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Ringling College partners with Longboat nonprofits to make documentaries

Three short films will be shot and produced with a focus on environmental education and outreach.

Terri and Jeff Driver, left, are filmed volunteering for Longboat Key Turtle Watch. Troy Logan, Natasha Thornton and Patrick Alexander manage the filming.
Terri and Jeff Driver, left, are filmed volunteering for Longboat Key Turtle Watch. Troy Logan, Natasha Thornton and Patrick Alexander manage the filming.
Courtesy photo
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In the coming months, residents may spot young film crews on Longboat Key’s beaches. 

They'll be making three short films about conservation and environmental stewardship.

Among them could be local environmental groups, such as Longboat Key Turtle Watch, Save Our Seabirds or Mote Marine Laboratory, as they collaborate with the Ringling College of Art and Design to produce documentaries.

Immediate past president of the Longboat Key Rotary Club Jeff Driver spearheaded the collaboration with local environmental groups for this project. 

Talks about the project began at an Earth Day event organized by the Rotary Club, Driver said. There, members of groups like Mote, Save Our Seabirds and Longboat Key Turtle Watch came together. 

This led to an idea for a collaborative project aimed at environmental education and outreach. 

The Rotary Club had worked with Ringling College before, making signs for public beaches to encourage turtle-safe behavior. Driver was familiar with Ringling’s “successful” film department

Driver and his wife, Terri, got in contact with Patrick Alexander, professor and interim film department head for the college. 

Alexander was immediately interested in the idea.

The short-form documentaries will each have their own focus: conservation of seabirds, conservation of sea turtles and environmental stewardship. 

Driver, also a volunteer with Longboat Key Turtle Watch, noted how iconic sea turtles are to this area. 

“You see these turtles, and the hatchlings are so iconic,” Driver said. “They’re such great environmental stewards themselves.”

Patrick Alexander, left, directs Ringling College alumni Natasha Thornton, Lucas McFarland and Troy Logan for the Longboat Key environmental film projects.
Courtesy photo

The Rotary Club of Longboat Key has many key pillars, one of which is supporting the environment. 

“We all need to contribute to the solution in small ways, which become a cumulative impact regionally and globally for that matter,” Driver said.

With this project, Driver hopes these environmental groups can use these films to promote their causes and inspire even more environmental stewardship. 

“I hope that what we do will stimulate the interest of the next generation of decision makers and environmental stewards,” Driver said. “That’s really our hope."

Industry experience

After the Drivers presented the short documentary idea to Alexander, he recognized the project’s potential for the college’s INDEX program. 

INDEX, short for industry experience, provides students with opportunities to gain professional experience. 

This project would fall under “Client-Sponsored Competitions and Immersives,” where students come up with a creative plan with the client, in this case the Rotary Club, and then work as professional contractors.” 

Past projects with the INDEX project have created promotional films for brands such as L’Oreal, Disney and Doritos, according to the program’s website. 

While projects for larger brands are just as good, Alexander is looking forward to seeing the local impact of the current project. 

“It’s exciting to know that what we’re doing here might actually make a difference in where we live,” Alexander said.

This summer, Alexander took a crew of recent Ringling alumni to begin some filming for the project.

But with the academic year now started, the hope is to create a collaborative effort between faculty, staff, alumni and current students. 

“So it’s kind of like using all the assets of the Ringling film department,” Alexander said.

Alexander anticipates around a dozen students will work on the project over the course of the academic year, touching on all aspects of filmmaking such as cinematography, film production, location audio, post-production editing and sound design.

By creating shorter form documentary films, Alexander hopes to appeal to the modern attention span, which he says is much shorter. 

“There’s a lot of value to these really high-quality, small branded videos,” Alexander said.

Once completed, the films will be given to the clients, i.e. the Rotary Club and the environmental organizations. 

The project will last all year, and Alexander hopes the films will be ready for the organizations by the end of spring 2024. 



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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