ESPN Films to Develop Two Theatrical Motion Pictures: The Stories of Jim Jones Jr.’s Redemption and Fallen Firefighter/Coach Louis Mulkey
Based on True Stories Chronicled by ESPN.com, Outside the Lines and SportsCenter
ESPN Films is developing two theatrical motion pictures based on inspirational true stories. They will focus on Jim Jones, Jr., –the son of the infamous Reverend Jim Jones who orchestrated the 1978 murder-suicide of more than 900 people in the jungle of Guyana — whose life was literally saved by basketball, and on Louis Mulkey, a Charleston, S.C., Fire Department captain and Summerville High School basketball coach who perished with eight of his fellow firefighters battling a blaze in June 2007. His memory served as the inspiration for his team’s run for the state championship. Both stories were initially chronicled by several of ESPN’s enterprise journalism platforms.
“Each of these penetrating and powerful stories is a reflection of the human condition: striving, struggling, the despair of loss and the joy of achievement,” said Ron Semiao, senior vice president for theatrical motion pictures, ESPN Films. “Ultimately, they show how sports can be a positive and inspirational influence beyond the field of play. Having first presented these moving tales on ESPN.com, Outside the Lines and SportsCenter, we proudly look to advance our multi-media storytelling approach with feature films deserving of the two men the films are based on.”
The Jim Jones, Jr. Story
The script, being written by Sang Kyu Kim (Crash – TV series) based on a story outline and treatment by ESPN Films and the Outside the Lines program – will focus on the life of Jim Jones Jr., who escaped the mass murder-suicide in the famed Jonestown Massacre only because he was playing in a basketball tournament 250 miles away in Georgetown, Guyana. The then-18-year-old Jones lost his pregnant wife, mother, father, two brothers and a sister in the tragedy. Plagued by survivor’s guilt, feelings of shame and the stain on his family’s name, he only begins to gain control of his life, overcome his suffering and find redemption when his oldest son, Rob, takes up and excels in the game of basketball. The two-time San Francisco Bay High School Player of the Year is currently a starting forward at the University of San Diego.
The Louis Mulkey Story
Mike Tollin (Radio, Wild Hogs) will direct and co-produce with ESPN Films this tale of the married 34-year-old Mulkey who dedicated himself to firefighting for Engine 15’s B Shift and coaching at his alma mater. His tragic death was part of the largest loss of firefighters’ lives in a single event since 9/11. In response, the players on the Summerville High basketball team, some of whom Mulkey had coached since the eighth grade, dedicated their season to a man they called “a father.” With Mulkey’s widow, Lauren, and a treasured helmet from Engine 15 by their side, the Green Wave rode Mulkey’s inspiration to the state finals where the championship came down to the final seconds with an ending that can only be described as incredible. The Academy Award-nominated writing team of Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen Rivele (Ali, Nixon) will pen the script.
On February 28, 2008, ESPN.com first published the account of Summerville’s storybook season. SportsCenter followed in June 2008 with a feature about Mulkey and the team’s achievement which drew national attention. Both will serve as the basis for the script.
Creative Artists Agency, which works with ESPN Films on its initiative to expand its brand into developing and producing sports-themed theatrical motion pictures, represents Tollin, Wilkinson/Rivele, and Kim.
Launched in March 2008, ESPN Films presents quality scripted and documentary film projects for television and theatrical release. Documentaries include the critically acclaimed Black Magic (March 2008), The Streak (April 2008), the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival selection The Zen of Bobby V (May 2008), and The Greatest Game Ever Played (December 2008). Motion picture projects already in development include the untitled Jackie Robinson/Branch Rickey story in collaboration with Wildwood Enterprises and Baldwin/Cohen Productions in which Robert Redford will portray Rickey. David McKenna (American History X, Blow) is currently writing a script revision. In October 2009, ESPN Films will launch a major initiative with “30 for 30,” a celebration of the last three decades of sports timed with ESPN’s 30th anniversary. For more information, visit espnmediazone.com.