Producer Albert S. Ruddy described his friend and colleague, Gray Frederickson, as one of the best and most honest filmmakers he worked with in his five-decade career.
“There is a way to get things done, and Gray does it: do it straight and honest, and either sell the deal or not,” said Ruddy, a two-time Oscar winner who flew from Los Angeles to present Frederickson with an Oklahoma Icon award Thursday night at the 12th Annual deadCenter Film Festival.
“I wasn't like that for a long time,” he said during an interview with Frederickson at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. “But he always had that quality. Ours is a business where your word is everything. That was something I always loved in how Gray handled himself. Whenever things got tight, I always took Gray with me.”
Frederickson, who produced 1972's “The Godfather” with Ruddy, said that he learned similar skills for working in the pressure-cooker environment of studio filmmaking from his friend and mentor.
Ruddy, 82, first made his mark as the creator of “Hogan's Heroes,” then went on to produce “The Longest Yard,” the “Cannonball Run” films, “Walker, Texas Ranger” and his second Academy Award winner, 2006's “Million Dollar Baby.”
“I have known him for 45 years,” Frederickson said. “I have never seen him get down about anything. He is the most positive, up, happy person I have ever encountered in my life. I always think, ‘What would Ruddy do? How would he deal with this?' He'd laugh about it, move on and get something else going.”
Frederickson was born in Oklahoma City, attended Casady School and began his production career with Ruddy on the 1970 Robert Redford film, “Little Fauss and Big Halsy.” Two years later, he and Ruddy worked with studio legend Robert Evans to produce “The Godfather,” which won the 1972 Academy Award for best picture.
Frederickson has two films showing at this year's deadCenter Film Festival: “The Great Energy Transition” and “Just Crazy Enough.”
He returned to Oklahoma in 2000 and founded the film program at Oklahoma City Community College.
Ruddy said the movies being screened at the deadCenter Film Festival represent the future of the business.
The increasing availability of high-quality, low-cost equipment has democratized the business, making it possible to tell stories effectively on limited budgets.
“You're shooting movies in hi-def and there are a lot of different ways to get them out,” he said. “A lot of different platforms, as we say. All you need is a camera today. You just get the Red (Camera).”
“It's so simple, it's excruciating,” Ruddy said. “Don't forget: it always starts with a story.”