‘Underdogs’ to Debut at the Cleveland International Film Festival
|'Underdogs' in production in North Canton, Ohio|
Especially when you’re one the making the movie – and your family always wondered what it was you actually did on a movie set.
“I grew up in that area of
, and I have always wanted to bring a
film back to my home state and shoot it there,” says Dearth, who served as director
and producer. “Our executive producer also has his business in Ohio and has always been
a big advocate for keeping jobs in the community. So it was a win, win for both
of us. Also, if you are going to tell a story about the love of high school
football, there's no better place to do it, than in the Ohio Midwest.”
Underdogs tells the tale of a last place high school football team no one expects to win and a local inventor fighting for the intellectual rights of his invention. It is based in part on true events.
The film will debut on April 9 at 8:40 p.m. at the 37th Annual Cleveland International Film Festival. It stars Richard Portnow, D.B. Sweeney, Melora Walters, William Mapother and Natalie Imbruglia – along with a number of Northeast Ohio actors and actresses, including Patricia Valestin and Joseph Primes. View the trailer at the end of this article.
Midwest Movie Maker recently sat down with Dearth (via email) to talk about Underdogs and filmmaking in the
|Filmmaker and Canton native Doug Dearth|
MMM: What got you into the director’s chair?
DD: I have always loved acting, but the more I studied and learned about film, the more I became interested in developing and producing films of my own. I was very lucky working with Cusack. I spent many days on set watching him work, as well as great directors such as Bruce Beresford, Clint Eastwood, Terrence Malik, Woody Allen and so on. Over time, I began developing strong creative opinions of my own about the direction a film or project should go. So finally I thought I should just step up and direct my own project. And it seems to be something I am okay at. I certainly enjoy it tremendously. And love working with the actors and crew.
MMM: Tell me a bit about Underdogs. In a nutshell, what’s it about?
DD: Underdogs is based on the inspirational true events of a high school football team no one expected to succeed, as well as a local inventor fighting for the rights to his invention.
The film focuses on the Knights, a lousy team that has become an easy target. Just when they begin to give up hope, a new coach arrives, helping the team see its true potential.
At the same time, quarterback Bobby Burkett falls in love with a cheerleader from a rival team. This enrages the team's star, John Handon, a bratty rich kid who has his eye on the same girl.
Meanwhile, Bobby's father is waging his own war with Handon’s dad, whose crooked corporation is suing him over an invention he patented. So, although this is a football movie, it delves a little deeper and shows how these stories can represent hope for an entire community.
MMM: How did the story come to you? Or rather, how did you know this story needed to be told?
DD: I was approached by a gentleman who had the idea for the story. I have always loved sports movies and thought the community struggle at the core of this story was very interesting. I also felt it was a really sweet and pure story, something that might lift people's spirits. Most family films or teen movies these days seem to be about vampires, zombies or aliens. I thought that a throw-back to classic family and sports films would be fun, especially if we could put a contemporary twist on it with an indie style and great music. (The soundtrack features The Black Keys, Blues Traveler, Patrick Stump [Fallout Boy], Rob Schwartzman [Rooney], Brett Dennen and others.)
MMM: The trailer mentions that the story was inspired by true events. Can you talk about those for a bit?
DD: The story was based on two different true events, that we took the liberty of combining into one story. The first being a surprising championship season by the St. Thomas Knights, a small division four high school football team, that went from a long loosing streak to beating much larger schools, ending in a championship season.
The other storyline in the film is one of a small town inventor who invents an energy saving space heater. And his former boss sues him for the intellectual ownership rights.
Lastly, the film delves into the issue of large manufacturing companies outsourcing their jobs overseas. And entire communities at risk because of the potential job loss.
MMM: How did Underdogs come together as a feature?
DD: Underdogs came together extremely fast by
standards. I was working on some corporate projects for a client and he
approached me with a film idea. I immediately hired a friend of mine - a writer
and a die-hard football fan – and began developing the script. We burned the
candle at both ends to finish the script in about three months. We went
directly into pre-production and were able to have a completed film from
concept to delivery in just a little over a year. This was only possible by
having an independent financier who was really excited and aggressive to get
the film made.
MMM: Tell me about the decision made to shoot in
North Canton? Why was that the
best decision for the film? And how did you like shooting in your hometown?
DD: The decision to film in North Canton was exciting to me as I grew up in that area of
have always wanted to bring a film back to my home state and shoot it there.
Our Executive Producer also has his business in Ohio and has always been a big advocate for
keeping jobs in the community. So it was a win, win for both of us. Also, if
you are going to tell a story about the love of high school football, there's
no better place to do it, than in the Ohio Midwest!
It was satisfying to shoot in my home state, as my family got to come out and
visit the set, and finally see that I do work for a living. Also, the
communities in the Midwest are fantastic in
their support of filming. They all come out and participate as extras, and open
their doors to the cast and crew, to show them their hospitality.
MMM: What familiar locations will those who grew up in that area recognize?
DD: We filmed at three local high schools; St. Thomas Aquinas in Louisville, Central Catholic in Canton and Green High School in Green. We also filmed at the radio station in
Canton, WHBC, and several local
business as well as the courthouse in . Massillon
MMM: Where and when might you return to the
Midwest for your next feature?
DD: No plans as of yet, but am looking for scripts and documentary ideas that can be shot on the
Midwest, as I'd love to return
MMM: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring filmmaker (producer, director, screenwriter, actor) from and living in the
DD: I have to offer two pieces of advice.
1. Find, write or develop great material. Everyone is looking for great material, doesn't matter where it comes from. But be sure to take the time to do it right and present it with your very best foot forward.
2. Be yourself. Be proud of being from the
Midwest! And bring the qualities and work ethic that we
were raised with to your work.
Finally, get involved with your local film commissions. Work with them to support the ideas of state incentives to draw filmmakers to our states.
35 percent tax incentive program was a huge help to us. And many films are now
looking at shooting in Ohio Ohio and the Midwest because of these incentives. This brings work to
our communities and gives us a chance to do what we love - make movies.
TRLR UNDERDOGS V6Alt from One In A Row Films on Vimeo.