Wakan Films' documentary:

"Coach Parks"


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Summary of this page:


"Coach Parks" Documentary

written by Producer-Director David Mueller


"Coach Parks" is the story of a true American hero; a role model of the strongest and rarest character. It is the story of Ben Parks, an African-American high school coach who has dedicated over forty-two years of his life to selfless service and giving. Through his tough and seemingly hard-handed approach, Coach Parks has profoundly influenced both the athletes and students of Menlo Atherton High School--a racially and often economically divisive school--in ways that have inspired, changed, and healed thousands of lives. Moreover, he has been a role model to athletes like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig, Eric Davis and many others, all of whom give powerful testimony to the effect Coach has had on their lives. From the most successful businesses of Silicon Valley to the most impoverished economic communities of the inner-city, Coach Parks has changed and continues to change lives through one powerful lesson:

"Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It's what you do for others." --Coach Parks

Treatment Summary:

Using a intimate and up-close biographical style, This film will take us into the life of a rare individual and show--more than tell--the powerful example of a life dedicated and committed to helping others. The intimacy of this film will arise from the twenty year relationship Producer David Mueller has had with Coach Parks as well as from the use of the non-intrusive DV format.

Coach Parks' own strong voice, character, and living example will be at the center of the film. We will follow him through his final wrestling season as he makes the transition into "retirement," and witness, first-hand, the profound influence he has on everyone he comes into contact with; young and old, black and white, rich and poor, high school students and celebrity athletes alike. This influence will be highlighted by heart-felt interviews with Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Y.A. Title, Bill Walsh, Jim Plunkett, John Elway and many others who's lives have been changed though their relationship with Coach Parks.


Shooting on DV will allow the filmmakers intimate access to a man who does not normally like being in front of a camera. The unique "non-intrusive" nature of shooting on the Canon XL1 will allow the filmmakers unprecedented access to events such as "Coach Parks Celebrity Golf Classic," the "Run For Opportunity"(in which Parks runs a mile for every year of his age on his birthday for charity), the annual "Circle of Giving Dinner" and many other Coach Parks events that raise money for needy families.

With the DV format we will be able to go into the training room to watch Coach train professional athletes that come from all over the country to workout with him and his high school athletes. We will be able to capture the high intensity of his famous and grueling workouts as well as his uplifting, inspirational talks. It will allow us into his home for a rare glimpse of Coach with his wife, children, and grandchild. We will follow Coach inside tenant housing, migrant worker camps, and inner-city neighborhoods as he brings food, clothing, blankets, furniture, clean-up crews, and Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys to poor families.

Target Audience:

"Coach Parks" is an important film for a diversity of audiences. In particular Coach has been--and continues to be--a powerful role model to the African-American community, but his story crosses generational, ethnic, cultural, and geographic boundaries. In many ways his life is a bridge between his African-American heritage and the affluent "white" community around him. He has built bridges of understanding and compassion in innumerable situations, from his racially tense and often violent high school, to his own prejudiced neighborhood and inner, between races, religions, ages, between rich students and poor. He continues to reach out to the Mexican-American community where he was fed and cared for as a child and to provide food and clothing to many migrant field workers. He is a living example of "giving in action;" giving all that he has, asking nothing in return. Although his story has special appeal to African-American and Latino audiences it will also appeal to every person interested in bridging gaps between races, generations and economic groups. Coach's story is universal and his message transcends the boundaries of race, ethnicity, geography, and culture.


Coach Parks' life began in extreme poverty. Deserted by his mother as a baby, he went to live with his grandmother in the rural town of Hollister, California where he grew up among migrant field workers. Often going hungry for days as a child, he learned the value of giving from families that took him in and fed him. Today he has turned this around and himself feeds hungry families at Thanksgiving and Christmas often bringing clothes and other necessities. Although he could be making thousands of dollars a day training professional athletes, he does not charge for his workouts and turns no one away. He continues to live with his family on the very modest salary of a high school coach giving all of his time and money away to those in most need.

His unmistakably strong personality has also gained him national recognition. For the past five years he has been invited to Washington DC to serve on the President's council for building character in youth through sports. He is a living example of what he preaches. Each year on his birthday, he runs a mile for every year of his age. The money he raises all goes to charity, including $100 a mile from Joe Montana for the past few years. "Harder, harder, you can do more!", Coach Parks yells at his trainees. He challenges everyone to go deeper within themselves. "What he teaches stays with you your whole life," says John Tittle, son of the legendary Y.A. Tittle. On and off the training field he pushes people to their limits--and beyond. "Service is the rent we pay for living," Coach says.

His deep effect on many professional athletes has been a powerful example to students who often worship celebrity and financial success more than character and service. Former San Francisco Forty-Niner Ronnie Lott summed up the influence many people feel from Coach as follows: "The motivation that kept me playing well and continues to enthuse me and push me is Coach Parks. One thing he says is, 'Life isn't a choice, but living is.' It's inspiring. You have all the choices in the world, why not choose to live life the right way? Why not choose to help people? It makes you stronger within."

Producer's Relationship to Subject and Audience:

I met Coach as a student at Menlo Atherton High School in the late seventies in the midst of race riots and strong racial tensions. I watched Coach step into the middle of many potential violent situations and diffuse them with his strength and character. He'd have the leaders of both gangs shaking hands within minutes. Long after I graduated, his words and example continue to stay with me and inform my life.

Three years ago, when I returned to my home town after a 20 year absence, I found Coach Parks still training and coaching; still helping those in need, whether a hungry student in the lunch cafeteria or a migrant family with no bedding. I was re-inspired by Coach's strong presence and unconditional love and I continue to be guided by his example and commitment to helping people.

Wakan Films:

Now multi-award-winning documentary film company, Wakan Films is producing a one hour special for television about the inspiring work of Coach Parks. The producers have a successful, award-winning track record, which includes national television broadcasts, network broadcasts, and festival awards. They are committed to creating a documentary that impacts, inspires, and uplifts television audiences around the world.

Filmmakers David Mueller and Khashyar Darvich shall both Produce and Direct the documentary.

With intolerance, hatred, and violence creeping into our schools and our culture, we are in need of heroes, and stories of heroes like Coach Parks. It is the strong desire of Wakan Films to help his life and message reach and inspire as many people as possible. By telling this story our goal is to inspire, uplift, and emotionally impact the largest audience possible.



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