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Poker-Playing Producer Looking to Shake Up Indy Film Scene
Barely six months after going all-in to make movies, poker player Burton Ritchie is the executive producer of a film that stars Glenn Close, Peter Dinklage and John Hawkes.
Ritchie was a real estate developer in Florida, but also dabbled in acting and decided he wanted to produce movies.
Not one to waste time, Ritchie sold off his real estate last year, attended Sundance and eventually got involved with a project called the Low Down, which features an all-star cast including a number of actors from the wildly popular Game of Thrones TV show.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” he said while on break at the 2013 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
“The cast was incredibly talented, not to mention warm and genuine. As a fanboy it was awesome for me. I mean Glenn Close gave me a kiss. Come on now.”
The Low Down looks at the life of pianist Joe Albany from the perspective of his young daughter as she watches him contend with drug addiction during the 1960s and ‘70s jazz scene.
Upcoming Film to Feature Numerous Game of Thrones Stars
The Low Down, which wrapped two weeks ago, is just the tip of the iceberg for Ritchie, however.
He has a number of projects on the go thanks to his independent production company Rather Good Films he formed with fellow producer David-Konrad Cooper.
“I’m a Game of Thrones offseason employer,” laughed Ritchie.
“I’ve got Lena Headey [Queen Cersei], Peter Dinklage [Tyrion Lannister], Harry Loyd [Viserys Targaryen] and Gethin Anthony [Renly Baratheon] all involved in projects.”
Ritchie refers to himself as a serial entrepreneur and actually played a part in the early days of the online poker boom.
“I have a penchant to look into industries and find what I believe to be the sweet spot and in 2000 I spotted online poker,” he said.
Ritchie began assembling a poker team and was actually one of the first pioneers to have an online poker site. He attempted to license Dutch Boyd’s software from the embattled PokerSpot but the deal fell through.
From there he moved on to real estate development and various other projects but these days he sees a real chance to change how independent films are made.
More Creative Control for Independent Film Makers
Ritchie believes there is a market for something like Kickstarter for high net-worth individuals where the investors will actually receive a return on their investments.
“There are not a lot of filmmakers who actually have the latitude to control the films they are making because of the finance system,” he said.
“I intend to change the independent film paradigm.”
Ritchie got the idea while playing in a Clinton Foundation charity poker tournament, where celebrities, politicians and poker players were giving away something that fundamentally cost them nothing and they had a great time doing it.
Ritchie is hopeful that by raising funds that way, his company will be able to give cast and crew more creative license.
“Lena Headey is a perfect example,” he said.
“She’s been an actress for 23 years, she would like to direct. She’s got a brilliant script called The Trap. We’re in negotiations to produce it for her."
Simularities Between Producing Films and Poker
Ritchie likens producing films to playing poker, where it doesn’t take magic to find the right opportunities but skill.
Fortunately Ritchie has also been succeeding at poker lately and has five cashes since playing his first WSOP event two years ago.
Ritchie also plays in cash games with Ben Affleck, Hank Azaria and The Simpsons Producer James L. Brooks.
He’s playing a surprisingly robust schedule of events at the 2013 WSOP with 10-20 events on tap.
According to Ritchie he’s having the time of his life.
“It’s the most fun I’ve had as an adult,” he said. “I get to play poker with people I enjoy hanging out with and make movies. That beats real estate development in Northwest Florida.”