For one of Sarasota’s power couples, Ray Rodriguez and Lori Collins, a tenacious work ethic and the love of their craft have proven to be key elements to a successful partnership. Whereas many couples work separately, these two are more than happy to share screen time and work together behind the scenes producing films and documentaries.
And they’re not just working on their own careers, they’re championing city officials to make Sarasota a prime destination for filmmakers and production crews. With backdrops including The Ringling, Siesta Key, Downtown Sarasota, and the list goes on, that dream may soon be realized.
Ray Rodriguez is one of those guys who credits his mother as the root inspiration for his hard work and determination. A Cuban immigrant at the tender age of 12 years old, Ray saw rays of hope and prosperity as his family made the journey to the United States. He also saw the ugliness and greed transpiring in his country as a guard made him give up the brand new pair of shoes he was proudly wearing for his trip to America. The shoes were a present from his grandmother to make the journey in, and to lose them was incredibly difficult for Ray. It was a full three days until he received a replacement pair of shoes and it left him feeling despondent, embarrassed, and sad. It was at that moment that his mother looked at him pointedly and told him with hard work, he would never go without a thing in his new country, and that the key would always be to work harder than he ever thought possible. For Ray, that was a defining moment, and one of many to come, in which his mother’s advice would ring in his ears setting him on a life filled with a drive to get the job done and to always be doing for others. When he broke his ankle shortly before he received his drafting call for the Vietnam War, his mother insisted he show up for the meeting. Because of the injury, he did not head off to war, but with his mother’s encouragement he was ready to go if he had been able to. And he was never allowed to hang around the wrong crowd, because his mother knew all of his friends and their families. It was those simple, yet deliberate, acts of mothering that have left him with immense respect for her.
In addition to running an entertainment and production company, 1L1R Enterprises, Inc., Ray and Lori appear together in films as often as possible. Lori is a Realtor, and the two are deeply involved with philanthropic work on behalf of several local charities. Ray recently appeared in the Hallmark Channel movie, Christmas in Homestead. Filming out of state required Ray to drive eight hours, something he finds unnecessary given Sarasota’s beauty and plethora of unique filming locations. A recent decision to fund film incentives to increase productions in Sarasota County resulted in an influx of $250,000 over the next year from County Commissioners. Ray and Lori are encouraged more film opportunities for local actors will also result in ancillary benefits including exposure for Sarasota beyond tourism and its current arts scene.
As Ray has grown his impressive acting resume, including films like Stressed to Kill, Catching Junior Tate, Breaking Up with Rosie, and Casa de Casas, he has earned several awards and acknowledgements for his performances. Through it all, he has not forgotten his mother’s reminder that with hard work, anything was achievable. A commercial started Lori and Ray’s acting streak on its way and their successes have been great, including making it into the Sarasota Film Festival on their first try. Their award-winning documentary, China The Dragon Smith the Second Chance debuted at the film festival to rave reviews. The short film chronicles the rise of heavyweight boxer China Smith, a native Floridian who was born in Sarasota, and his departure from football stardom to follow his dream of boxing.
For Ray Rodriguez, the American dream, as envisioned by a 12-year-old boy was larger than life. And he’s happy to report the dream is achievable for anyone willing to do the tough work. He learned at an early age, that strong women in your life are to be embraced not discouraged. That message has carried on as he and Lori are enjoying a harmonious and meaningful life in Sarasota, their home for the past 32 years, working side by side on all of their endeavors. They are looking forward to seeing more films, documentaries, commercials, and promotional videos being produced around Sarasota in the coming years. They’ll be busy working diligently to help that process evolve and to make sure Sarasota residents benefit from the additional exposure. We’re sure we’ll continue to see their faces on screen in major movies, and around town helping with the various charities they’re involved with. Hard work and perseverance, and the ability to achieve anything you want with substantial effort; those are great notions as we head into the new year. We thank Ray Rodriguez and Lori Collins for the reminder to put in the hard work, and the rewards will be significant.
photos supplied by Ray Rodriguez