Redemption for Burnley dad given new lease of life after discovering ‘transformational’ passion for acting and screenwriting

Initially, Jack Dugdale brushed off the suggestion as ridiculous. He was at work, chatting to his good mate and supervisor Chris Cutler, a burgeoning actor and screenwriter, when Chris floated the suggestion of him being part of an upcoming project of his set to be released on Amazon Prime next year. Jack laughed.

Jack Dugdale
Jack Dugdale

But, the more he thought about the prospect, the more it intrigued him.

"I've always loved films," says Jack, 29, from Burnley. "I'm a massive movie buff and I've always been well into crime dramas: Tarantino and Scorsese and that kind of stuff. But it was never ever something I dreamt I could do myself. At first, Chris talked me into being an extra, then he got me a couple of lines, then eventually my character became quite prominent.

"The first time I got in front of the camera, I literally forgot how to speak," adds Jack of his time working on the film, titled Killing Rainbow. "But my confidence has grown and grown with it. I've done four scenes so far and, after each on, I couldn't wait to get stuck in to the next one. It's been like finding a new passion I never knew I had."

Jack Dugdale with his daughter

On top of falling in love with acting, Jack has also rediscovered another passion of his which had laid dormant in him since school: writing. Encouraged by Chris, who saw how taken he was by the creative nature of the cinematic industry, Jack took the the plunge, picked up the pen, and put to page an idea for his own short crime drama. The words spilled out of him.

"I did nothing at school, I didn't even get any GCSEs," says Jack. "But, when I look back, I realise the only thing I did enjoy was when there was an assignment in English to write your own story or a poem or something like that. I used to love that: I've always had that creative side so, when I decided to write my own stuff, I felt it flowed really well.

"I even surprised myself with this thing I didn't know I had," he adds of his own project, which is titled Northorious. "Telling local stories is important, too. Without any spoilers, the story revolves around someone who loses their job, who funds out their girlfriend is pregnant, and who is tempted by crime to make money. It touches on issues like alcohol and drug abuse, crime, poverty, and depression.

"I've written it in story form and I've started the writing process properly now," explains Jack, who plans to shoot the short film in Burnley, using local restaurants, pubs, and warehouses as sets, as well as using local actors. "Once it's fully written, Chris will take a look at it and then we can hopefully get the green light to start filming later this year.

Jack Dugdale during filming of Killing Rainbows

"I'm hoping to pitch mine to Amazon too, because they have a lot of short independent films. That's the idea but, if it doesn't come off, I'll put it on YouTube for free - I'm not in this to make money, it's all about the passion project."

Having a passion project is more than just a labour of love for Jack, it's a vital outlet. For as long as he can remember, Jack has grappled with his mental health, initially experiencing bouts of extreme anxiety and panic attacks in his teenage years which became spells of depression as an adult. At times, the maelstrom became so toxic that it almost overwhelmed him.

"In my early teens, I started having really bad panic attacks and anxiety which, as I got older, manifested itself as depression," says Jack. "I used to have long spells of staying in bed all the time and being anxious about doing everyday things. Even now, to this day, I'm a real overthinker and worrier."

Along with counselling and medication, Jack realised during his 20s that he needs an outlet to prosper and so took to the gym, training in kickboxing and jiu-jitsu whilst also playing football Saturdays and Sundays for two teams. Keeping busy kept him away from monotonous evenings spent in the pub just for the sake of it and kept him feeling contented.

Jack Dugdale with his daughter

But, two prolapsed discs in his back put paid to any physical pursuits, leading him to find himself, last year, in a rut defined by a monotonous and mundane routine of working all week only to get drunk all weekend with pals. Recognising an absence of real passions or aspirations in his life, Jack knew he needed to do something. That's when he got chatting to Chris.

"Acting and writing has been absolutely brilliant because it gives me something to focus on," explains Jack. "I need that positive outlet because if not, I get in a rut of going to the pub all the time and drink just makes you feel worse. I just need something to get my teeth stuck into so, mental health-wise, it's like having a new lease of life.

"I work full-time, but I live alone and I only have my daughter three days a week, so the depression or the urge just to have a few pints can kick in, but now I can't wait to get home to write," he adds. "I hope to do more acting and writing because I've loved it and I've had such positive feedback, which has given me a real confidence boost.

"That kind of thing would transform anyone's life really," says Jack with a chuckle. "I'm not saying I'm expecting some big break, but at the end of the day, why not?"

The poster for Jack Dugdale's upcoming short film Northorious

Jack is still looking for three more cast-members for the project: a young woman aged 18 to 25, a man in his 20s or 30s, and a man in his late 40s or 50s. If interested, reach out to Jack via email at [email protected]

Jack Dugdale with his daughter