When Sean Covel left the Black Hills for college, he was trying to escape what has since become the driving factor in his life and what he loves most: a sense of small town living.
Monday, the “Napoleon Dynamite” producer will experience a little more of that love during a brief Q&A session ahead of Deadwood’s Vast Broadband Monday Night Movie Night kickoff and launch of Outlaw Square with the 2004 film.
“Any time I get to do anything with the community, I’m all about it,” Covel said. “It’s wonderful to still be talking about Napoleon. It was not only a career-defining film for me, but a life-defining one.”
Covel produced the film with Jeremy Coon, Frederick Wedler, Jory Weitz and Chris Wyatt; it was directed by Jared Hess and written by him and his wife Jerusha.
In 2014, Covel told ScreenCraft’s John Rodes that they had very low expectations for the film to do well at its first showing. When they received a standing ovation from company executives as the credits began to roll across the screen, they couldn’t believe it.
“We didn’t expect in a million years for people to relate to ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ the way they did,” Covel told the Journal Tuesday. “We were as surprised as anybody.”
He said he had a similar feeling when he noticed the change and impact he and projects he was starting, like the “Porter the Hoarder” series to encourage students across the nation to read and “The 12 Days of Pizza” that supplies underprivileged families of elementary school children with meals during Christmas break, had in communities.
Covel said the issues these projects are combating stem from the same issues people can see from big cities — like Los Angeles where Covel spends half of his time teaching an independent film class at his alma mater the University of Southern California — to small towns like Edgemont or Deadwood where he grew up and now lives.
“In a big city, problems are so large they become anonymous. People don’t know where to begin to address them, but in a small town, small town folks take care of each other,” he said. “You get a lot more done.”
Covel said within two phone calls, the 12 Days of Pizza project launched because he saw an issue that needed to be fixed. When he heard about students needing to develop reading skills, he had the “Porter the Hoarder” book in motion in three days, which is now circulated to 15,000 students across the state alone.
“The same problems that affect people in big cities exist in small towns. But small town communities don’t let them go unnoticed — they step up,” Covel said. “I love that about being home.”
Covel said that Porter’s story is really the same as Napoleon’s, a kid who’s kind of quirky and different that doesn’t really fit in trying to find their own place in the world.
He said there’s never been a better time to start making movies because it’s never been cheaper and there have never been so many places to show films. Covel said it’s inspiring to teach at USC each year because he’s reminded of what excited him and his friends, young filmmakers from the Midwest, way back in 2004, when they were starting out on their journeys.
Covel said he’s excited for the Q&A and to tell behind-the-scenes stories some may have never heard before, which may include how they found Tina the llama, the low rider and when Heder had his hair permed three times.
“This is a family movie that kids are going to watch with their parents and they’re going to laugh together, at least I hope they are,” he said. “I’m excited to see families kick back and enjoy it together.”
The movie will be screened at 7 p.m. Monday at Outlaw Square in Deadwood. Square director Bobby Rock said the movie will be shown on the new 15-by-9, 240 inch jumbo TV.
Rock said this is the first event of summer programming, which will be hosted by Covel and unofficially accompanied by a llama. Rock said Tuesdays will be the Farmers Market, which will start in July, followed by a Wednesday summer concert series and a Thursday Deadwood history family fun night.
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