Article By: Maria Shamkalian
Born in NYC to Dominican parents, Sugey Cruz moved to Lancaster to attend College at Franklin and Marshall. There she met her spouse, Rich, and they had a son, Tommy, who would later go on to be the inspiration for them to co-found a non-profit for Autism and Related conditions called The Tommy Foundation. Through that organization they’ve not only worked with many members of the local community, but also put together a documentary entitled “The United States of Autism” which was in Oscar qualification. A few years ago, Sugey rekindled her passion for Acting and started taking classes with Brad Hawkins—who runs the Central PA Actor’s Workshop—and working with local filmmakers on their projects. It was in Brad’s class that Sugey met Alex Rudegeair and subsequently Jeremy Good. The three of them founded “Broken Tile Productions” which has two films currently in the film festival circuit—“On Turning 16” and “Dirt”. Sugey also works closely with Tony Marion of “Cinecle Pictures”, whom she worked with on “Loose Ends” as a female lead and producer.
What is your most recent success and how did you accomplish it?
My most recent success has to be starting our Production company, Broken Tile, and being able to work with filmmakers on projects that we are all passionate about. I wrote a short film last summer called “On Turning 16” and one of my business partners wrote “Dirt” and both of them have been well received so far at film festivals, which is very humbling. Thanks to my work on “Loose Ends” and “Dirt”, I’ve developed an amazing working relationship with writer, director Tony Marion and we’ve been developing some projects together as well.
How did you get started in the film industry?
A little over two years ago now, I rekindled my passion for acting and started attending classes with Brad Hawkins. There I met many other hungry and passionate actors who wanted to collaborate and work together on projects, which we have done many times, including on the feature film “Secret Within the Sphere”. I worked on a web series project, experimental films, did a bit of extra work in Philadelphia and NYC and I take every opportunity to learn what I can behind the scenes as well.
Why do you choose to work in PA and what do you love the most about working in Pennsylvania?
Our locations are amazing in PA. When we shot “Secret” we were continually amazed at how spot after spot that was chosen for our set locations were just completely different and perfect for something as fantastical as a steampunk adventure film. You can shoot a tender film about a couple grappling with their child’s differences (“On Turning 16”) in what’s basically a nearby park or find a grungy, indie perfect abandoned warehouse that you can make your home for 2 weeks like we did for “Dirt”. It just has everything you need.
What are some of your favorite shooting locations in Pennsylvania?
John Harris Simon Cameron Mansion in Harrisburg was gorgeous; Strasburg Railroad, which can really add so much perfect “timeliness” to a film with the right lighting; and just anywhere in PA with lots of foliage in the fall. It’s just breathtaking especially if you can get some drone footage of it.
What do you love the most about your job?
About Acting—that you can both find yourself and lose yourself in a character you play if you truly do the work and let yourself get to that very vulnerable place. About producing—that you literally can be involved in the complete creative process and see this seed of an idea just get magnified and turn into as big a thing as you want to make it.
What is your most memorable, most awkward, or funniest on set story?
I loved dancing with Jack Rudegeair on the set of “Dirt”. Jack’s an older fella and the grandfather of one of my business partners. He and I have had the privilege of working together 3 times now and we just had a lot of time to bond on the “Dirt” set. I never got to meet my one grandfather and the other passed when I was very young, and Jack “adopted” me while on set so on one of the days while we were both particularly loopy from long set days, we just started singing and then dancing and two of the crew members captured a little footage of it for us. It was one of the sweetest and dearest moments of my life.
What are some of the challenges of being a female filmmaker?
Being able to assert yourself without feeling that there’s a negative stigma to it and probably “guilt” especially when you have a family and are trying to navigate career and family time.
What is your advice for other women in film?
Go for it. Just be creative and do things. Ask questions when you can. Be a happy detective and see what other tools you can learn from set—observe and ask questions (when possible). Watch films, tv shows and if it’s one you like, get the script for it and read up on it. If you don’t like, do the same and ask yourself why. Just study everything and keep improving every day.
Do you have any upcoming Pennsylvania-based projects?
We hope to be able to premiere our films “On Turning 16” and “Dirt” as soon as we can after our current COVID-19 crisis is done. Still to come in PA is “Loose Ends” by Cinecle Pictures and “Secret Within The Sphere” by Stormfront Productions.
PAFIA has been working hard on increasing the film tax credit in Pennsylvania and bringing more film work to our local crew and talent, but we must all unite to really make a difference. What can you tell our elected officials about the importance of PA film industry and the difference it has made in your life?
I’d let them know that PA is ripe and ready for this kind of work. There are so many people I’ve met in all different areas of the industry out here—even in my little town—that are just so creative and really just want to take it to that next level. I can’t wait to see my friends succeed. They are just as creative and dedicated as people in any other city and we all deserve a chance to share those stories that live inside us.
What is your advice for the aspiring actors and filmmakers? Some steps to take? Some mistakes to avoid?
As far as steps, just keep learning. Read, listen, watch, observe films from that lens that interests you. Watch how your favorites do things. Read the scripts for it. Attend classes and masterclasses and network like crazy on social media and in person. And lastly but most importantly, treat people with respect and don’t act like people are replaceable and try not to get on the gossip wagon. It’s tough, especially if you feel “harmed” in some way sometimes but it’s destructive and ultimately doesn’t help anyone.
What are some good strategies to find more gigs?
Meet people. Go to events held in your town like Lancaster Film and TV or Harrisburg Vidjams. Find out who your local managers are and look up and join social media groups that list casting calls. Also, get to know your peers. I’ve recommended many actors for gigs and they have returned the favor when they think I’m the right person for the job. We really look after one another, which I extend as well to my “crew family”.
What is your favorite film shot in Pennsylvania?
I’d say “Sixth Sense”. I love psychological thrillers and that one is just so well shot and done. I got a chance to work on a project that M. Night Shyamalan is doing called “Servant” for Apple TV and I just love the fact that his works revolves around Philadelphia and his love for where he grew up.
What is your favorite project that you worked on?
I love aspects of all the projects I’ve worked on but I’d say probably “Dirt”. It’s funny because I think most people would assume it’d likely be “On Turning 16” since that one is so personal to my life story and is one I wrote as well, but it happened so fast since it was our first film and shooting was relatively a lot more straight-forward and shorter. As for “Dirt”, we worked so closely and intricately on that film and it was probably the most grueling and intense stretch of time spent on a project to date for me. All of that from start to finish really had to fall on the shoulders of our team in order for it to come together. I had the privilege to be Executive Producer, Producer and actress on it, so there was a lot riding on me being on the ball. You get to know a lot about yourself and those working with you through that whole process.
What is your biggest aspiration in this industry?
I honestly am just thrilled to keep working. Acting is therapeutic and cathartic for me. I’d love to just do this for as long as I can and just keep getting better. I’d love to keep producing more films as well, which I have done now as well in some capacity with other projects and companies.
What would be the best way for our local PA cast and crew to submit to your upcoming projects?
Connect with me on Instagram @sugeyprime or email: email@example.com
Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA)461 Cochran Road, Box 246Pittsburgh, PA 15228(717) 833-4561 firstname.lastname@example.org