Actor-turned-indie director Corbin Bernsen has signed on to direct 25 Hill, which centers on an 11-year-old boy whose derby dreams are left in pieces when his soldier father is killed in Afghanistan. The boy teams up with a father figure whose own son, a firefighter, died in the line of duty, and the two help each other find redemption and revive the derby.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the family-friendly production is budgeted for about $500,000. In September, Bernsen read an article in USA Today about how the derby had a debt of $623,000 with a local bank and was facing extinction. Bernsen aims to save the nearly 75-year-old racing league, the All-American Soap Box Derby.

"The derby used to be this huge event; 50,000 people used to show up, and Chevrolet was a huge sponsor," Bernsen said Monday from his production offices in Akron. "But the times, the economy, the kids got into other interests. Sponsorship has really dwindled. It's a nonprofit, and it needs money."

Bernsen helped the town raise the money for the shoot, which will be done in three segments. After an April shoot in Akron, there will be a June shoot in Taft, Calif., followed by a return to Akron in July for the big annual race.

The production also is counting on the community pitching in, and that has already begun: Goodyear is providing a blimp for the racing sequence, while 12 local restaurants are taking care of the movie's catering.

Bernsen will play the father figure in the film; Nathan Gamble plays the boy.

Production begins Wednesday in the town once nicknamed the Rubber City.