The Team


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David Pagano


David Pagano is an award-winning filmmaker, animator, author and the founder of Paganomation, a New York-based production studio. Drawn to storytelling from a young age, David is best known for directing dozens of short films, ads, and short films that are also ads

In addition to his film and animation work, David spent 5+ years as producer and co-host of Ernest Goes to Podcast, a comprehensive exploration of the Ernest P. Worrell character. This experience gave David the perfect foundation on which to build the definitive story of both Ernest and Jim Varney in documentary form.


Justin Lloyd


Justin Lloyd is Jim Varney’s nephew and the author of “The Importance of Being Ernest: The Life of Actor Jim Varney”. In writing this biography, Justin took on the dual role of “Varney family genealogist” and “Ernest historian”, developing an encyclopedic knowledge of his Uncle Jim and the characters he played.

Along with his exhaustive research, Justin spent the past decade compiling a vast collection of Jim Varney photos and memorabilia, and has kept the Ernest home fires burning on social media for just as long. He is excited to put all of this preparation to good use and help bring his uncle’s story to the big screen.


Daniel Butler

Executive Producer

Daniel Butler was discovered by John Cherry and Coke Sams at the Exit-In in Nashville performing with a comedy troupe called Gonzo Theater. In 1983, he became a writer on the Carden & Cherry Ernest team, writing and performing in “Family Album”, “Ernest Goes to Camp”, and more. Mr. Butler also toured with Jim Varney, writing and performing together in “Ernest Goes to the Fair”.

After almost a decade of Ernest, Mr. Butler went on to help create and host the TV series “America’s Dumbest Criminals”. Jim Varney and his characters opened the door for Mr. Butler and hundreds of other creatives in Nashville to create and produce on a national and international stage.

Also, he helped us pay a lot of rent and made us laugh doing it.




Valerie Champagne is a writer and the producer of several award-winning short films. She has worked as an assistant producer for an Academy Award-nominated documentarian, as a research analyst and production coordinator on Nickelodeon and Disney-animated preschool series, and as a digital content writer for Scholastic.

She began working with David Pagano in 2012 as an assistant animator and producer at Paganomation, and they have been frequent collaborators ever since. Valerie’s first deep-dive into the Jim Varney oeuvre was as a guest on the “Your World As I See It” episode of Ernest Goes to Podcast—believed by many to be the podcast’s finest installment.