Inside Track: Entertainment career brought Patrick Ziegler back home
The Emmy-Award winner and co-founder of Fubble Entertainment is happy to be working in Grand Rapids.
“I remember to this day the moment I walked out on stage, and the butterflies — and I was hooked, so hooked,” Ziegler said.
Today, Ziegler has two Emmy Awards under his belt and has established a firm foothold in the entertainment industry. His career took him to New York, Los Angeles and Chicago before bringing him back to Grand Rapids a few years ago. He currently splits his time between Grand Rapids and Chicago, where his partner runs the Bodhi Spiritual Center.
During his time away from Grand Rapids, he pursued acting, producing and directing. He served as a co-producer for several productions including “The Jamie Foxx Show” and the Jim Carey film “Cable Guy.” He has even worked with Disney, and early in his career, he had a two-day stint on the soap opera “All My Children.” He also has been involved in several off-Broadway and independent theater productions.
PATRICK W. ZIEGLER
Ziegler is co-founder and managing partner of Fubble Entertainment, which he runs with business partner and longtime best friend Teresa Thome.
“I was a classic overachiever,” Ziegler said of his early years. While in high school, he was elected class president, served as homecoming king, played football, basketball and track, and was involved with Close Up, a government-focused program for youth.
Ziegler said he came from a supportive family and learned a lot from his father, whom he counts as his first mentor.
“He showed me and taught me about work ethic and going the extra mile — that you needed to provide for yourself and not depend on others. He was the kind of dad that would work extra hours to provide for my mom so she could be a stay-at-home mom, and so that my brother and I always had what we needed and beyond, including trips — always, always exploring and camping in Michigan. He is awesome.”
Ziegler met his second mentor while attending Grand Rapids Junior College: Fred Sebulske,director and founder of Actors’ Theater.
“When I decided that I wanted to do this and to pursue this, he was the one who was so encouraging and realistic with me,” Ziegler said.
The two have remained friends, and Ziegler said Sebulske has continued to serve as a sounding board for him over the years. “Now he is an investor in our company,” he added.
Ziegler had the opportunity to work with Sebulske again this year on a production of Dustin Lance Black’s “8.”
Two people Ziegler never had the opportunity to meet but who also were influential in his career are Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, whom Ziegler credits with inspiring him to overcome challenges.
“Desi was such an innovator,” Ziegler explained. “He created the three camera technique, he created the in-studio audience and taping it rather than doing it live so that it could be redistributed — basically, creating the rerun.”
Ziegler said Arnaz and Ball were told “no” repeatedly when trying to get “I Love Lucy” made. In the end, the couple had to put up their own money to get the show on television, which ended up being a lucrative business move. Ziegler said to this day when he hears the word “no,” it doesn’t stop him from trying to find a way to move an idea or project forward.
One of his career highlights was serving as the director for a special 50th anniversary “I Love Lucy” stage show, which offered the opportunity to meet several of the team members from the television show, including the writers.
“That was amazing because I was working with my mentor team,” he explained. “I’ll never forget sitting at Planet Hollywood with the writers and watching the ‘Vitameatavegamin’ episode and reflecting upon how they came up with the idea.”
When Ziegler left Los Angeles for Chicago 10 years ago, he didn’t know exactly what he was going to do, which left him perfectly poised to join Thome in Grand Rapids as a consultant for the children’s program “Come On Over!”
“That was a great experience,” he said. “I loved doing it. What was crazy for me is, I kept asking myself, ‘Am I really back in Grand Rapids doing this?’ I loved that I was. I love this city.”
Ziegler and Thome earned their first Emmy for their work on “Come On Over!” Following this success, they decided to become business partners, and in January 2011, founded Fubble Entertainment. Since that time, the pair has earned a second Emmy for their first project, the web series “Backstage Drama.”
“It is a model for raising funds for independent and community theater,” Ziegler explained. “We saw how community theater was challenged — we came from community theater — so we thought, ‘What is a new and innovative way to help?’
“Basically, the first five episodes are free, and then you can purchase what is called a Backstage Pass, which is $10, and 30 percent of that goes to an independent or community theater of your choice. We launched it in West Michigan with theaters here, and now we are branching it across the country. We’ve sent out checks from the East Coast to the West Coast.”
Ziegler and Thome began the successful Kickstarter Campaign in January to raise additional funds for the project that will help them expand marketing efforts for the series.
Fubble Entertainment has been responsible for LaughFest’s Signature Event for the past three years, donating all of the time spent on the project to Gilda’s Club.
Working with Betty White the first year of LaughFest was a highlight.
“We wrote the concept (for Betty White),” he said. “This was the first year of LaughFest. They knew that they had Betty White but didn’t know what they wanted to do with her, so it was really on us to create something, and that was a blast. It was a heck of a lot of work and hours, but to work with her and to have that opportunity was fantastic.”
Ziegler said maintaining his past ties in the industry, particularly in Los Angeles, has served him well. For the Betty White event, for example, he was able to overcome the cost of securing the rights to the Betty White footage he needed through his network of friends.
In addition to having worked on this year’s LaughFest Signature Event with Wayne Brady and continuing to work on “Backstage Drama,” Ziegler and Thome have two projects in development. The first is a made-for-TV holiday movie and the second is a sitcom titled “I’ve Got a Life in Kalamazoo.”
Ziegler said when he was first starting out in his career, he couldn’t have stayed in Grand Rapids and achieved what he has, but today he thinks it is possible for someone to remain in Grand Rapids and be successful in this field.
He hopes Fubble Entertainment will be able to help grow the opportunities for entertainment careers in West Michigan.
“Our vision and our goal has always been to create entertainment properties that can be housed, lived and done here in West Michigan."