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Tim Sutton, Tony Stopperan, Mo Shane and Sebastian Avery discuss Sutton's film Dark Night. 

You probably remember where you were when you heard the news about the movie-theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., in July 2012—a tragedy in which 25-year-old James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 70. Holmes was found guilty of 24 counts of first-degree murder and 140 counts of attempted first-degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison without parole in the summer of 2015.

That same summer, director Tim Sutton (Memphis, Pavilion), shot a movie based on the Aurora tragedy in Sarasota and Bradenton in just 16 days, with the help of students from Ringling College of Art and Design’s Studio Lab (Studio Lab co-founder David Shapiro served was a co-executive producer). Dark Night made it to Sundance and has received glowing reviews from The New Yorker and Variety; RogerEbert.com writer Sam Fragoso called it “a pure piece of poetry.”

This week, Sutton was back in Sarasota to discuss the film and his experience working with Ringling students and in Sarasota.

“Ringling was one of the few production facilities that wanted to make the film,” Sutton says. “When you look for financing or support for a movie that is about a shooting in a movie theater, it’s not exactly the most marketable thing. Ringling wanted to get behind it.”

“My second film was financed by the Venice Biennale, so I was used to working with art institutes, and I’m a professor at the New School in New York. I’m used to working with kids, and that matters to me,” he continues. “The [Ringling] students were asked to perform on a serious level. Those who did elevated the film.”

“Ringling has to collaborate with people who are going to give back, the way our process did,” he adds. “You can’t just have anyone from Hollywood come in and be like, ‘Oh, great, I get some crew members.’”

Sutton sings the praises of our area as a film location, too, and doesn’t rule out making another movie here. “I love the landscape here, and I’ve proven that I think this town is film-friendly as how it can be used,” he says. “I think it has to do with finding the right project, but I would absolutely do it again.”

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