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Campbellsville native to release movie

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By Calen McKinney

 

A book deal. A movie. A television series. Companies to run.

Campbellsville native Deronte' Smith is a busy man. His credits include writer, director, entrepreneur, educator, mentor and father.

Smith's first feature film, a horror movie called "Prosper," is slated to be in stores this year. And, his children's book, "The Fantastical Adventures of Sleepy Steve: Reuniting the Stone," has been re-written for an older audience and might become a television series.

Smith, who now lives in Georgia, has been in Campbellsville for the past few weeks, visiting family and working to schedule some premiere events.

"Prosper" will make its debut at Green River Cinema 6 later this year, and Smith has been meeting with a focus group of Campbellsville and Taylor County middle school students to give him feedback on "The Fantastical Adventures of Sleepy Steve: Reuniting the Stone" before it goes to press.

Smith, 41, lived in Campbellsville until 1991. After graduating from Taylor County High School that year, he moved to Lexington to attend college.

Some of Smith's family members still live in Campbellsville. He says he still considers Campbellsville as one of his homes.

In 1996, Smith graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in English and creative writing. Two years later, he moved to Atlanta, Ga., where he went to work as a financial planner.

A year later, Smith began dabbling in video production, from commercials to music videos and public service announcements.

In 2000, Smith went to film school at Kennesaw State University. About halfway through the program, however, an instructor told Smith that he was far more advanced than the other students. The instructor encouraged Smith to save some money by leaving school and working on his own film projects. He listened.

Smith wrote a short film called "Game" about some college friends who find out some secrets about each other. The film won awards at about 15 festivals.

"And that's what started my career," he said.

In 2005, Smith published his Sleepy Steve book. Since then, the book has sold about 40,000 units.

Now, Smith is the owner of three companies - Infinity Global Media Group, Solaris Filmwerks and Infinity One Publication.

Smith published his book under the Infinity One Publication name and has produced his movie under Solaris Filmwerks.

Smith said "Prosper" was finished in February and Urban Home Entertainment has agreed to distribute it. There is some work left on the artwork for DVD packaging and a few minor edits that need to made so the movie will fit a TV screen.

But when that's done, he said, the movie will be ready for release in November or December. He said the movie will be available at Walmart and in Redbox kiosks.

Work on "Prosper" began in July 2011. He said it's been a long process to get the film finished, but everything from sound to visual effects to colors had to be done the right way. He and a few friends put the money together to finance the project and he told them they all had to be patient.

"If we can't sell it, we are wasting our time," he said.

Smith said he has also been working on promoting the movie for a theatrical release. The movie will make its debut in Campbellsville in October.

He said he contacted Camille Holt, general manager at the cinema, and asked about the possibility of showing the movie there. Smith said Holt was receptive. There was a Facebook campaign to get the movie at Green River Cinema 6, Smith said, and another to have Carmike Cinemas do the same.

"Prosper" will also premiere in Atlanta and Los Angeles. But when it premieres in Campbellsville, Smith said, some of the actors in the movie - who also appeared on the television show "The Walking Dead" - will attend and Smith will participate in a question and answer panel.

"So we're gonna do it big," Smith said.

While in Campbellsville for the past few weeks, Smith has met with eight middle school students to discuss the rewrite of "The Fantastical Adventures of Sleepy Steve: Reuniting the Stone."

The process of rewriting the book began three years ago when Smith was working at The Huffington Post as an arts columnist. He was writing a feature story about an expo coming to Atlanta when he was invited to be a speaker at the event. The event went well, he said, and he was approached by Gerald Washington, a representative of Steve Harvey and the director of the Dream Foundation.

Smith said Washington asked him to be a mentor and presenter at a panel discussion for college-age writers.

After doing that, Smith said, he pitched "The Fantastical Adventures of Sleepy Steve: Reuniting the Stone" to Washington and other representatives from the Steve Harvey World Group.

He said he showed them his ideas to animate the children's book into a television series, along with a clothing line. After he was offered a deal to re-write the book, Smith was connected with an agent.

Smith attended the American Film Market in Santa Monica, Calif., an event geared toward film buyers and sellers.

While there, he met with an Australian distribution company that ultimately offered him a deal to distribute the revamped children's book. There is also talk of turning the story into a television show.

"The end game is to definitely have a series," he said.

Smith has been given the task of writing the book geared toward an older audience. In doing that, the book has gone from 123 pages to 393. In the new version, Steve deals with some more mature problems. There are more characters and a love story.

"There was a lot of development to the characters," Smith said. "I'm really proud of where the book is now."

A couple months ago, Smith posted a question on Facebook, asking if anyone would be interested in forming a focus group to read his new book and give him feedback before it prints again.

The response was good, he said, and he contacted Taylor County Public Library Director Julia Turpin, who helped him form the group. On Wednesday, Smith will meet with the students to hear their thoughts on the new story.

Smith said he was excited to share the story with Campbellsville students and allow them to shape a product that hasn't come out yet. He said he hopes to have the book to press in late fall or early winter.

While Smith was at the library, he met Campbellsville resident Joyce Messecar. As the two began talking, Messecar shared with Smith that she wants to write and publish two books. As a result of their meeting, the two have developed a series of writing workshops Smith will offer at local colleges. Plans aren't definite yet, but Smith hopes to offer workshops in Campbellsville, Columbia, Somerset, Elizabethtown and Lebanon.

Smith will discuss how to publish a book, from having an idea to marketing and distributing the product.

After "Prosper" and "The Fantastical Adventures of Sleepy Steve: Reuniting the Stone" are made available for the public, Smith will start working on his next movie and book projects.

The movie, "Striker," will be about a bomb-sniffing dog. Smith says the movie is family-oriented and compares it to a modern day "Turner and Hooch." And his next book, he said, might be a biography about a man who was an informant for the mob.

Smith said his life might be busy, but he wants to come back to Campbellsville and help others make their dreams a reality, as he has. He said he has overcome a lot of hurdles along the way, and wants to help others do the same.

"It's just a way of giving back," he said.

"An overnight success is not actually overnight. It's usually 10 to 15 years in the making."