Actor Matt Dillon, the final guest in this year’s Ringling College of Art and Design Digital Filmmaking Studio Lab serie–presented in collaboration with Sam Logan and David Shapiro of Future of Films–spoke to a packed crowd of students and locals Wednesday night on the Ringling College campus.
The 50-year-old Dillon—whose filmography includes The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, There’s Something About Mary, Crash and, most recently, The Art of the Steal—answered questions about his prolific career and his appreciation for the work being produced by the students in Ringling’s film program.
“The only other time I’ve been in Sarasota, I went to a theater and they were showing a foreign film, and I was like, ‘Oh, wow, I didn’t expect that,’” he says. “You don’t even see that in Miami—that arthouse cinema, those smaller independent films. Obviously there’s an appetite for good film here in Sarasota, which is great.”
Dillon is working on a documentary about the late Francisco Fellove, a Cuban scat singer who fled Cuba for Mexico in the early 1950s. “It gets deeply into the music [of that time],” says Dillon, a music lover who says he’s also a “very amateur” percussionist. “The stuff [the musicians of that time] were doing was so creative and interesting, and that’s one of the themes I’ll be talking about, as well as the people and their relationships and the way they took care of each other.”
And Dillon hopes to have Ringling students help him with the project’s production. “I want to exploit them! Exploit the youth!” he jokes. “But really, one of the reasons I’m coming down here is because there’s great resources and young talent [at Ringling]. For this documentary, I believe it’s good to use mixed media, to keep it as dynamic as I can. And I know there’s a very good animation department here. I’m learning, too.”
As far as what’s next for him in his own career, Dillon says he doesn’t have one specific goal, but that he wants to keep growing and learning. “I want to be more proactive; to do the things I’m excited about as an actor and director as opposed to just being an actor for hire. That’s one of the reasons I’m glad to be down here, with young people.”
And though he admits he’s generally drawn toward darker material, Dillon says that most important thing to him, in any medium, is that the project is truthful. “That’s what inspired me to become an actor—it wasn’t the idea of performance, it was the power of being able to turn the mirror on the audience,” he says. “Verisimilitude—that’s my new favorite word.”