Forty Love Productions LLC and Award-Winning Public School Teacher Produce Movie to Fight Bullying Epidemic

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After attending funerals for twenty-nine of his students over the years, award-winning inner city teacher Bill Staples is taking aim at bullying with a new movie, “Tennis Team.” Staples believes humor is a weapon that has not yet been used effectively in this battle.

Teenage gay males are bullied systematically and have the highest suicide rate in the country. We have to address this epidemic in any way possible.

For fifteen years, Bill Staples taught English in and spoke at some of the toughest middle schools in the country. During that time he attended funerals for twenty-nine of his students, a teacher’s worst nightmare. At the same time, Staples pioneered teaching methods that brought astounding results and a series of personal honors that included 1999 Who’s Who Teacher of the Year, and 1998-2000 nominations for Disney’s National Teacher of the Year.

After creating a foundation to pay for his most deserving students to attend college, Staples met “Chicken Soup for the Soul” author Jack Canfield, who became his mentor. That led to, among other things, Staples’ co-authoring the popular book “Before the Glory,” in which eleven Hall-of-Fame baseball players shared the most challenging parts of their childhood.

He had the opportunity to write another book. Instead, he decided to make a movie.

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress motivating students to work harder,” Staples said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t made as much progress identifying and stopping bullying. The issue is front and center for good reason, and the time to make this movie is now.”

“Tennis Team” is the story of Alyssa Wolfe, a fifteen year old girl who is a latecomer to the sport of tennis and even more of a latecomer to the perils of bullying. Her clothes, equipment, family background and shy mannerisms are an easy target for the privileged girls who run the tennis team at Vanderbilt High School. Outnumbered, outplayed, outspent, and just plain psyched out, Alyssa is ready to hang it up when she finds help in the last place she ever imagined—her dad’s best friend, a recovering drug addict and Hurricane Katrina survivor. The story is based on the experiences of Bill’s “Before the Glory” co-author, Rich Herschlag, as well as on Staples’ own experiences teaching middle school.

“When we first came up with the outline,” Staples said, it was hard not to drop everything. That’s how good it was.” Staples acknowledges there are already great resources available to fight bullying in schools, playgrounds, and cyberspace. His goal, he explains, is to add one more resource—humor. “Once you can laugh at something,” he says, “the battle is half over.”

That particular quality will undoubtedly get a boost from comedic legend Pat Cooper, who has signed on to play the beleaguered coach of a tennis team overrun by a few advantaged players wreaking havoc. Staples is negotiating with several additional well known actors and talking to investors on a daily basis. At the same time, the Tennis Team “team” has put up a site on Indiegogo to get the word out and start crowd-funding.

The movie explores, among other themes, the bullying of gay students as well as those students thought to be gay. “Teenage gay males,” Staples said, “are bullied systematically and have the highest suicide rate in the country. We have to address this epidemic in any way possible.”

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Richard Herschlag
Forty Love Productions LLC
+1 (610) 739-8033
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