When I was a kid, I could do the robot, play Wipe Out on my bongos. Every time my parents had company over, my dad would get me to perform both acts. I thought someday I might be an entertainer. The writing was on the wall and my parents had become my promoters. Somewhere between puberty and high school I stopped performing the robot, my parents divorced and my bongos were upgraded to a drum set. I now wanted to be a rock n roll drummer and would practice until my blisters bled. I loved music and music loved me back. Then I met a girl and had three kids. The dream faded and steady work became the priority. Sometimes life has a different path in mind. However, years later when the kids were finished school, I attended Film School.
Rick Dugdale started his soiree into the film industry as a child actor. Next, he started making films with his friends in high school. Upon graduation, he found work on film sets. He worked as a PA for only 32 days before climbing up the ladder. The film industry was very alive and healthy in Vancouver and positions on set were being upgraded rapidly. Rick climbed that ladder until he reached the position of Location Manager. With his new title it ensured he’d be rubbing elbows and drinking coffee with the Producer, DOP and Director in the pre-production stages of a film. Rick stuck with his dream and continued to excel until finally reaching the paramount position of power, the Producer. Rick Dugdale’s life seemed to be destined for the film industry. I was intrigued by his journey and thrilled to find out he’d be talking to us from the film location in Serbia.
Sometimes I wonder what kind of Rock star I could’ve been. Would I be wearing make-up, be lighting my drums on fire or still shopping for leather pants? We’ll never know but that could be a good thing. On a better note, I had a 1hour window into Rick’s astounding metamorphosis.
“Have you always been interested in making films and how did it all begin?”
“ In my high school year book it asked, where will you be in 10 years? I said, living in Hollywood making movies. It’s all I’ve ever thought about. I started out as a child actor then moved onto making films with friends in high school. After high school I found work on a film set. There were a lot of movies being made at that time so I only remained a PA for 32 days before my position was upgraded. In BC the PA’s fall under the Directors Guild of Canada. In LA they fall under the Teamsters. Most PA’s want to either be an AD or an Assistant Location Manager or Location Manager to climb the ranks. What they don’t often realize, if they go the route of Location Manager, it is the quickest path to becoming a producer. Eventually I’d made it to title of Location Manager. There are a few good reasons why this is an optimal position. You’re in management, you’re dealing with large amounts of money in your department (sometimes 4-5 million) and you’re one of the first people hired for the film. You’re also one of the last to wrap. Once you’re a producer, having worked with budgets of 5, 10, 20 million dollars its good prior experience to have. My career took a major turn in 1999, after working with Daniel Petrie Jr. on The Sixth Day. It was shot in Vancouver with Arnold Schwarzenegger and we had formed a friendship over the 10 mths. of the production. Daniel told me he’d like to figure out a way to bring me to LA.”
Once Rick moved to LA, he started working on development and acquisitions, as well as IP projects they could put together. He continued with development for the better part of five years while also doing International finance. Moonlighting in the public sector, he was doing investor relations in uranium mining and went to drilling sites in the Arctic to spend time with high – level financiers, so he could understand the financial dialogue of those investors in the film business. In 2004 Rick Dugdale teamed up with writer/director Daniel Petrie Jr. to form Enderby Entertainment. Shortly after in 2006, they put one of their films together called, About Cherry with James Franco and Heather Graham. They shot it in San Francisco.
Rick is currently in Serbia working producing a trilogy. He’s been scouting and prepping since January and began shooting in April. They’re scheduled to be finished shooting on Sept. 4 or 5th before he returns home to Vancouver. He tells me it’s not been an easy stretch and that it can be taxing and complex, however it’s a huge step up for his production company Enderby Entertainment. They structured and put it all together. 20th Century Fox and Miramax are also involved Working with Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley the year prior gave him the idea to make the trilogy.
“How involved are you on set during a production?”
“When I’m on set, I’m very hands on. I usually spend my time looking at the monitors and talking to the director to see if we got all the necessary shots, I’ll go see the gapher to make sure he’s good, his guys are good. I’ll talk to the entire crew because it’s been a grueling schedule with 43 – degree weather. It’s critical to be out in the trenches with them. If you expect them to work in those conditions and still get the best out of them, you’d better be in there with them. They’ll respect you that much more for it. I’d never be one of those producers that spend their day in an AC trailer while everyone else is sweating their a** off.
One of the things I enjoy best about this business is its goal oriented. Everyday there are many miracles that happen. It’s so different than doing a 9-5 job. Take this film for example. Four countries and 75 days of shooting with a crew of 330 members and every day is different but you somehow manage to get through each day with a thousand different challenges, different currencies, cultures, languages. There are so many obstacles but you constantly fight through them and that’s just being on the set. Putting the deal together, getting the film out and doing the distribution deals. It’s an adrenaline rush dealing with obstacles everyday, cause there’s hundreds.”
Another example Rick shared with me was about one of two new Alexa model cameras given to his award winning DOP from Alexa. It was state of the art but began to have technical problems. They had to send it back to Belguim and have another one show up immediately in order to have a second camera to work with.
