‘Napoleon Dynamite’ creators speak to DSC film students

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It’s a story almost too good to be true. The characters: film students from BYU with a dream. The plot: making their stories come to life on film. 

Dixie State College film students were treated to a seminar on Thursday with the creators of “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Nacho Libre” where they heard this their road to success.

Jared and Jerusha Hess began filming “Napoleon Dynamite” in the summer of 2003 in Jared’s hometown of Preston, Idaho. They had a $200,000 investment from a friend’s older brother, a crew made entirely of their friends from film school, and costumes from Desert Industries. With that they began to produce what they would later call “a labor of love.” 

It was “total rough cut with no color correction or music when our agent sent into Sundance Film Festivals, which I view as the biggest American independent film festival,” said Jared Hess. To their surprise it was accepted, and they described it as “a total dream come true.”

Jared and Jerusha Hess were understandably nervous for the first showing of their movie. Both were worried if film lovers don’t get it, then the rest of the world wouldn’t and that it would either be the beginning of their careers or the end. Much to their surprise, Fox Searchlight bought it the next day.  

“If film lovers don’t get it then the rest of the world won’t,” and the feeling that “this would either be the beginning of my career or the end of it,” were put to rest when Fox Searchlight bought it the next day.” 

“It became a big blessing for everyone involved.” said Jerusha “It launched all of our careers.”

They discussed key tips for the film students present who are beginning their careers as well. 

Janet Wright, a senior communication student from Huntington Beach, Calif., said: “It was a unique opportunity to be in the company of Jared and Jerusha. They were both very much at ease and they gave us very useful information. A lot of time when you go to these question and answer things, you don’t really get quality answers, but we got some significant tips on really functioning in the film business.”

Amid humorous stories from filming “Napoleon Dynamite” about how Jerusha was Deb in middle school and how Jared Hess’ mother’s llama was in the movie, both Jared and Jerusha Hess imparted important statements for making it the film industry. 

“It all starts with a good scrip,t” said Jared Hess. “You all have unique stories, tell them. Write something that you know intimately.” 

They spoke of their own inspiration for movies as well. 

“We pull from every single person, including our family and friends, they’re all injected into our films,” said Jerusha Hess.

Video Production Director Ben Braten said: “It’s not very often you get to sit down with the director of one of your favorite comedies in recent years. They had great insights and really gave a feel for the process.”

Part of the time was spent watching and discussing “Nacho Libre”.

“We watched “Nacho Libre” with them and they did the director’s commentary,” said Wright “That was a fabulous experience. Who has the opportunity to do something like that? That was amazing.“ 

There was a great turn out to this event and many students hope for similar future events. 

Overall, “It was very informative,” said Darren Chase, a senior communication student from Las Vegas. “I feel like he truly expressed that it takes long hours and hard work to get into the movie business, but also that you have to have fun doing it. It’s great to see we’re getting things like this at Dixie.”