Edgemont isn’t exactly fertile breeding ground for Hollywood producers, but it was home to Sean Covel, who’s also artist, Rebecca Swift’s publishing partner, for the first 18 years of his life.
Best known as a producer of the critically acclaimed, cult-classic film Napoleon Dynamite, Covel didn’t excel in sports like many of his peers, so he focused instead on what he was good at: drama and stand-up comedy. After high school, he studied Broadcast Management at the University of Nebraska, Kearney, then made his way to California. He found success in filmmaking, but missed South Dakota. “Here’s the thing about Edgemont,” he says. “I fought for 18 years to get out of that small town … and I’ve fought every day since to get back in. What I didn’t realize then was the power of community.”
Much to his surprise, Sean didn’t find Hollywood as appealing as he’d imagined. “I realized that quality of life, meaning fancy cars and big houses, was not what I wanted,” he says. “Quality in life matters more. That’s people. Being able to run into somebody you know in the grocery store was a really important perspective shift and helped me move back to Deadwood.”
Sean currently resides in Boulder, Colo., but credits the success of Porter the Hoarder entirely to South Dakota. It’s where he met Rebecca, got involved with United Way of the Black Hills, and learned that only 32% of U.S. students can read at grade level proficiency. Sean and Rebecca realized the Porter books could serve as a valuable tool in promoting family engagement and improving reading skills.
“In South Dakota, a local community came together, we addressed that problem, and scaled it nationwide,” he says. “I wouldn’t know how to do that in Los Angeles. The people there who can make a difference are hard to get to, whereas in South Dakota, you will run into people at the coffee shop who are actively involved in their community, and you can build something based on the simplest conversations.