the show from page to screen. A now-untitled web-series that Justin describes as either “a comedy masquerading as a travel show, or a travel show masquerading as a comedy,” the initial goal is eight episodes, with a tentative goal of a summer release. David Shapiro, co-founder of Semkhor, will also be joining the endeavor in an executive producing role, as will iconic writer/director Kevin Smith, though in an unspecified capacity.
Not the first visit to Sarasota or Ringling College for the pair, both were effusive at the prospect of returning to work in the area. “We just love the facilities, the kids, the enthusiasm that we found here and it felt like a good marriage,” said Justin. He and Christian had been in talks with Shapiro for a while, he said, trying to find a way to utilize the “wealth of resources” that, according to Justin, “have largely gone untapped in terms of people outside the college.” As for working with students, who some may say are untested, Christian stood assured. “It doesn’t feel like a risk,” he said. “We were here two years ago, and everyone was incredibly polished and skilled. So any fear was quickly erased.”
“And there’s something exciting about working with students in that there’s nothing jaded or cynical,” continued Christian. “They’re into it because they’re into it.” For his part, Justin agreed. “There’s an opportunity here to work on a very pure and fundamental level,” he said, “and you lose sight of that sometimes.”
Returning to the purity of the craft seems to be an added benefit of the web-series format, which allows creators less interference from outside backers and more ability to own their material, according to the Longs. “Certainly there is more freedom on the internet,” said Christian. “This is cool for us because we can create something we like, without having to answer to too many other people.” The streamlined chain of production and fast-paced nature of the virtual world also seemed like a natural fit for the oddball nature of the project, said Justin. “It’s a younger environment,” he said, “so the idea will lend itself to that energy and that youthful creativity.”
It’s a youthful creativity the pair hopes to mine from their young charges, as well, bringing them wholeheartedly into the creative process. In addition to taking advantage of the students’ technical skills (“They know more than we do,” said Justin), the pair believes the infusion of younger perspectives will only help the writing. “Comedy does evolve, and younger people have their finger on the pulse of what’s funny and we’ll look to them to judge what we’re doing,” said Justin. “A lot of filmmakers, they stop listening to people who may not have as much experience, but know what’s funny, and it affects their work.”
He had his own mentors, he said, rattling off names like Sam Rockwell, Vince Vaughn and Alan Arkin, but paying special respect to writer/director Kevin Smith, a cult hero of DIY filmmaking whom he has worked with in the recent past. “I’ve really cherished his friendship and his professional wisdom,” said Justin. “And I like the way he makes movies; I like the untethered style. He’s really gone off on his own and it’s only for the better if it’s furthering his singular vision.”
The brothers look forward to continuing that mentorship tradition at Ringling, said Justin, though he admits they’ll be learning a lot as well. “There’s going to be a lot of creative involvement,” he said of their plans for the students. “It’s going to be a mutual mentorship.”