Ringling students becoming professionals—one award-winning project at a time.

Dylan McDermott’s passion project on human trafficking—Sugar—comes to life with his premiere at Ringling College in April of 2017. Golden Globe-winner McDermott produced Sugar with the College’s Studio Lab and Film Program and David Shapiro’s Semkhor Productions.

Sugar tells the story of a young woman and the challenges she faces as a runaway. Executive Producer David Shapiro comments that “Sugar represents the first original series to come out of our production alliance, and it was a seminal time for all involved. The patience and extraordinary generosity of spirit Dylan shared with this young crew exponentially accelerated their learning and experience curve—and resulted in some very powerful programming.”

According to McDermott, “Working with the Studio Lab was like working with a major Hollywood studio, except nobody was jaded.’”

McDermott wrote the series in conjunction with the Ringling College Producers Group over the past year and directed the pilot episode in Sarasota with a full crew of Ringling College graduates and students over the summer of 2016. The Ringling crew continued to shoot the ensuing six episodes with Ringling graduates Jason Letkiewicz (Film, ’11) directing and Nick Morgulis (Film, ’12) as cinematographer.

“One of the most important things for me was to have an ongoing series after I left,” McDermott says. “I do the pilot and I hand it off to them. The kids write it, they direct it and they edit it—they continue the show. It’s going to be in their hands. I can hand off my vision and they run with it.”

According to Ringling College Studio Lab producer Tony Stopperan, “For the students and recent graduates on Sugar, this was an opportunity to deliver under the most demanding of real-world production scenarios—summer Florida weather, high concept production design, multiple overnight shoots with several locations and celebrity talent. These are significant challenges for a seasoned crew, and it’s even harder when it’s your first attempt at executing with no comparable experience to draw from. They delivered, and they get to take that experience, the confidence this success engenders and the screen credit, and use it to advance their careers.”

By Rich Schineller  |  Photography by Rich Schineller

To learn more about Sugar, read our blog.