May 17, 2019
Stuart Suna's Eye on the Future Propels His Success
Stuart Suna has a simple philosophy: "Find your passions, determine your strengths and weaknesses, learn how to run with your strengths, support your weaknesses, and live a happy, passionate life. When I see road blocks or walls blocking me, I look for doors or windows to open or ways to go around, over or under."
Suna, who earned two degrees from Carnegie Mellon University — one in fine art, one in architecture — is president of Silvercup Studios, New York's largest independent full-service TV and film production studio. He also is a real estate developer with his brother, Alan. Stuart also founded and still is actively involved in the annual Hamptons International Film Festival, which is now in its 27th year.
Suna, along with his father and brother, opened the studio in 1983 in the former Silvercup Bakery; it occupies nearly 500,000 square feet of studio space in Long Island City for television, films and the advertising and commercial industry. Notable productions shot at Silvercup include: HBO's "Sex and the City" and "The Sopranos," NBC's "30 Rock," CW's "Gossip Girl," dozens of major motion pictures including "When Harry Met Sally" and "The Devil Wears Prada," as well as hundreds of commercials. A Cool Whip commercial was, in fact, the first-ever production shot at Silvercup's Main Lot.
Years later, in 1999, Suna expanded the operation with the opening of Silvercup East and, most recently, in 2016, Silvercup North opened in the Bronx.
While television productions continue to occupy the majority of Silvercup's studio space, the industry has shifted to include not only broadcast networks, but also streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Apple and others. Recent productions filmed at Silvercup's three locations include: "The Deuce" for HBO, "Madam Secretary" for CBS, "Maniac" for Netflix,"Jack Ryan" for Amazon, and feature film, "The Tick." On any given day, the front desk is lined with sign-in sheets listing multiple projects.
Suna has always been a man with a plan. His love of and skill in sculpting led him in the mid-1970s to enroll at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and after two years he transferred to Carnegie Mellon. The experience was positive; the curriculum was what he wanted. Suna enjoyed the classical process of working with marble and bronze. He liked the environment and the people he met. Suna had several shows in Pittsburgh called "Please touch" and invited the local blind society, attracting positive public relations and local television coverage.
"I asked myself if I could support a family as an artist," he said. "And I decided I needed to have a Plan B. Although it's not just about money, because I believe you have to be happy, you do have to support yourself."
So he tapped into a second love, architecture, and was accepted into CMU's program.
Over the course of seven years, beginning with his Skidmore days, Suna earned his two degrees and spent two summers at Cornell University, one in a design studio in Greece.
"You need to be open to other approaches to life, and you need to experience different cultures."
That sentiment also guided him as a CMU student. Some of his best friends were outside the College of Fine Arts, as he enjoyed learning different perspectives.
"When I see boundaries and borders, I like to go through them," he said. "I encourage students to experience the diversity of the CMU campus, but I don't think people integrate enough. Venture out! You need that cross-pollination across the university."
￼He credits Carnegie Mellon for providing him with education in art and architecture and the essential guidance he needed to make his future successful.
"We learned how to market our work, how to plan our lives, how to run our businesses and manage our finances," he said. "You need that to happen as part of your educational experience."
Today, Suna still embraces the arts through his civic and philanthropic work within the Long Island City community, including his involvement with Socrates Sculpture Park founded by sculptor Mark di Suvero, a New York City public park for art exhibits, as well as the Museum of the Moving Image, among others.
"In all areas of study within the College of Fine Arts, students receive a well-rounded education," said Dan J. Martin, dean, College of Fine Arts. "Our approach is to help ensure that when our graduates leave CMU, they are prepared to be experts in their fields, and they also are prepared to manage other pressing aspects of their lives that lead them into successful futures."
Suna also said that he believes a student's success often depends on having "someone in your corner," and throughout his time at CMU, he had the unwavering support of his best friend, Tai Chi, an Irish setter that accompanied Suna to every class and even participated in commencement in full regalia.
For Suna, having his companion by his side, his friends' and family's support, and a vision for the future combined to help him achieve his success. He said he wants students who are starting their studies or their careers to know they have the ability to make similar things happen.
"Don't worry about what others are doing. You need to figure out who you are," he said. "What are your strengths and weaknesses? Have a vision, a goal. And use your talents to get there creatively."