James Black has worked with some of Hollywood’s finest actors. He has been incredibly busy this past year working in the movie and television world as an actor. However, even as he does that, his passion has become turning his attention to producing, and the topic of his inaugural effort is the story of Perry Reese, Jr., former Hiland High School basketball coach, who proved that acceptance and love can overcome prejudice.
Within the past year Black has been working feverishly toward getting a script underway that accurately tells the story of coach Reese, a black man who became a beloved figure in the heart of white Amish Country.
His efforts were coming together before an unfortunate turn of events presented a mountain before him.
Now he is turning to a new source in hopes of getting the Reese movie, which was initially purchased by Disney Studios, back on track.
“Everything seemed to be coming together, and I had a team in place to move forward,” Black said. “It was like, ‘Oh man, this is what I’m being led to pursue, to tell the real story of Perry Reese’s life and his impact on the people around him.’ It was where I needed to be, the right place at the right time.”
Everything seemed to be falling into place for Black as far as pursuing the Perry Reese movie project. However, a major glitch came up when the person providing the financial backing for the movie suddenly passed away.
It was a jolt to Black’s system, and all of a sudden the project was in doubt.
With his finances for the script gone, he turned to another source for financial help in getting the movie off the ground. He developed a website, www.ThePerryReeseProject.com, where individuals who are inspired by Perry Reese’s story of overcoming racial prejudice in a small Amish/Mennonite community can offer support.
Those who knew the man most simply called him Coach. He was at Hiland from 1984-2000, and the people there know what an inspiration he was to many, especially to the young lives he dedicated himself to improving. Whether it was on the hardwood or in the classroom where Reese was a history teacher, it was all about making young people better.
His message was simple: Put others before yourself and learn to work together as one. Reese never worried about religion but relied heavily on his faith. He let the unkind words and cold shoulders bounce off of him, focusing on the positive message of unity.
His impact was incredible even before his miracle team won a state title in the most unlikely of scenarios in 1992, coming back from seven points down in the final 35 seconds in the state semifinal to stun Lima Central Catholic.
However, wins and titles were secondary to the legacy Reese left behind after succumbing to a brain tumor in 2000.
Now Black wants to share that inspirational story with the world, and he believes it is not a sensationalized version of Reese’s story that needs to be shared, just a true story about a man and his commitment to loving others, no matter the skin color, faith or how much they despised him.
Black began his career, first as a great athlete at Dover High School, then as a star for Akron University. He played a year for the Cleveland Browns as a running back before finding a bigger passion in acting. After many years of starring on stage, television and the big screen, he developed a passion for producing and believes The Perry Reese Project is his calling.
“Five years ago I would never have been ready to take this step of this magnitude, Black said. “Now I feel tested mentally, and this is right where I need to be.”
He has put together a very professional, reliable team for the building of the movie, which is yet to be titled.
The purpose of the website is to generate funding for the script while introducing Reese to many who have not heard his story. He has persevered the disappointment of losing his funding earlier but is adamant that the project will stay the course.
“My legal team, my writers, everything is in place to make this movie a success,” Black said. “What we need to do now is to generate the funds that will allow us to tell the true story of Perry, one that is morally and ethically true to who Perry Reese was.”
Black said he understands that the production of the movie is not a sprint but a marathon, although he is incredibly anxious to get things rolling.
He said he is hoping to generate around $20,000, which is what is needed to get the financing for the script. Those interested in helping fund www.ThePerryReeseProject.com may do so through PayPal or with credit card. Simply log on to the website and make a donation that will help generate the funding necessary for Black to move forward in telling Coach’s story on the big screen.
“I have a good idea of how I want the story to unfold,” Black said. “This story is much bigger than me, and it is a story that needs to be shared with the world, to understand what an impact this man had in overcoming and in sharing his joy of life with everyone he met.”