Stephen Rigg is the Managing Director of Blackdog Productions, a film company based in Barrowford, Lancashire, set up back in 2000.
Here, he talks exclusively about how he became involved in making films, studying under cult-movie legend Lloyd Kaufman, hiring a 70ft mast to boost a lack of mobile signal, Cumbria’s weather, and some of his other experiences as producer on the set of Soldiers of the Damned. A hit supernatural horror film, which had its UK premiere in Manchester, August 2015. Thanks to a UK Distributor (Safecracker Pictures), the DVD release (with lots of juicy extras) is currently rubbing shoulders with Mad Max in the Top 20 charts at both ASDA and Morrisons. Made on location in Cumbria at Greystoke Forest, near Penrith, it is also one of many titles featured in a forthcoming book ‘An A-Z of Cumbria & the Lake District on Film’ to be published by Hayloft Publishing Ltd in 2016.
How did you get involved in films?
SR: I got involved originally when I was about 12 years old. My parents bought a VHS video camera (that i still have to this day) for home movies and holidays etc, I think I actually encouraged them to get one as I was interested in making films due to my early love of watching them. I used that camera making short films at home right through my early to mid-teens. When I hit my twenties I started to get a bit more ‘Pro’ and took on a few small corporate videos for local companies and some music videos for friends bands, we had quite an active music scene around here in the very early 90’s. Eventually after years of it being a hobby, I decided to take the plunge into doing it as a career and in my late 30’s gave up my work as the owner/manager of a sign-making business to go full time into movies.
What was it like studying under the prolific B-movie maker, Lloyd Kaufman? (The Toxic Avenger, Terror Firmer)
SR: It was amazing participating in the film course that Lloyd Kaufman ran in London. He was probably the perfect guy for me, as I’ve always been the type of film-maker that generally has tiny budgets and always require ingenuity to make a half decent film. Lloyd is a master at making films cheaply…ha ha!
What is the most important thing you have learned about the film-making process?
SR: The most important thing I’ve learned is probably that if you are going to do it full time and try to make a career as a film producer, you need to think commercially first and foremost before entertaining your creative urges.
How did you get involved with Soldiers of the Damned (SOTD)?
SR: I didn’t really get involved with SOTD, IT got involved with me. What I mean is that Nigel Horne (writer of the film) and Mark Nuttall (director) and I were all chatting and we decided that we wanted to make a movie. So we came up with the idea and took it from there.
What was your experience on the shoot of SOTD like?
SR: The shoot was brilliant, I really got a chance to be involved with the creative side too, which I like. The producing side, particularly the five week shoot itself, was certainly the toughest five weeks I’ve ever spent in my life. Lots of plate spinning and shuffling logistics, sometimes on a minute to minute basis. Not a single plate hit the ground, but they were close on many occasions. I had my first heart attack on day 6…
Did you enjoy filming in Cumbria? Were there any unique challenges, did it differ to any other locations?
SR: It was great filming in Cumbria, the biggest challenge in the particular location that we were in was the failure in communications with walkie-talkies and even mobile phones. We were in a terrible spot for getting a signal, that in itself caused everything to become a ten-storey nightmare, bloody ridiculous really, but there really was nothing we could do about it. I even hired in a 70ft aerial mast to try to boost the signals, but it didn’t really help much. The other main problem that was fairly exclusive to Cumbria was the weather, very wet, always changing and caused us quite a few problems.
Is there a particular audience the film is aimed at?
SR: The film is aimed at an audience who likes war films, thrillers, horrors and sci-fi etc…
Has the film been nominated for any awards?
SR: The film has been nominated for several awards and Mark won the Best Director award for SOTD at Spain’s Marbella Film Festival. The next nomination up is for Best Visual Effects in a festival in the USA.
SOTD Actress Miriam Cooke & writer Nigel Horne collecting the BEST DIRECTOR award (on behalf of Mark Nuttall), at the Marbella International Film Festival.
The film was screened at the Alhambra cinema in Penrith last year, are there any plans for further screenings – festivals etc?
SR: No plans at the moment for any more public screenings, but it has had a very wide UK release including: HMV, ASDA and Morrisons (where it is currently at number 3 in the charts). It’s also available as a download on all the major online outlets such as: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Sky Store etc…We are also currently releasing in Japan, France, Benelux and a few other countries.
What are you currently working on? Plans for the future?
SR: To keep making films, I have currently three projects in development, hoping to start the next one this year.
Producer Stephen Rigg on location, ‘shooting’ Soldiers of the Damned.
Soldiers of the Damned is now available on VOD & DVD – many thanks to Stephen Rigg for his time and information…