“You have all of these things, that at any given moment something can happen and the train has to keep going. The inner workings of an actors brain all function differently. There are so many different personalities on a film set. You’re job as producer is to constantly be monitoring them and making sure there’s cohesion. At any moment something big could go wrong, an actor getting sick can put the entire project in jeopardy.”
Rick ‘s job does entail he deal with many different personalities but after 6 months of filming, it’s onto post – production and another film with a new crew of 300. When Rick is finished a film and goes home to his wife, his mind is so exhausted from making hundreds of daily decisions that he’ll refuse to make anymore, even if it’s deciding on which restaurant to go to.
“Are there other producers that you admire for their skillset?”
“I do like Marc Platt’s approach to producing. He’s a friend of mine and produced La La Land. We met years ago in Vancouver on the film, Jose And The Pussycats. I was a location manager at the time. Marc has a deal with Universal. I’m hoping to be an on the lot producer in the next few years. Marc, Brian Grazer, Jerry Brukheimer are people who’s career path I’d like to be following. I’ve known all three of them.”
Enderby Entertainment has a television series in development they’ll be shooting next spring. It will be the first series, fully owned and developed by the company. It will be a high level 10 episode production and will be shot in Vancouver. They should know within the next few mths. which network they’ll be working with.
“How do you decide which projects to be involved with?”
“If the project is partially packaged with a possible director and talent attached, some kind of financing component. We’re working with projects that require execution and structuring, stuff that we can really specialize in. We’re also looking for projects my partner Daniel Petrie Jr. can direct. We’re also looking for higher – level stuff that’s studio based because we’re working in a much higher bracket of 25 million and up, which is studio level. In terms of selecting scripts, we’ve set up a genre label, The Tony Seven Films Division that can produce small budget films as a way to find new filmmakers. We’ve made 6 or 7 films through there and kicked it off in 2006. We’ve participated for the last 6 years in the Austin Film Festival screenwriting competition as a way to find new writers. If someone pitches us a dramedy, I consider it the kiss of death. Its difficult to find marketing and distribution. As a writer, you need to think globally. Write about something relatable internationally. It’s the best way to get film number 2 made, by focusing on who’s gonna be buying film number 1. With the advent of more and more worldwide networks like Netflix, you need to think worldwide. Your audience needs to be global.”
One thing Rick is always fighting is piracy. They’re always trying to find a way around it. He says, you’re film is protected more from piracy with Netflix or TV.
Your licensing fees for television are approx. 3 times the cost as VOD and although every filmmaker wants their film seen at the cinema, it can’t be about ego, its about making the best business decision. Netflix seems to be a safe bet because it’s difficult to pirate from them.
“Piracy makes it’s increasingly hard to monetize your movie.”
To give you an example of Ricks work schedule, he puts on 260,000 airmiles per year, he goes to Cannes every year, Austin film fest and the rest of the big festivals.
In 2 weeks time he’ll be back in LA and then onto the Okanogan in late September scouting locations. The next film starts in November and they begin shooting in December.
The film is centered around WWII and calls for a location to resemble Italy with snow. As it happens, the Canadian military trained in Kelowna because it resembled Italy. Throw in tax credits, being home for the holidays and you can begin to see the advantages to filming back in beautiful BC.
“What type of advice would you give to other young producers?”
“You have to have a real appreciation for every department, so you know what it takes to put something together. You need to know the movie set and how to how to read the temperature on it. This is only one phase, to be able to execute on the day to get the film made. There is also financing, distribution and marketing.
Lots of producers will bring a film to a financer then make it and hand it off to a distribution company and hope for the best from their marketing department. It’s our responsibility to reverse engineer that process. When we make a movie we need to understand who’s buying the popcorn so that we can really understand our audience.
To the young producers, I can’t stress enough the importance of networking. You can’t let it come to you, you have to go find it. It’s forcing that guy to have a meeting with you and grab a coffee. Get the junior assistant to have a meeting with you, get the guy that answers the phones to have a drink with you. By the time he goes to the next level, you go to the next level and the next thing you know, your new friend is the agent that represents Daniel Craig. It’s still a small town.”
Rick left me with these positive and inspiring words.
“In his business I have the ability to impact the most amount of people possible. I truly love the idea of telling a story for the world to see. The medium of telling a story through the lens is something that’s always interested me. The best part of my job, is having a good world – view, because working with so many different people from other countries and having to become an expert in logistics around the world and making it all happen is amazing. Working with so many different personalities always makes life interesting.”
Rick attributes his years of film experience on set, for making him the producer he is today.
“Not every producer has got the same set experience as I do. I’ve worked pretty much every position except Hair n Make-up and Wardrobe.”
Rick Dugdale has made films all over the world, including Santa Barbara, BC, Texas and Serbia, just to name a few. In terms of how many projects Enderby Entertainment is currently involved with, that number hovers at 15-20. They’re at all different stages of development. Some are high – level studio productions that require development. As well, there are book rights they’ve required and are still requiring,
Rick has become a heavyweight with an undeniable and astonishing win record. He can stay in for the long rounds and keep swinging until the bell rings. It’s then off to the next challenger and one step closer to a title shot. I’ll be sitting ringside.