Talent On Tap – Rick Dugdale Envisioned the Death of an Author

Talent On Tap – Rick Dugdale Envisioned the Death of an Author

Tactile, cunning, deliberate and aggressive are several words that come to mind when I’m deciding on breakfast. Masterful, cliffhanger and diabolical are a few words I’d use to describe the film Intrigo: Death of An Author. It’s one of 4 stories based on The Intrigo Anthology and British Columbia native, Rick Dugdale is one of the producers that brought it to life. The book series is a best seller by Swedish writing guru, Håken Nesser and the stories have been adapted by writer/director Daniel Alfredson and Birgitta Bongenhielm.  Rick Dugdale is the president and CEO of Enderby Entertainment and the hardest workingman I know. Frequent flyer doesn’t come close to describing Rick and nor does the word ‘rest.’


Although I’ve only spoken to Rick a couple times, his tenacity, his energy and drive combined with integrity, positivity and swagger really help to paint quite an impressive portrait. We spoke 2 years ago when he had first started shooting the first of 4 films from the anthology.  I still remember it like yesterday because we were talking during the solar eclipse of Aug. 29, 2017. Perhaps it was a good omen because I watched the film the other night and it was intriguing, it was dramatic and it was criminal. There are themes throughout the noir film and the images are brilliant. Using the landscapes of Croatia, Belgium and Serbia create an atmosphere of innocence and picnics with bike rides and… murder?


The novels are of the crime nature/genre and I love a great mystery, so I leaped at the chance to hear all about the project. The idea of adapting a best-seller to script and then to camera was sure to be quite a story in itself, it was time to pick up the red phone. I spoke to the outstanding and very genuine anomaly, better known as Rick Dugdale from cozy LA while I was in snow filled BC. He is very much connected to his roots and I’m sure he’d love to be back here… in the summer. Considering the distance, we spoke over the phone.

Intrigo: Death of An Author is the first of a three-part series based on The Intrigo Anthology, written by renowned author, Håken Nesser.  Have you finished filming the trilogy?”

“We completed all three and the first one comes out on Friday, Jan. 17th and the next one in May and then September. It will be a year of Intrigo. We are also officially announcing a 4th film shortly that we’ll be shooting in South Africa later this summer.”


“Will that 4th film also be an adaptation from a novel?”

“The book by Håken Nesser includes 5 stories. One is a 10 pg. short story but there are 4 main stories. We shot three of the stories and the fourth story was written after the author had visited us on set. It’s exclusive to the novel in a story called Tom, which we are currently pursuing the production of. It’s a great story and I think it’s going to make for a great film.”       


“I watched the film last night and absolutely enjoyed it. Is the rest of the trilogy also in the crime genre?”

“Yes they are. It’s technically an anthology but they’re all stand alone films and they’re all set in the same world; a fictitious country called Maardam, which is a city/country Håken Nesser has written about in his novels for the past 20 years. The other two films are similar in the sense that all of the people conspire their crimes at the Café Intrigo.”


“As a producer, I realize the importance of saving money.  Would you have shot the café scenes all at the same time for all three films?”

“You’re referring to block shooting. Overall we shot all 3 films back to back in 4 countries and did the post in Sweden, which was the 5th country. We had 330 crewmembers, 5 countries, 6 languages and 6 currencies. There were so many obstacles and complexities of the business model; ultimately in working with the economics of it we estimate a savings of 3-4 million dollars doing it that way. In terms of block shooting, we couldn’t shoot all the Intrigo scenes at once because there were three different leads on each movie, so we had to go back to Café Intrigo three times.  What’s even worse is, we had to go to Belgium with the entire crew and then back to Serbia and then to Slovenia and back to Serbia and back to Croatia and then back to Serbia. It was April and we’re shooting the lead in the first film and then we’re shooting in September with a different cast, so we couldn’t bring back actors to shoot at the Café. Ideally, all of the shots we did in Belgium on the three films we would’ve done all at once but we couldn’t do that either. In a perfect world, yes.”


“What would be some of the advantages in shooting all three films back to back?”

“Obviously economics but also the volume vendor discount. If I’m shooting a 25-day film and I’m renting camera packages and equipment for a 25-day schedule, there’s a certain price for that. If I say I need the equipment for 9 mths. there are definitely some cost advantages for that. The post-production team now knows they’re going to be working on post for 15 month’s versus 10 or even 4 mths. With the majority of the crew working on all 3 films, they’re hyper focused. We have the entire crew both in production and post-production, including the producer and director. When everyone is hyper focused, the creative benefits are there as well. The entire operation is quite unique and a lot of people have said they’ve never seen it done like this before. We prepped in January, Feb, and March before shooting in April. We prepped for a 100- day feature film. We were prepping for locations in January that we’d be shooting in September. We treated it like one big feature film; you never knew if you’d lose a location in September that we booked in January or February. We had a 3-week break between film 1 and 2, which was a company hiatus. Between films 2 and 3, we only had a 2-day break before we had to switch over to new actors. We were doing cast rehearsals the week before. We’re doing wardrobe fittings for the 3rd film while we’re finishing up with the 2nd film.”


“Did you use the same music composer in each film?”

“The film Blackway, with Anthony Hopkins is where I met Daniel Alfredson, the director. We used the same composers that worked on Blackway on all three films, which was interesting because there are similar tones that we tried to use a connective tissue. There are great composers out of Sweden.”


“What was it about Hakan Nesser best selling crime novels, in comparison to others that made you want to produce it?”

