The department head of the college's film program says earning the award felt incredible. Even better? Seeing his students succeed.
Piles of scripts are stacked sideways on a bookshelf in Bradley Battersby’s office, each title labeled in black marker.
The Ringling College of Art and Design film program department head brings not only scripts to study, but years of experience writing and directing films to his position. He came to Ringling in 2009, when the program had been in operation for two years.
The program has since garnered national attention and notoriety in Hollywood and the entertainment industry. In 2016, Ringling was ranked 16 on The Hollywood Reporter’s list of the Top 25 American Film Schools.
The latest win: In April, Battersby was named Variety magazine’s 2017 Mentor of the Year, a big accolade attached to the young program.
There are 130 students in the program, and Battersby says a small cohort is good.
“No one falls through the cracks here,” he says. “We are nimble.”
It also allows him to mentor every student. But he prefers a more of a hands-off approach, especially when directing a student production.
“Directing is almost a misnomer,” Battersby says. “As soon as you tell people what to do, it’s more you and less them, and it lessens their feeling of investment and ownership.”
Instead, he sees himself as a team member, playing the role of mentor. “I’m there to support their ideas and do whatever I can,” he says.
Students get professional-level experience in the program with writing, directing, shooting and editing. At times, that means working 12-hour industry-standard shoot days.
When students finish the program, some go to graduate film programs, while others are anxious to get to work. Quite a few students are working in the industry, Battersby says, and he keeps in touch with many of them.
Mentors factored prominently in Battersby’s own life, including the late Sheila Weber, a lecturer he had at Stanford University, where he studied theater. Another was the late Daniel Petrie, Battersby’s father-in-law and director of the 1961 film “A Raisin in the Sun” with Sidney Poitier. On his first movie, “Blue Desert,” Battersby says he was on the verge of being fired every day. More than once, he called Petrie from the set for advice.
“When I got the Mentor of the Year award,” says Battersby, “someone wrote me and said, ‘Dan would be really proud.’”
Battersby is now at work on two new programs for the college — acting for the screen and branded entertainment. He expects the college to start offering acting for the screen in fall 2018 and branded entertainment in fall 2019.
Both programs aim to bring more students to the campus, and inevitably, more students for Battersby to mentor. Says Battersby: “Any time anyone wants to meet me, my proverbial door is always open.”