SportsHollywood in the News!

booyah Dallas producer travels the long road to Hollywood


By Robert Miller

Business Day

If you're drawing up a list of Dallas wunderkind, you'd do well to add Richard M. "Rich" Hull Jr.'s name.

Last year, the Dallas native, who celebrated his 30th birthday June 6, co-produced She's All That, a Pygmalion-derived teen-age movie that "was made for about $10 million and has generated well over $100 million worldwide," Mr. Hull said.

"It was Miramax [Films'] most successful movie of 1999, and it really ignited the current wave of teenage movies by proving that there was an audience of teens who would see these movies over and over," he says.

He is currently producing Getting Over Allison in Canada for Miramax. It will cost almost $20 million and stars Kirsten Dunst and Ben Foster.

Then he'll start production on Daddy Boot Camp for Sony. It's a family picture based on an actual business in Irvine, Calif., that he learned about from a newspaper advertisement. The business teaches prospective fathers how to handle the demands of parenting.

Mr. Hull has also created and brought former National Football League running back turned Hill Street Blues actor Ed Marinaro into the business.

"It's exactly what it sounds like - it's where the world of sports meets the world of Hollywood. It publishes a free e-mail newsletter [it's a weekly now and will become daily July 4] that looks at the day's news from the world of sports through humorous glasses.

"It seemed like a logical combination, because I was always spending so much time on movie sets talking sports with Hollywood celebrity sports fanatics," Mr. Hull said. "The topical humor on the Web site and the newsletter is written by comedians and Hollywood writers, as well as by Hollywood and sports celebrities.

Parker wears the banner of our sister publication.
"We partnered with an existing Internet company called Comedy On Tap, which, with over 300,000 subscribers to its daily e-mail newsletter, is the largest publisher of topical humor on the Internet.

"The whole idea with this is to have fun. So far, so good."

Actually, so far it's been great.

Getting there

How did a graduate of Jesuit College Preparatory School and a cum laude English major at Vanderbilt University find himself on the path to movie mogul-hood?

The answer to that question could serve as the plot for another youth market movie.

"I never had any aspirations whatsoever to be in the movie business and had planned instead on going to law or medical school.

"After I graduated from Vanderbilt, I traveled the country, and then, while living in Alaska on an archeological expedition, I found what they told me was one of the oldest spearheads found in North America, according to Dr. David Yesner of the University of Alaska at Anchorage, who was the lead archeologist on the expedition digging at Broken Mammoth east of Fairbanks," Mr. Hull said.

"Fortunately, National Geographic was along, and my hand with the spearhead appears in the picture.

"I [later] wound up in Yellowstone National Park. I met a fellow Texan by the name of Joe Sears, who wrote and stars in the stage plays Greater Tuna, A Tuna Christmas, etc.

"Joe had just bought a ranch there and was producing and starring in a theater show called Ballad of the West during his off-season just for fun.

"He and I made a deal whereby he'd give me a free place to live in Wyoming in exchange for my doing grunt work on his show.

"Three weeks into the run of the play, one of the lead actors hurt his back about 20 minutes before the curtain and they said, 'Kid, if you don't play his part ... the show don't go on.'

"I'm sure I was awful, but the experience hooked me on the business. My acting career - much to the delight, I'm sure, of my parents - was short-lived. But it did give me the chance to get my foot in the door in a business which I realized that I really enjoyed."

Mr. Hull said he knew immediately that he wasn't going into acting or becoming a movie star. "But deep down, I knew I did like the entertainment business part of it.

"I moved back to Dallas and worked for about a year in the corporate office of Rangers Broadcasting, controlled by the owners of the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball team."

His father, a partner at the Dallas law firm of Gardere & Wynne, was the founder and "I was the youngest vice president there."

About that time, Dallas investor Rusty Rose became the principal owner of the Texas Rangers and the radio firm. "Shortly thereafter, I picked up and moved to Los Angeles."

That was in November 1993 and "the move to Los Angeles was like going from the minors to the majors. I knew one guy I'd gone to Vanderbilt with, and he allowed me to move in."

"I slept on the floor, and on the first night there was a shooting in the street. There were helicopters and police cars everywhere. I stayed where I was, buried under the covers.

"Through a friend of a friend I found a nonpaying job that was basically working as an assistant to an old-line producer/manager, Hillard Elkins, who worked with such clients as Louis Gossett Jr., James Coburn and many more.

"I was the third assistant," which is called a producer's assistant, or PA, though the job is usually that of a gofer.

Learning the ropes

"During the nine or 10 months I worked for him, I learned the business side of the business and immediately knew that was the side for me. I learned the business from before, behind and on top of the camera," Mr. Hull said.

"I felt I could do this myself, so I began scouring film schools and friends for scripts and decided to do a 30-minute film called The Spartans.

"I pieced together a tiny bit of money and went off make the film, though I didn't have a clue of what I was doing. [He was being a producer.] A producer is the equivalent of a CEO; the director is the chief operating officer. The director controls the creative operation of the movie; the producer controls the business side, the money side.

"I begged and borrowed whatever money I could raise." Though short of funds, he was long on tenacity. Armed with his script, he finally prevailed.

"Panavision donated the use of the cameras free; Kodak donated the film free. Essentially, they were betting on me and the crew.

"This was late 1994, and The Spartans was going to be a made-for-TV film. It would be a way to prove that a guy like me with an English degree could do it. I called this 'my film school.'

"I went to Warner Bros., and after a lot of cajoling, they gave me the actors for free and the rest of the crew for free. It took just a week to shoot it, and everybody in effect was working for food, for a good hot meal.

"Once we shot the film, we had no place to edit it, which is done on computers.

"I knew one of the editors on NYPD Blue, which had just finished its first season. They were on summer hiatus, and he allowed us to use the computers. We sneaked on the lot at [Twentieth Century] Fox at night.

"We had almost finished the movie when a security guard became suspicious and reported all the [odd activity taking place] on the lot.

"In walked Steven Bochco," the creator of NYPD Blue as well as Hill Street Blues and LA Law.

"He yelled, 'Hey, kids, what the hell are you doing here in my editing room?'

"After a lot of hollering, he finally calmed down," Mr. Hull said, adding that they told him they were big fans. Ultimately, as a form of compensation, "We gave him a big credit on the film when we finished.

"I figured then I was a big-time movie producer and began telling everyone I was a movie producer and pretty soon people started believing me. I started believing me," Mr. Hull said.

Through "a lot of pleading," Mr. Hull got the movie into Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, in 1996. Only 18 films were chosen out of 1,500 entries.

"Suddenly, all of the people who weren't taking my phone calls were returning them and were my best friends. They all wanted to go to lunch.

"Once the movie premiered, I was on my way to start a career. It opened a lot of doors.

"Even sending them [the Sundance people] a videotape, I found out it was a little bit more political than I thought. It's a real sales job, sort of the art of the deal.

"It also made me realize it's a real team job. You can't do it on your own. It takes a lot of people."

Next Sunday: Rich Hull settles for awhile on the lower rung of full-length movies before making the leap to the big-time.

Staff columnist Robert Miller writes about people and events of interest to the business community for The Dallas Morning News.





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