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The Suburbanite
  • 'Underdogs' to be filmed in North Canton, Stark

  • A movie, titled “Underdogs,” will be filmed in North Canton and other parts of Stark County this summer. Auditions for movie extras will be held Saturday.

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  • Doug Dearth said he’s always wanted to film a movie in Stark County, where he grew up.
    Directing a movie based on high school football was the natural fit.
    Dearth, a 1984 graduate of Lake High School, told an audience at a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Hoover Auditorium that he’s thrilled to be filming the pigskin-themed movie “Underdogs” in Stark County, including shooting a significant portion of the scenes in North Canton.
    “I’ve always wanted to bring a film back here,” he said of Stark County. “To show off this part of the country just because it’s where I grew up.”
    Filming begins July 16 and is expected to take five weeks to complete.
    According to promotional materials, “like ‘Hoosiers,’ ‘Rudy,’ and ‘Facing the Giants,’ this is a movie about beating the odds and rising to the challenges both on and off the field.”
    “In the heart of Ohio, it’s God, family and football,” the movie poster declares. “... But not always in that order.”
    The movie has a roughly $1 million budget, a majority of which is being financed by Stark County businessman Benjamin Suarez. Dearth acknowledged the “true independent film” is on a low budget in Hollywood terms.
    Suarez, president of Suarez Corp. Industries, “is a big part of making this film happen,” Dearth said following the press conference.
    The project is being financed independently and without studio involvement, he said. The movie will be sold and distribution will be negotiated once the film is finished, Dearth said.
    The locally-based Media Services Entertainment is also involved with the production of “Underdogs.”
    AUDITIONS FOR EXTRAS
    Auditions will be held for extras from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Hoover Auditorium (in the former Hoover Co. complex) on the fourth floor at 219 E. Maple St. in downtown North Canton.
    Auditions will be for men and women ages 18 to 24 to appear in the roles of football players and cheerleaders.
    An application form can be filled out at www.underdogsthemovie.com. Those auditioning are asked to bring a hard copy of the application Saturday along with a head-shot photograph of themselves.
    STORYLINE
    Dearth described the movie as family-oriented and embodying the values of “everyday people” who work hard to persevere among the struggles and challenges of daily life.
    The story, written by David Latham, is about a “small-town high school football team destined to play their cross-town rival and perennial powerhouse while standing up for an entire community,” according to the script synopsis.
    A new coach attempts to turn around the fortunes of the Division 4 football program. The promising quarterback for the “Knights” falls for a rival cheerleader.
    Page 2 of 2 - Dearth said the names of the high schools and communities in the film are expected to be fictitious.
    The quarterback’s father “is being sued by his former employer and town patriarch ... over the intellectual rights to a revolutionary new space heater.”
    Dearth acknowledged that reference is inspired by EdenPURE, a division of Suarez Corp. Industries, which includes a line of space heaters. Incorporating the development of a space heater into the storyline also is an effort to “keep the local flavor” in the film, Dearth said.
    Eventually the two high schools face off in a “Game of Champions that becomes bigger than the state finals.”
    STARK COUNTY ROOTS
    Dearth attended elementary school in Massillon and middle school in Jackson Township.
    Dearth, who lives in Los Angeles, founded One in a Row Films, an independent production company based in Santa Monica, Calif.
    “Everybody seems to feel this story is very Americana,” Dearth said of the “Underdogs” script.
    The film has attracted some notable actors and actresses, including Scott Patterson, who appeared in the “Gilmore Girls” television show for several seasons and played the role of Agent Strahm in multiple movies in the “Saw” franchise.
    William Mapother, who had a role on the television show “Lost,” also is participating, Dearth said.
    Playing the “hero quarterback” will be Logan Huffman. Maddie Hasson will portray the cheerleader and romantic interest.
    Charlie Carver, set to play the role of the rival quarterback, has appeared on the show “Desperate Housewives.”
    Mayor David Held formally announced the project at the press event, touting the positive impact the movie will have on the local economy as well as the opportunity it will provide to Hoover High School and Stark State College students who will assist with production aspects of the film and take advantage of it as a learning experience.
    “We’re excited about this,” Held said.
    LOCAL FILMING
    Parts of the movie will be filmed both inside Hoover High School and on the grounds, Dearth said.
    Central Catholic High School and St. Thomas Aquinas High School also are expected to be involved with the project, he said.
    A representative of the Ohio Film Office attended the press conference. “Underdogs” will receive the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit, which is administered by the state agency.
    Dearth, whose television production career dates to 1999 with HBO-related work, co-produced the film “Grace is Gone,” which garnered the Audience Award at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.
    He served as director and producer of “9000 Needles,” a documentary about his brother Devin’s struggle to recover from a stroke at age 40.