AKRON, Ohio – July 20, 2012 – The All-American Soap Box Derby celebrates its 75th year July 21, and the iconic American event—in deep financial trouble a few years ago—can in part thank a film from an Emmy-nominated actor for getting the race back on the road.
Corbin Bernsen, Emmy and Golden Globe nominated as Arnie Becker in L.A. Law, heard about the Derby’s financial woes by chance in 2009. The actor, now featured in USA Network’s Psyche, also produces and directs films for targeted fan bases. He knew immediately the Derby could benefit from his efforts. The result was his new film, 25 HILL.
“Ultimately 25 Hill began as a journey to help save the great American tradition that is the All-American Soap Box Derby,” Bernsen said. “The fact that they are now celebrating their 75th Anniversary with FirstEnergy as a new title sponsor makes me more proud than you can imagine. If the film only served as a spark to ignite a movement, it demonstrates, like the Derby itself, the power of community coming together for a common purpose.”
When Bernsen first approached Derby officials, the event was looking at its own finish line, hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, no major sponsor and participation skidding. 25 HILL’s help included a significant fee to feature the Derby in the film, a percent of the film for the Derby and the notoriety a film can bring.
Now the Derby’s only checkered flag is the one that race contestants will see. The organization’s loans were guaranteed by the city of Akron; it has landed FirstEnergy Corp. as a new title sponsor; and local, regional and national publications write glowing coverage about its association with 25 HILL.
“Corbin’s movie 25 HILL raised awareness about Soap Box Derby racing and exposed our program to a wide audience in addition to providing a well-needed financial contribution,” said Joe Mazur, All-American Soap Box Derby president. “Like in the movie, we now have a new title sponsor, FirstEnergy Corp., which enables us to expand our racing program to more youngsters”
25 HILL tells the story of 12-year-old Trey Caldwell (Nathan Gamble) whose life is shattered when his father is killed in combat in Afghanistan. The constant reminder of his dad’s departing gift, an unfinished Soap Box Derby car in the garage, leaves Trey with a hole in his life. When he’s introduced to Roy Gibbs (Bernsen), a grizzled fire chief devastated by the loss of his firefighter son on 9/11, a new friendship forms and old wounds slowly begin to heal. As the unlikely team works to complete the Soap Box car and train for the upcoming Derby, they learn that life isn’t about the starting line or checkered flag—it’s about the journey of faith and courage in between.
Bernsen has tirelessly promoted the film and the Derby, often in communities that support regional races, and he’ll be on hand for the July 21, 2012, 75th anniversary events. Interestingly, one of this year’s participants will be there because the film inspired him to get in the race. Akron-area seventh-grader Christian Viering and his mom volunteered as extras during the 2010 filming of 25 HILL. Following that experience, he built a car, accumulated sufficient points and will race on the 21st in Akron.
25 HILL is distributed by EchoLight Studios and is available through Amazon.com, Target, Walmart and other major retailers. The DVD also can be found at Christian retail nationwide, including Family Christian and other CBA member stores.