The actor, writer and director is currently filming the first installment of his horror anthology “Killroy Was Here” in partnership with Ringling College and Semkhor Productions.
Sarasota’s Nathan Benderson Park is home to joggers, nature enthusiasts and, most notably, the upcoming World Rowing Championships.
Recently, though, it played host to something different — dollys, cameras, film crew and a debate over just how much blood should be visible in this shot.
It’s part of the film “Killroy Was Here,” the first installment in a horror anthology by filmmaker, actor and director Kevin Smith (“Clerks,” “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” “Mallrats”).
Smith is filming the project in Sarasota in partnership with Ringling College of Art and Design and executive producer Semkhor Productions.
The film traces its roots to an off-the-cuff conversation on an episode of the “Edumacation” podcast with Smith and the film’s co-producer and co-writer Andy McElfresh. The original concept was a Christmas-themed horror movie called “Comes the Krampus.” But after a similar movie was released, Smith tabled the idea.
“Then last year, I met the folks at Ringling College,” Smith said on Facebook Live during a late-night camera rehearsal June 14, at Nathan Benderson Park. “They have this program that Dylan McDermott and Justin Long have done, shooting stuff with the students. Ringling College of Art and Design has an amazing film school in the middle of it.”
So Smith decided to partner with Ringling College and Semkhor to repurpose the film, which now, as its slightly tweaked title suggests, features a monster inspired by the “Kilroy Was Here” graffiti that became popular during WWII.
“This is a monster movie in the sense of a classic morality tale,” Smith said in a release. “No one wants to see you spill the blood of innocents, but when someone crosses the line and goes bad, you get to make them pay in horrible ways, and the audience cheers. We wanted to make an anthology film in the vein of ‘Creepshow.’ Killroy is like the Golem, the Boogeyman and the Grim Reaper combined.”
Producers include Andy McElfresh, Tony Stopperan, Jordan Monsanto, Ringling grad Nick Morgulis and Joseph Restaino. The project will include 26 Ringling students, who will graduate with real-world industry experience and a professional credit.
“Killroy is our most extensive production to date,” David Shapiro, Semkhor Productions founder and the film’s executive producer, said in a release. “It is extraordinarily challenging, because it integrates both practical and digital effects and had to be done in a very short time on a very tight budget. Our goal is to help Ringling students and local residents gain the right kind of experience to become a top-tier entertainment workforce with which to attract bigger and more complex productions to Sarasota.”
Smith took to Facebook Live to show fans a behind-the-scenes look at filming, and to show off some of the makeup by Robert Kurtzman of Creature Corps, who has worked on some of the biggest films in horror.
Smith offered a look at the equipment, the actors and a run-through of a scene involving a dead body before signing off.
“I’ve got to get back to work,” he said, adding air quotes to the word “work.” “Can you believe this is my job?”