Michael Sugar ’95

Alyssa Carvara

A Best Picture Academy Award for the movie “Spotlight.” A Peabody Award for the Cinemax series “The Knick.” Rousing accolades for the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” and “The OA.”

Michael Sugar’s career as a film and TV producer is in the fast lane, cruising at warp speed. Buzz is already building around upcoming releases for which he’s an executive producer: “One Day She’ll Darken,” a dramatic miniseries for TNT, starring Chris Pine; and “Maniac,” a dark-comedy series for Netflix, starring Emma Stone and Jonah Hill.

Sugar ’95, who began earning his silver-screen stripes as a manager, is a longtime partner in the production and management company Anonymous Content. In addition to that role, he recently formed his own production company, Sugar23. He still wears his manager’s hat, too, representing directors Patty Jenkins (“Wonder Woman”) and Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”), and actors Robin Wright and Brit Marling, among other clients.

He lives in Manhattan with his wife and young son, happy to be away from the Hollywood whirl. “New York is such a creative hub,” he told Variety in 2016, “and because we’re surrounded by people who are not in the industry, it’s also a lot more grounded. If I have anything to do with it, everybody [in the film industry is] going to want to be in New York soon enough.”

An American studies major at Brandeis, Sugar took three film studies classes with Professor Tom Doherty, who gave the budding cineaste simple yet formative advice: Don’t just make films, make good films. The valedictorian of his class, Sugar went on to law school at Georgetown — his mother really wanted him to become a lawyer.

Instead, to no one’s surprise, Sugar followed in the footsteps of his father, Larry, a film producer and distributor. Going with his dad to the Cannes Film Festival, drinking a soda as he soaked up the scene on the Boulevard de la Croisette, 12-year-old Michael knew making films was everything he wanted to do.

Now he’s living his dream. But he’s not just making films. He’s making great ones.

What is the most important value you learned at Brandeis?

Truth even unto its innermost parts. That, and have strong quad muscles to walk up all the hills.

Where did you usually spend Saturday night?

Usually at Gucci House (is that still a thing?) with my friends, after dinner at Bertucci’s (is that still a place?).

If you could be any other Brandeisian, who would it be?

Leonard Bernstein. 

What was the most important shortcut you learned in college?

The kosher line.

Which talent did Brandeis help you develop most?

Public speaking.

What do you wish you had studied harder?

Foreign languages.

Who was your favorite Brandeis professor?

Tom Doherty.

What three words of advice would you give to current Brandeis students?

Enjoy. It. Now.

If you could go back to college, what would you do differently?

I would have started a website where students could interact socially by posting status updates and uploading photographs from their dentist appointments.

What would your friends say is your greatest strength?

Making people feel like the most special person in the room.

What would your friends say is your greatest weakness?

Not feeling like the most special person in the room. 

What is your blind spot?

People who convince me they’re the most special person in the room and then disappoint.

What book do you read again and again?

“The Giving Tree.”

What movie changed your life?

“It Happened One Night.” Tom Doherty’s class. Made me want to make movies.

Whom would you like to sing a duet with?

Donald Trump. We’d sing the National Anthem, and I’d kneel.

Which deadly sin is your middle name?

Pride. But I’m not proud of that.

If you could climb into a time machine, whom would you like to hang out with?

My son, in 70 years.

On your deathbed, what will you be most grateful for?

Other than this questionnaire, definitely my family. 

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