Hollywood Soapbox

By Lloyd Graff

Have you ever wondered how a movie gets made? This is the inside scoop on that process, right now.

Mary Ethridge has written several pieces for Today’s Machining World, including the cover story “Who’s Eating off Mary’s Plate?” about the history of the metal plate in her wrist. She lives in Akron, Ohio, and keeps up with the local scene. So when the Soap Box Derby ran into financial difficulty because the big local sponsor, Levi Strauss, walked away, Mary saw a story worth writing and pitched it to USA Today.

USA Today staff reporter Bruce Horovitz wrote the story, and the day after it appeared Corbin Bernsen, the actor famous for his portrayal of Arnie Becker on LA Law in the 1980s, called her up to say he loved the piece and wanted to do a movie about the Derby. Mary and Corbin hit it off immediately and he set off to develop a script and obtain financing. Bernsen understood Hollywood’s ways well. He envisioned a small budget Hallmark movie on a $750,000 budget. He wanted it to be shot in Akron and California, not Thailand or Slovenia, which he was afraid would happen if the Hollywood types put up the dough. Through Mary Bernsen got connected with local Akron money and raised the funds with the understanding that the film would be shot locally.

As the movie, 25 Hill, started to take shape new sponsors started to appear, even FirstMerit chipped in with $50,000. Geico, which saw the movie as a good product placement opportunity, became the prominent sponsor in the movie and stepped up big for the real Soapbox Derby.

The final shooting will be in July at the actual event in Akron. Mary Ethridge has been in daily contact with Corbin Bernsen since the article appeared in print and has acted as his eyes and ears in the Tire City. The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page feature on Wednesday about the movie.

It might make it to the theaters, yet.

Soap Box Derby car from Bernal Heights Hill Soapbox Derby 2007

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One thought on “Hollywood Soapbox

  1. Larry Clayman

    This has been big news here in Akron. As you know, Mary was a wonderful writer at the Akron Beacon Journal for many years and covered the business beat for many of those years. It seems you are getting more and more Akron connections. Keep it up and we may make you an honorary Akronite!!


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