Anonymous Content Exec Michael Sugar Talks New Media, International Storytelling (Q&A)
Anonymous Content's Michael Sugar says the firm does not normally do festival spotlights, but this year's special tribute to the company's work at Karlovy Vary is an opportunity to talk about its approach.
Sugar is a partner at the Los Angeles-based development, production and management company responsible for Debra Granik's Winter's Bone, Jim Carrey's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and HBO's hit series True Detective.
While at Karlovy Vary, Sugar tells The Hollywood Reporter about new drama series The Knick, seeking out international stories and why quality storytelling is as important as ever.
Anonymous has a wide range of product; is there any common thread that unites what you do?
The throughline of the movies and TV we make and even the clients we represent on the management side is a certain quality of storytelling, the canvas — its size, shape — is less relevant. If the first two episodes of True Detective were a movie we would be very proud of it. We try to find stories about extraordinary characters — or sometimes, ordinary characters in extraordinary circumstances. We are very driven by the quality of the filmmaker. The movies and television we are making are with what we feel are the best directors in the business.
There have been many predictions about the death of television and cinema and yet the TV series format is incredibly popular and strong right now. Why do you think that is?
There has been an explosion of different platforms, but I don't think that has undermined the thirst for good storytelling. A great YouTube video of a baby laughing that goes viral is still good content, but it does not satiate the same hunger an audience has for being told a story, being put on a journey and entering a world they don't know. I don’t think YouTube, Instagram and Twitter are a threat to good storytelling. The biggest threat is not the content itself, but the time in which one can consume that content — because now we are just distracted constantly. But I feel that the cream always rises. It is so much in the DNA of international culture to consume movies, and I don't think that is going away.
Many of the storylines your products follow are American. Do you also seek content, talent, directors from around the world?
We spend a lot of time trying to find international stories. We like to tell international stories; we feel there is an ever-growing international audience. We work with a lot of international filmmakers — Gavin Hood, Morten Tyldum — and we generally go find them. We cover all the international film festivals — Berlin, Cannes and Venice — and are meeting directors and seeing their films as early as possible. We wine and dine them, sing to them, give pedicures, or whatever we have to do to get them to come work with us.
What's in the pipeline?
We've got a new drama series opening August 8 in the U.S, The Knick, directed by Steven Soderbergh and with Clive Owen starring. We've done 10 hours and hopefully will do another 10 next year. It is short for "The Knickerbocker," which was a New York hospital in 1900. It is basically a soap opera set against the backdrop of an emerging hospital at a time of great change, industrial and scientific, and the introduction of many of the medical [procedures] that we know now. At its core it's about the crazy characters in the hospital.