Rich Heldenfels


The football-themed movie Underdogs will be shot in North Canton and other area locations for five weeks beginning July 16.

Doug Dearth, a former area resident and director and co-writer of the film, said Wednesday the budget is still being worked out “but it’s going to be right around a million dollars.” In addition, the production will take advantage of the state tax credit available to films made in Ohio.

The movie already has lined up some well-known actors for key roles, including Scott Patterson (Gilmore Girls), William Mapother (Lost), D.W. Moffett (Switched at Birth), Logan Huffman (the most recent version of V), Maddie Hasson (The Finder) and Charles Carver (Desperate Housewives).

Local actors are in the running for some other roles. There will be a casting call for extras as football players and cheerleaders from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday in the Hoover Building on East Maple Street. Auditioners must have football or cheerleading experience. Men should be 18 to 24 years old and between 5-feet-6 and 6-6; women should be 18 to 24 and 5-4 to 5-10. All auditioners need to fill out a form at and bring a printout of the form to the audition — along with a photo of themselves if they have one. Other casting calls will be announced.

Why Canton?

Dearth, an actor, producer and Lake High School graduate, said he had always wanted to bring something back to the area. But the movie will not be set in North Canton, per se.

“It will probably be a fictitious city for a couple of reasons,” he said. “One is that I’m sort of a product of not just Canton, but Hartville and Massillon, and I wanted this to be something that benefited all of the surrounding communities. And, just from purely a script-clearance/legal thing, we have to make things fictitious.”

Besides, he joked earlier, when he discussed the film with local schools, none wanted its football teams in the movie if they were going to lose on-screen.

Still, Dearth said, “it will definitely be based on Canton.”

The plot involves Bobby Burkett, quarterback for a local football team that has never made the playoffs — until a new coach arrives. But the quarterback also falls for the cheerleader at a rival school — and so even more the enemy of the other school’s quarterback. At the same time, Bobby’s father is being sued by his former employer over the rights to a revolutionary space heater. (Hold that thought.) And the employer’s company might be leaving town for Mexico, making Bobby’s team’s success even more of a rallying point for the struggling community.

All of that has echoes of North Canton’s own history, such as the 2007 loss of the Hoover Co. — the movie was announced in the old Hoover Co. auditorium — and the move of entrepreneur Ben Suarez’s EdenPure space heater operation into the Hoover complex.

North Canton Mayor David Held trumpeted the movie as a demonstration of North Canton’s recovery. He was joined for the announcement by representatives of Stark State College, the North Canton Area Chamber of Commerce and North Canton City Schools. All will be working with the filmmakers, and local students will have a chance to take part in the production in front of and behind the cameras.

In addition, Suarez “is definitely going to be a major contributor to us getting this financed and set up,” Dearth said. Because consumer product placement in TV and movies, including the Akron-shot 25 Hill, is commonplace, Dearth was asked if the space heater in the movie’s plot might mean EdenPure product placement.

“Yes and no,” he said. “I mean, we kind of base the story line off this idea of a space heater, which of course is something they manufacture. But we like the idea because we wanted something that was very particular to the Midwest, but that was also something you wouldn’t normally think of a story revolving around. But [the movie] has more to do with entrepreneurs and the American dream of coming up with something and being successful with it.”

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and, including in the HeldenFiles Online blog at He is also on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at 330-996-3582 or