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- by  SRQ Magazine

From SRQ, September 17, 2021

Even before the pandemic, the video production industry had the feel of the Wild West—burgeoning, full of possibility and with plenty of gold to go around. Reminiscent of the early days of the internet boom, video production represents one of the few industries where a lucrative career can be made with a small portfolio of work and a dash of formal training. And into this high-demand, high-reward field goes a small group of local high school and college students after they complete a video production boot camp created in collaboration between New College of Florida (NCF), Sarasota Contemporary Dance (SCD) and a roster of experienced production professionals.

The brainchild of Leymis Bolaños-Wilmott, SCD’s founder and artistic director, the hands-on course is inspired by the success her dance company found in producing shows virtually. “Video production and streaming were huge for [SCD] during the pandemic,” says Wilmott, “so I spoke with our production team about ways to get younger people involved.” The course, called Digital + Production, includes a behind-the-scenes pre-production walkthrough; three workshops in camera, lighting design and broadcasting; and culminates with the students shadowing the professional production team during a live performance and broadcast of SCD’s Ariel Blue shows in mid-October. Leading the classes will be lighting designer and videographer Celeste N. Silsby Mannerud, sound engineer Alex Pinchin, and producer Brett Hoehne, the creative muscle behind SCD’s recent award for best virtual production.

For fourth-year NCF Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies major Nicole Silvera, the short, month-long course is an opportunity to pad her resume with more skills. “I’m still a performer first and foremost,” says Silvera, “but I felt like after everything moved online during the pandemic it became really important to have more digital skills.” Silvera, who was born in Florida and has lived in St. Petersburg, is also quick to point out that the connections to local arts organizations certainly make Sarasota a more attractive possibility for starting a career after graduating. “Part of what was so enticing about the program is that you get your name on a list with other arts organizations,” she says, “so even though I have an adventurous spirit and want to see other places, I can still see myself staying here.”

Another highlight of the program is that, courtesy of a Mellon Foundation grant procured by NCF, the course is free. “A lot of our funding is predicated on creating sustainable community impact,” says NCF’s director of community outreach Stacey Campo, “so this is a great opportunity to connect our students to the community’s arts organizations.”

Though the program already had its initial meet-and-greet on September 10th, there are still spots available for local high school and college students. The next in-studio learning session is September 24th, where students will observe a pre-production performance by Ariel Blue.

To sign up, email Leymis Bolaños-Wilmott at No experience is necessary.