“Daniel Alfredson and I had formed a working relationship after working together in British Columbia. We always said it would be great to work on another project together again. When we were shooting in BC he had told me he’d been working on adapting a series of books and would love to have me look at it someday. That was in the fall of 2013. A year later I was in Serbia working with Ben Kingsley when he called to update me on the 3 books he was adapting. He said he had 3 scripts he wanted me to share with me. I read the scripts that weekend and then called him back to ask him to come to Serbia. I told him he should look at the region/the Balkans for a possible shooting location. He came down and scouted in the fall of 2015 but by the time we put it all together it was a couple of years to prep and put the plan in motion. If you look at Håken Nesser’s work, he’s an international star and the Stephen King of Scandinavia.”

“Considering he was so world renowned, was it difficult to negotiate the rights to the book?”

“A lot of times when you do book deals, its really about the sales pitch; what we can do with your book and the story we can tell, how close we’ll stay to your book. These are all part of the negotiations when you’re working with authors. From our own company perspective and my own personal view, a book is a best seller for a reason, so if you’re going to turn it into a film its in your best interest to stay close to that storyline. Not only is Håken an acclaimed writer he’s also one of the nicest guys on the planet. We knew going in that we wanted him to be part off the team. We’ve kept him in the loop and he’s joined us on press tours and festivals. When he was read the book adaptation in his home he was thrilled. When he came to the set he was enjoying the production so much that he went home and wrote a fourth story. It doesn’t always work that way but as a company, we strive to ensure that we’re working closely with the authors because without the books we don’t have a movie.”              


“That must’ve been an incredible compliment, knowing that he was so inspired by the production he went home to write a fourth book as an addition to the anthology.”

“We didn’t even know he was doing it. He’d come by in July and then come August, we got an email from him saying that he was inspired so he wrote a fourth story. He’s Swedish, which I can’t read, so he sent it to Daniel to read. Daniel had come to me a few weeks after we wrapped and told me he’d read Håken’s book and didn’t think it would make a good film and we shouldn’t pursue it. I had been working with the publishers and a couple months later I’d received an email from them letting me know that the book had been translated to English. They sent it to me and I read it right away and thought it was more of a movie than the first three films we just did. I then had to go back and pitch it to Daniel. I started listing off some actors that could star in it and he soon came around and reread the book along with his writing partner. We came together for the fourth film, so we’re putting that one in motion.”


“Are obstacles something that comes with the territory?”

“Logistics and complexities just make things more exciting. Ultimately, I think it brings something better to the table and to the show. This was a very complex production with so many moving pieces that it challenged us everyday but it made the films better because we constantly had to bring our A-game to the table. We had 67 location moves on a 75 – day shoot… but it also opens the film up. I’ve always been a believer in taking an audience to places they’ve never been before. It was critical for us to make sure we established this fictitious world of Maardam in a city you wouldn’t recognize. When we were scouting we took a lot of photographs from Serbia, Croatia, Belgium, we even looked at Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia. We pieced the photos together in a slide show and after watching it we’d ask ourselves if we could recognize which city we were in. If we couldn’t then we found the best place to shoot the movie because now we’ve created this fake world that no audience member can say they recognize.”        


“Has Haken been able to see Intrigo: Death of An Author?”

“Yes he has, he’s been very involved and we’ve been very collaborative with him. We were pretty excited to show him cuts of the film. As you go through post-production I’ve probably seen the film 200 – 300 times. We did a pretty cool thing; we held a private screening in Sweden and invited his fan base. We had between 800-1000 people. The invitation indicated the evening would be hosted by Håken Nesser and they were on the guest list to screen Intrigo. They were assigned to theatre 1, 2 or 3 and then afterwards we had an after-party. People would start talking about the film and how much they liked Ben Kingsley and another person would say they’d watched a different film before they all realized they’d seen 3 different movies. We went to Italy right before the holiday break and screened all 3 films at the Noir Festival where Håken had joined us.”


“It’s sounds like you had an amazing working relationship with the group/crew. It’s great to hear that everyone got along so well.”

“Like a good Canadian, we like to say that ‘you win championships by everybody wearing the same hockey jersey. It doesn’t necessarily take a Connor McDavid to win the cup. We really focused on putting a team together that were drama free and working for each other. We’ve now made 4 films together and have another 3 projects in development with the same team.”       

“Is this your third film with Sir Ben Kingsley?”

“Yes it is actually. The first film I’d worked on with him was An Ordinary Man in Serbia where he played the leader of Serbia. He’s a wonderful guy and when we were putting together Intrigo: Death of An Author, there was nobody else who could play that role.” 


“Where can we view the film when it comes out on Jan 17th?”

“It’ll be on Video On Demand and a few Canadian theatres.”


“You also have another film called Peace coming out soon. Do you know where and when we can see that?”

“We’ve just finished the film and it will be out in April or Oct./Nov., we’re still working it out.  Being a WWII film it took a little longer in post-production because we had to do a lot of sound work. It was shot in BC and it looks great. I can’t wait to release that one. It premiered at the Austin Film Festival in November.”   


Rick Dugdale is a success story with all the trimmings. He still loves BC and utilizes it in his films. He is humble, he is personal and so friendly. I hope we speak again in the near future. As for Intrigo: Death of An Author, please watch it on VOD and thank me later. It has everything you’ve come to expect from a great murder mystery with a twist you never saw coming. You will want to watch again… and again.  


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