(Black PR Wire) DEKALB COUNTY, GA. — Monty Ross, president of film and production for Soulidifly Productions, joined Ours Studios LLC as its first Filmmaker-in Residence. Ross also co-founded Forty Acres and A Mule Filmworks with college classmate Spike Lee where they produced several films including Malcolm X, Jungle Fever, She’s Gotta Have It and School Daze. Ross’ behind-the-scenes work on the film Inside Man is matched by his service as a film lecturer, adjunct professor and guest speaker at prestigious schools as VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University), Old Dominion University, Clark Atlanta and Florida A&M University.
Ross’ first production with Ours Studios is As If We Were Ghosts, a documentary that will debut June 13 and June 19 (Juneteenth), 2022, on every station in the Georgia Public Broadcasting System. The production, the first of five planned, highlights the harsh treatment of Black high school athletes during segregation and their unwavering spirit to overcome challenges.
“We call these star athletes “ghosts” because their high school record-breaking athletic, coaching and musical achievements and awards were ignored, buried, and in some cases, burned during the violent Jim Crow and segregated era in Georgia,” says Ron Bivins, CEO of Ours Studios LLC.
Bivins is a graduate of one of the nearly 200 former Georgia Black high schools whose athletes, now in their 60s to 90s, were “ghosted” by the white society. Their accomplishments will finally be recognized and given their proper place in history thanks to the production.
“We have to acknowledge that we were here,” he says.
Ross signed on to complete the production of As If We Were Ghosts when his former classmate at Clark College
(now Clark Atlanta University) and COO of Ours Studios, Dr. Ann Wead Kimbrough, told him about the project.
Both natives of Omaha, NE, they knew this was a story that the world needed to know about and one that was replicated in Black high schools across the country.
Ross, along with former GPB producer, Nwandi Lawson, worked together reviewing hours of film footage, as well as conducted live interviews with former professional athletes who suffered through the ills of discrimination and into the Civil Rights Movement.
Among those profiled include NBA stars Walt Frazier and Don Adams, Olympians Edith McGuire and Wyomia Tyus, and baseball great Hank Aaron. “Yes, these athletes made it into the big leagues and became stars and widely recognized,” says Bivins.
“But most people just know of their accomplishments, not the racism and challenges they faced on their way to stardom. Yet, it is just as important to recognize those Black athletes such as 91-year-old Charles Freeman who was on the basketball team at the Colored High School in Eatonton that won the state basketball championship among Black schools in 1949-50.
These were the real ghosts.”
Telling these stories is just one reason why Ross took a break in his busy schedule to spend a year as Filmmaker-in-Residence.
“I am delighted and honored to not only work on As If We Were Ghosts for Ours Studios, but to have this filmmaker-in-residence opportunity,” says Ross. “Within the next year, we hope to produce four more episodes building from the original documentary,” he continued.
Also, Ross says that he is “just as excited as to spend the year on my passion — making great films and bringing more emerging filmmakers into the industry. During the yearlong residency, we will immerse students in theory, practical and financial elements of good filmmaking.
Georgia has a thriving film industry and I’m honored to help get young people interested in film so they can carry on producing stories, such as As If We Were Ghosts that tell vital stories and help to fill in the blanks about the realities inflicted on Black people throughout our history,” says Ross.