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Kevin Smith returns to film ‘Killroy Was Here’ in Sarasota with Ringling students

SARASOTA — A director who inspired countless young filmmakers to try to make their own low-budget successes has returned to continue shooting a new movie with the participation of Ringling College of Art and Design students and Semkhor Productions, and this time he brought some familiar collaborators.

Kevin Smith, who shot to fame with his 1994 cult classic “Clerks” and subsequent films “Chasing Amy” and “Dogma,” resumed shooting his horror anthology film “Killroy Was Here” in Sarasota on Tuesday. The movie features actors Jason Mewes and Harley Quinn Smith, the director’s daughter.

Mewes has played the recurring character Jay, the speaking half of the duo Jay and Silent Bob, and other roles in best friend Smith’s films dating back to “Clerks.” And Harley Quinn works with her father again after starring alongside Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily-Rose Depp in Smith’s last movie, “Yoga Hosers.”

“I’ll always hold Sarasota dear to my heart because it gives me another chance to be her dad again, but in a different capacity, be her director instead,” Smith, 47, said in an interview Friday at Booker Middle School, where the movie had filmed.

“Killroy Was Here” is a horror anthology film based on “Kilroy was here,” the World War II-era graffiti featuring a bulbous-nosed figure. Smith and co-writer Andy McElfresh, who host the podcast “Edumacation,” thought of the premise after a previous idea to do a film based on the Christmas folklore figure Krampus already got made by another director with 2015′s “Krampus.”

Smith previously visited Sarasota for filming in June at Nathan Benderson Park, Longboat Key and Ringling’s soundstages. The “Killroy Was Here” crew features Ringling College students and graduates as well as professionals such as make-up effects artist Robert Kurtzman, who worked on Smith’s films “Tusk” and “Yoga Hosers.”

The director heard about Ringling College and Semkhor from Justin Long, the star of “Tusk” and other films such as “Live Free or Die Hard” and “Dodgeball.” Long made the web short series “The Real Stephen Blatt” with Ringling and Semkhor.

Smith had initially discussed doing a web series as well before coming up with an idea of making an anthology horror film.

“I was given an opportunity to make something that was just going to sit on my shelf on paper, a bunch of ... good ideas and good stories that would sit there and for the rest of my life be a footnote of like, ‘Oh, we almost made a movie once but then I pursued something else,’” Smith said.

Smith wants to encourage collaboration and openness on his set, where students can feel free to offer suggestions. He also enjoys the vitality of working with younger aspiring filmmakers.

And though to some it might seem like an unusual way to make a film, Smith said it’s not much different from the bigger movies he’s directed.

“As my friend was going, ‘You made a movie with Alan Rickman,’” Smith said. “And I was like, ‘And now I’m making a movie with the kids in Sarasota.’ What’s the difference? Alan Rickman was just a big kid who wanted to play. These kids, they’re just big kids who want to play.”

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