Film like makin’ love
If you watch TV, chances are you’ve seen the work of FLF Films
It all started with a high school graduate who got a Super 16mm movie camera and started filming his friends snowboarding. Before he was 25 years old, he had filmed in more than 25 countries. Twenty years later, he is still filming and runs his own successful production company.
The man behind the scenes—and the camera—is Jerry Dugan. He is the owner, founder and director of FLF Films here in Reno. Originally from Sacramento, and then the Bay Area, he attended a quasi-performing arts high school where he became interested in film. His “formal” training ended there and he has taught himself most of what he knows today about filmmaking. He started out around 1987, focusing mostly on snowboarding films when the sport was just becoming a phenomenon.
“I was living up in Squaw Valley and started a little production company thinking that I would just do local commercials and the Squaw Valley ski report,” recalls Dugan. “I had kind of low expectations of myself. I spent my extra time following around all these guys that happened to turn into one of the first big crops of professional snowboarders.”
For the next 10 years, Dugan continued to make snowboarding videos under the name Fall Line Films, which gained him a reputation in the extreme sports world. He then got into making wakeboarding films in the summers during the off-season. This led him to start a wakeboard manufacturing company called Double Up Wakeboards, which he participated in for a few years before selling to another company.
Dugan’s work in extreme sports eventually led into doing more commercial work. The name of his company morphed into FLF Films when he started to focus more commercially. Through those commercial projects, he began working with more clients in the Reno area. The clients liked working with him but didn’t enjoy the drive—especially in the winter. So Dugan moved his business from Tahoe to Reno.Commercial appeal
Today, FLF Films does a variety of projects from advertising for big-name clients to documentary films to art pieces and music videos. The permanent staff at FLF Films is fairly small, considering some of the projects they take on. Dugan almost always does his own camera work even on larger-scale projects—he directs and composes the shots and the look of everything. The footage is then passed on to FLF’s editor, Tim Kunter, who is originally from Hamburg, Germany, and moved to Reno to work for the company two years ago. Erika Frick, the producer for FLF Films, takes care of all the details in between. Frick came to FLF Films from New York after Dugan offered her a job while they were both working on the set of a Modest Mouse video. She is involved in creating budgets, setting up casting, hiring crew, getting equipment, securing travel plans, finding locations for shoots and generally interfacing with everyone involved in the project.
The size and scope of the projects vary. Over the past summer, the company shot a series of commercials for Disney’s Hannah Montana. The commercials were shot in Reno, and they daily had about 50 people on the set, including stylists, clients and extra camera operators.
In contrast with the commercial work, FLF Films did an audiovisual piece for the Nevada Museum of Art’s current exhibition Between Grass and Sky.
“We had a pretty small crew, maybe five people or so,” says Frick. “[The filming] is very candid, very honest, not a lot of light trickery.”
“It was a cool thing to do because the editing here is always following the rules of the clients, and this gave us total freedom,” adds Kunter.
Other projects have been done for the Nevada Commission on Tourism, Burger King, Subaru and The Mix, a nightclub in Las Vegas.
“Last year I did all the promos for Discovery Channel HD, so we went down to Argentina and shot a set of commercials,” says Dugan. “One of our biggest clients these days is a company called Jakks Pacific, and they are the third largest toy manufacturer in the nation. We’ve done something for just about everyone around town at some point.”
Chances are, if you watch TV, you’ve seen some of their work.Documents in order
Dugan is working on two documentaries in between commercial assignments. The first is a personal project he’s very passionate about. It’s a story about a horse trainer who, against the odds, has come to compete in prominent horse shows. He is also working with another director out of Mexico City to develop a documentary about the concepts of hate and fear throughout the world. About four directors from around the world will be involved with the project, and each will talk about hate and where it comes from. These documentaries, for the most part, are funded out-of-pocket and worked on in Dugan’s spare time.
“The documentary work is a lot of fun, and it allows me a different avenue of creativity. I really enjoy the commercial stuff from a short-term-attention-span theater standpoint. For years, when I was making the snowboard films, we would spend a whole year on a project. It’s just a very long time to be on one project. I really enjoy being able to work really hard on something for two weeks to a month, turn it around, make something you are proud of in the confines of what you are doing and move on to something else. It keeps the creative process flowing.”
Never heard of FLF Films or even knew we had a production company right here in Reno? FLF Films doesn’t really do any advertising for their services.
“I put flyers on cars in parking lots. It’s fairly effective. I just go to Target, that’s where all the rich people shop,” jokes Dugan.
Despite not advertising, they find a variety of projects. Their work has gained them a reputation, and most of the people who discover them either hear about them through word of mouth, or find them on the internet because they are searching for something specific, like action sports.
“It’s an interesting thing,” says Dugan. “I’ve been in the film business for 20-something years. When commercials are slow, all of a sudden someone calls about some other random project. Other things just kind of fill in. I think it’s just because we’ve been diversified enough over the years.”
The filming for their projects is often beautiful and innovative, using unique camera angles and unexpected editing. In a spot for Subaru titled “Kiss,” the camera follows the car from directly above, alternating from close-ups, where the only shapes in the frame are the car and the dotted yellow lines of the road, to vast landscape views. It flattens out the scene and abstracts it, making it visually interesting and, paired with the simple, half-sung soundtrack, it becomes quite poetic. It’s not your average car commercial—and it’s a far cry from Jerry Dugan filming his snowboarding buddies with a Super 16 movie camera.