COVINGTON — A Covington native returned home last weekend to film local legend Dennis Willoughby, also known as “Scooby.”
For his third year participating in the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, Brian Swinehart — a filmaker, stand-up comedian, and actor —returned to his hometown to join forces with Scooby and other locals to help make a film in 48 hours.
Swinehart graduated from Covington High School in 1998 and spent two years at Edison State Community College before moving to Los Angeles and getting involved in the filmmaking and entertainment industry.
Swinehart explained the goal of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge as helping to show those living with disabilities in a positive light and give them an opportunity to actor in a short film. Swinehart then got the idea to work with Scooby after recently returning to the area while he was doing comedy shows.
“I thought … I wonder if I could do that with Scooby,” Swinehart said.
Scooby, who has Down syndrome, is known for being a supporter and fan of Covington Buccaneers, and Swinehart remembers Scooby from seeing him around town while Swinehart was on his newspaper delivery route. Swinehart also recalled seeing Scooby at some of his wrestling matches when they were at home and how seeing Scooby at at the matches inspired him and other athletes to try harder for Scooby.
“You want to do a little better for Scooby,” Swinehart said. “He was just always a big part of our community.”
The challenge, which must be completed within 48 hours, also pushed Swinehart out of his comfort zone a little bit.
“I ended up directing it,” he said. “It forced me to do something I was afraid to do.”
Swinehart recalled how, in a recent visit with Scooby and his family prior to making the film, Scooby said that he missed his dad, who had passed away in the last few years, and how Scooby wished his dad was there to see him participate in this film.
“Scooby’s more open to tell you how he’s feeling,” Swinehart said. “I have to show that part … I have to show how Scooby misses his dad.”
This inspired Swinehart to go for viewers’ heartstrings and set up a similar moment in the short film where Scooby talks about missing his dad.
“That has had such an effect on them,” Swinehart said.
Swinehart said that the moment in the film where Scooby talks about his dad after a football game scene made people tear up a little bit.
“My dad is a great man. I love him,” Scooby says in the film.
Swinehart said that Scooby is not acting so much as just being himself. “He’s just being Scooby,” Swinehart said.
The community also helped participate in the film, setting up a football game scene along with scenes at a local grocery store, Market Fresh Food. The short film was written and directed by Swinehart and edited by Ranson Karr. Matt Witherspoon was the director of photography. Other participants included Cody Ray Barrett, Pam Willoughby, Haley Hargrave, Susan Swinehart, Justin Fritts, Corey Turner, and Tyler Cates.
Swinehart said that he was grateful for the film challenge since it helped inspire him to make that film with Scooby.
See the video, titled “The #1 Fan – 2018 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge Entry,” on Youtube at bit.ly/2HDPyMv.
Since the early 2000s, Swinehart has also been a stand-up comedian, performing in 34 states as well as in six countries while performing for U.S. troops. “I’m getting by in the entertainment industry,” he said.
He said his goal is to shed more light on making films that are “more realistic” and applicable to small towns versus maybe superhero movies.
“It was nice to be back,” Swinehart said. “It’s so beautiful, our town.”
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org