North Canton will get more than its 15 minutes of fame as the the backdrop for a feature-length film.
Alongside production crew and city officials, Mayor David Held made the announcement Wednesday afternoon at Hoover Auditorium, where director Doug Dearth revealed one scene would be shot.
“Bringing people together is a start,” Held said. “Bringing the business community, the educational community and the local government ... whenever those three are working together that's when you have success, not just for North Canton but also for moviegoers.”
“Underdogs” will be filmed entirely in the area and will feature local landmarks and residents. Filming will begin July 16 and will last for about five weeks.
The independently financed film, set in the birthplace of football in rural Ohio, tells the story of a Division IV high school playing football against the cross-town rival and perennial powerhouse. Off the field, a local machinist and father of the quarterback is being sued by the city’s main employer over intellectual rights to a new space heater invention amid rumors of company outsourcing.
Dearth knows a thing or two about being an underdog. A Canton native and Lake High School graduate, Dearth moved to Los Angeles in 1993 to pursue an acting career. In his first appearance in a movie, “Money for Nothing,” he starred alongside John Cusack, Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Gandolfini and Michael Rapaport. He switched to working behind the camera and has since worked as a producer for “Grace is Gone” and “The Jack Bull."
“It’s always been a dream of mine to bring something back to my community,” Dearth said. “I'm very proud of where I came from. Plus, it's a football movie and what better place to shoot that than in Canton, anyway.”
Dearth liked the machinist representing the opportunity to succeed in middle America and the simplicity and potential of an invention like a space heater. North Canton’s ties to was just a coincidence, though he said it adds to the local flavor of the movie.
The following roles were also announced:
- Coach Vince DeAntonio - Scott Patterson
- Machinist will be played - William Mapother
- Football quarterback - Logan Huffman
- Cheerleader (and object of affection for both quarterbacks) - Maddie Hasson
- Rival football quarterback - Charles Carver
There will also be casting calls for extras. The first will be from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in Hoover Auditorium. Casting director Lillian Pyles said this weekend’s casting call is specifically for football players ages 18-24 and 5 feet 6 inches to 6 feet 6 inches tall and cheerleaders ages 18-24 and 5 feet 4 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall. There will be more casting calls to come. Those interested should complete and print their online application and bring a headshot or snapshot if they have one.
Before making any agreement, Held said the city wanted to make sure the movie was a suitable for families and had a positive message. After reading the script, he said it does, though he wouldn’t divulge the winner of the football game.
But he did say the production company, Fallout Entertainment, would be taking advantage of the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit. And North Canton will be taking advantage of the fact that for each $1 spent by the state, $1.20 is returned to the economy, according to a Cleveland State University study.
The film is mostly financed with a budget between $800,000 and $1.2 million, and the largest underwriter is local businessman Ben Suarez. The film does not yet have a distributor, but Dearth was hopeful he would find one because of the movie’s widespread appeal.
The underdog football story is a pretty successful one (see: “Hoosiers,” “Rudy,” “Facing the Giants” or “Remember the Titans”).
“I love all those movies, and they seem to work,” Dearth said. “This is different, and I think it works because at the center of this story is the threat of jobs leaving the city.”
Dearth had relatives who worked at Hoover and Goodyear, so he’s seen the aftereffect of an employer leaving town. It’s also a timely storyline, one he hopes will resonate with readers.
“The underdogs in our film aren’t just football players,” he said. “They’re everyday people who work hard, do the right thing and for once in their life want things to go right.”
The underdog football team comes to represent the town and the rival game then becomes something the entire community can rally around, similar to the way North Canton supported Wednesday’s announcement.
Community members introduced themselves to Dearth, ready to extend a friendly welcome, suggest a filming location or lend a hand wherever they could. By the end of the press conference, Dearth’s wife, Beth, had more business cards from others in her pocket than she did her own.
“I’m totally grateful for what has happened to me and this is the reason why I'm always encouraging young people to chase their dreams and study what they're trying to learn,” he said. “If the movie goes well, it'll be a happy ending.”