Partnering with Ringling College of Art and Design and Semkhor Productions, Hollywood actor Dylan McDermott has for the last year worked with Ringling students in Ringling facilities to bring his latest project to life—a web-series called Sugar, about a young woman exploited by Florida’s sex trafficking industry and looking to rebuild her life—while working simultaneously with local nonprofit Selah Freedom to spread awareness in conjunction with the production. With the first season wrapped and premiering this past spring at the Sunscreen Film Festival, McDermott took a moment with SRQ to talk students on set.

How was the world premiere of Sugar?  McDermott:It went really well. Mostly excitement.
It was fun. My daughter was with me, and it was a good time. It’s great when you have an idea and you write it, and you submit it, and it gets accepted, and you film it—and then the next thing you know you’re premiering it. There’s something so satisfying about that. Lots of people came. Kirstie Alley came and she loved it. The subject matter really hits people. And that’s what I was really after—I wanted that more than anything else. 

How did your work with Ringling College get started? I came down here for a tour initially in 2013 and I pitched this idea to David Shapiro and Semkhor Productions. They seemed to like it, so I said why don’t we do this? But I don’t want to do a vanity project; I want this to be about the school. I want this to involve the kids. Let me do the pilot and you guys take it from there. You write it, you produce it, you direct it—you do everything—and then I’ll oversee it. I wanted to get them involved so they have real life experience and get their hands dirty, so when they leave here, they’ll say, “Oh, I did that; I did this.” I just thought that was a cool idea for education.

How did the students work on the project?  The crew were all students. And they worked so hard.
I was so impressed by them. These guys, you know, they’ll work all night and day. They’re hardcore and, most importantly, they want to be there. Completely impressed.

Did you achieve everything you wanted to do with Sugar?  You never do. You know, you always want to do this, you want to get that—you always wish for more. Especially when you have a four-day shoot. There’s never enough time, enough money. There’s never enough, so what arises and what you see up there is always an experiment. Even when you’re making $100-million
movies you never always get exactly what you want. 

Tell us about the work with Selah Freedom.  They have been a big supporter of us and Ringling College of Art and Design and David—all of us sort of working together to bring awareness. When you have awareness then you can have change. That’s what we’re all trying to do here. To try to shed some light; to say this is a big problem. It’s a billion dollar industry and it continues. I thought it was important for me to go out and there and say we need to stop all this violence against women. It’s time for men to actually change.