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Atlanta entrepreneur joins executive producing team of Brian Banks biopic


In 2002, Brian Banks was an All-American high school football player bound for USC when he was falsely accused of rape. Instead of a promising career in the NFL, Banks served five years in prison and five years probation before his conviction was overturned in 2012 with help from the California Innocence Project.

Banks came to Atlanta in 2013 to play in the NFL pre-season with the Falcons. The linebacker was released from the team, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was so impressed after hearing Banks speak at a 2014 Rookie Symposium that he offered him a job with the NFL's department of operations.

That same year, Banks announced that his story would be coming to the big screen. Lee Daniels was set to direct. But it was another dream deferred until now.

With a new director and an executive producer from Atlanta, the film is now in post production. Local marketing executive Tirrell Whittley said he was drawn to the project after reading the script.

“When I read the script for Brian Banks , I felt empowered,” Whittley said. “Banks’ resilience and fortitude to stay the course in pursuing his innocence is more than admirable.”

Whittley has worked primarily in marketing strategy, but chose the film about Banks to make a segue into executive producing.

“As an entrepreneur and marketing executive, I see marketing, strategy, and storytelling through a different lens. In an Executive Producer role, I am interested in films that inspire, educate, motivate, and enlighten those that may be less familiar with a particular subject matter and those with an affinity for the same,” Whittley said.

The film marks a transition for director Tom Shadyac as well. Shadyac has been best known for comedies (Evan Almighty, Patch Adams) but he has said he is now dedicated to creating purposeful art and highlighting injustice.

The Memphis-filmed movie stars Aldis Hodge as Banks and Greg Kinnear as Justin Brooks, the criminal defense attorney and Innocence Project co-founder.

After the ordeal, Banks moved on with his life without bitterness. He was married in 2015 according to TMZ, but both he and his wife, Emanuela Marinova filed for divorce less than two years later.

Banks’ accuser Wanetta Gibson who received a settlement from the school district at the time of the alleged rape was reportedly ordered to repay a $2.6 million judgement which includes a $750,000 settlement to the Long Beach United School District plus attorney fees, interest and more than $1 million in punitive damages.


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About the Author

Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.