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Welcome to Annapolis
Each year approximately 50,000 hopeful young men and women apply to enter the venerated 160-year-old U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. Of that number, only a very special 1,200 are accepted—and of those lucky few, even fewer will go on to survive the Academy's notoriously relentless path of discipline and devotion to become the leaders, heroes and elite of the United States military. Annapolis might very well be at the top of America's most intense collegiate atmospheres— filled with the most heightened ambitions, hopes, dreams, rivalries and hungers—and, for screenwriter Dave Collard, it made for a fascinating place to set an uplifting drama about an outcast townie and his battle to become the leader of which he has always dreamed.

Collard was inspired to write ANNAPOLIS when his friend, producer Damien Saccani, showed him an article from a 2001 Sports Illustrated about the Naval Academy's legendary Brigade Championships—perhaps the world's only boxing tournament that has included world-famous astronauts and admirals as competitors. Started in 1942, the Brigade Championships have become celebrated for bringing out the heart, grit and fortitude of young sailors and for creating unexpected heroes. After immersing himself in the rarely observed world of Annapolis, Collard was ready to write.

"With ANNAPOLIS, we saw a great opportunity to tell a coming-of-age story and a classic underdog tale from inside this world that demands so much of young leaders,” says Collard. "The story of Jake Huard is about a kid who comes from the wrong side of the tracks and who arrives at a place where he secretly feels he can't measure up. But instead of quitting, he finds it within himself to not only survive Annapolis but to triumph there.”

Adds Damien Saccani: "I think what really excited us both about the story is that it was about something everyone in life has to deal with—this process of overcoming the biggest obstacles and figuring out what your true reasons are for getting out of bed in the morning, what walls you're going to have to tear down to move forward in life and what you are going to believe in. That's what Jake goes through in ANNAPOLIS.”

Collard and Saccani brought the idea to Mark Vahradian, then an executive at Disney, who was also drawn to the concept. "I liked the idea of combining the extreme difficulty of surviving the Academy with the suspense and excitement of sports competition,” Vahradian says. "There's a real metaphor there about the difficulty of life, about the simple notion that when you get knocked down, you have to get back up and come back stronger.”

After Vahradian began developing the project, executive producer Steve Nicolaides—who has long been interested in the theme of young men in transition, having produced the acclaimed films "Boyz N the Hood” and "School of Rock,” among others—joined the team. "It was the kind of story that I personally love,” he says, "a story about a young kid wrestling with his own soul over whether he should stick with the crowd or really become his own kind of person. I think it's important to tell honest, compelling stories about how difficult some choices really are in life—and this story does that.”

Right off the starting block, the filmmakers decided to go in a fresh direction with the script by bringing aboard promising young talent Justin Lin as director. Lin had recently come to the fore with his critically praised film "Better Luck Tomorrow,” a micro-budget indie about Asian-American high school students that became a runaway hit at the Sundance Film Festival. Deftly exploring issues of race and class inside a compelling group of characters, "Better Luck Tomorrow” had several journalists naming Lin as one of America's most exciting emerging young directors. The producers knew that choosing Lin to direct a

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