Writer Schwahn, Par’ get Carter

by Zorianna Kit

Paramount Pictures has picked up the rights to the life story of controversial Richmond (Calif.) High School basketball coach Ken Carter, to be the basis of a feature film that Mark Schwahn will write for studio-based MTV Films and Tollin/Robbins Prods.

No director is yet attached to the project, which is tentatively titled “Old School: The Ken Carter Story.”

Carter made national news in 1999 when he benched his entire undefeated basketball team for poor academic performance. The coach forfeited two league games and made the gym off-limits until students raised their grades, a move that drew praise and criticism from parents and school officials.

The life-story rights to Carter’s son, Damon, also were optioned. Damon Carter was one of the members of the 1999 team who went on to earn four-year athletic scholarships. His scholarship was to the West Point Military Academy.

Carter-SchwahnCarter got to know Tollin/Robbins principals Mike Tollin and Brian Robbins after seeing their documentary “Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream” and attending the premiere of “Hardball,” which the duo produced and Robbins directed for Paramount in the fall.

“He saw the movie, spent the evening with us and got a sense of the kind of pro-social films we make,” Tollin said. “His story is one of a town divided, which always makes for a good movie.”

Added Robbins: “When I read an article on coach Carter, I thought, ‘Wow, what a great story and a great guy.’ We tracked him down and were amazed with all that he had accomplished. This isn’t a movie about sports; it’s a movie about people.”

“Brian and Mike, out of all the people that I met in Hollywood, were extremely professional at all times,” Carter said by phone from Richmond. “I had about 20-30 meetings on this project, and it’s not often that someone gives you their limo and says, ‘Take all your other meetings in our car.’ It was a class act.”

Carter said he hopes his story will reach a wide audience through the feature film.

“I hope to share the message with other people across the nation: that schoolwork matters,” Carter said. “In the term ‘student athlete,’ student comes before athlete. I feel all kids need leaders – parents, teachers – to validate them, and this is my form of validation. ”

Schwalm, who has been working closely with Carter on the script, said the project is important and timely.

“Often, communities sacrifice compassion for the sake of winning,” he said. “As a sports fan and a sports lover, I think we need to try to figure out why is winning so important to us, and at what cost. ? What coach Carter did in terms of taking a stand and seeing the big picture is both uplifting and inspiring.”

The project reunites Schwahn with Tollin/Robbins and the studio. He wrote the most recent draft of “The Perfect Score,” in which Erika Christensen and Scarlett Johansson are starring, with Roger Birnbaum Prods. also producing (HR 2/21). Schwahn will continue to stay on as a writer throughout the production of the project, with the studio additionally making a blind script deal with him.

The scribe is also working with Tollin/Robbins on a sports-related television pilot. He is repped by UTA and attorney Kevin Yorn.

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