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RUN THE RACE

About The Production
What is it about brothers?
The idea of RUN THE RACE-a movie about two brothers facing unbelievable odds with an unbreakable bond-so enthralled actor Jake McEntire that he spent years persevering to get it from his imagination and onto theater screens. Writing it. Producing it. Even acting in it.

Along the way, RUN THE RACE has similarly entranced many more, including brothers Tim and Robby Tebow. That's right, the Heisman Trophy winner and his brother read an early version of the script and decided to get actively involved as first-time feature film executive producers.

"RUN THE RACE is about so much more than football. This is a story about overcoming the hard issues of life, about the power of sacrifice, the power of family and the power of forgiveness," Tim Tebow said. "I love being a part of a project like this because it will impact lives, inspire hope and even prompt action. When I read the script, I knew this was an important project to get behind."

"The script pulled me in right away, and I wanted to bring it to life cinematically," Robby Tebow said. "As somebody with brothers in a big, super-close family that has gone through a lot together, it resonated with me on a deep level."

ON THE SET

On a crisp autumn day in the South, the bustling, modern Birmingham, Alabama, is about to become the rundown, small town of Bessemer, Florida.

Welcome to the location shoot of RUN THE RACE.

"RUN THE RACE is about two brothers trying to figure out life from two different worldviews," McEntire said. "Their mom has passed away. Their dad's a runaway drunk. And they're trying to leave this town and find a better life. One brother believes in God and one brother doesn't."

More later on McEntire's own journey of taking RUN THE RACE from concept to the film canister. For now, a small army of filmmakers, actors and extras found a warm welcome in Birmingham on the 22-day location shoot.

In addition to weaving a deeply emotional story of a family fighting for itself, RUN THE RACE features up-close, "you are there" high school football and track action. To bring realism to the sports scenes, the film crew found amazing cooperation at Bessemer Christian Academy. Since it was the fall, with school in session, filmmakers planned to work around the Bessemer classes.

Bessemer had other ideas.

"They said, 'Hey, come take our school,''' McEntire said. "'We want to be a part of this. We want to help you tell this story.'"

From the football team to students to cheerleaders to fans in the stands, in the fictional town of Bessemer, Florida, Bessemer Christian Academy became the Friday night thing to do.

McEntire originally set RUN THE RACE in Texas. But Alabama's favorable tax treatment for filmmakers changed his mind. Then comes the benefit of having the Tebow brothers on your team. With the Tebow family behind the film, a shoot inside a packed Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at a Florida football game became a possibility.

So, one of the brothers in the film sets his goal as playing for the Gators.

THE JOURNEY FROM CONCEPT TO FILM CANNISTER

"I know a lot of people in this business from coast to coast who would've abandoned this project a long time ago," Producer Ken Carpenter said. "But Jake hung in against all odds and stuck with the vision. It would get close, it would fall apart, it would get close again, it would fall apart. But he stayed the course, and that is so admirable. We're here in Birmingham, Alabama, making this movie because that guy didn't quit."

McEntire describes himself primarily as an actor, but he also is a man of deep Christian faith who felt led to tell this story, which didn't mean it was an easy road.

"As I worked on RUN THE RACE, I could see God working on my heart," McEntire said. "First, behind the scenes writing something and then wanting to get it off the ground. Then the ups and downs and struggles that come with it. I've kind of had to live out the RUN THE RACE journey in my own way."

In the film, high school brothers Zach and Dave Truett are raising themselves in a ramshackle house. Their mother has died of cancer, and their father, in his grief, has chosen alcohol over his sons. Standing at the location shoot of the house, McEntire reflected on how the story came about.

"I wanted to write a film about something I knew, and I know small towns," he said. "I know houses like this and growing up with brothers and growing up in church and playing sports. I wanted to write a small ensemble piece where people really, truly care about one another-and how people impact each other's lives in a close space."

McEntire worked on the script for five years, when he pulled together enough backing to produce a concept trailer, attracting others to his vision.

"For the last four years, it's been raising awareness, raising funds, trying to build a team to give the dream legs and see it come to life and actually run," McEntire said. "No pun intended."

Like so many involved with the project, something about a story of brothers touched a chord.

"I love the story, and I love being a part of sharing something so inspirational, with so much courage and conviction behind it," Tim Tebow said. "When I read the script, I cried four or five times, and just decided this is something that I want to be behind."

THE RIGHT CAST

It was vital to cast the right young actors as Zach and Dave.

What drew Evan Hofer to the role of Dave, the younger brother and a man of faith, will sound familiar.

"I was drawn to the brothers' close relationship," Hofer said. "And how they're the only people the other one has in the world."

Tanner Stine, who plays Zach, found a personal connection to his character and the film.

"It's about the most unlikely of people finding grace, and finding faith, and finding God, through his own journey," he said. "And I think I'm on a similar path, and I was in a similar place coming onto the film."

Stine and Hofer actually roomed together during the shoot, which suited Director and Co-Writer Chris Dowling just fine.

"They have been together 24/7, and they're like brothers. It's totally worked," he said.

The theme of brotherhood against a background of differing worldviews is central to telling not just a faith story but a good story. And that's important to Dowling.

"When the audience walks away from this film I want them to say, 'Hey, that was a good film,'" he said. "And that's where it ends. I don't want them to say, 'Hey, that was a good faith film,' or, 'Hey, it was a really nice thing I want to share with my youth group.' I want people to say, 'Hey, that was a quality film with some quality actors, and it meant something to me.'"

Clearly, RUN THE RACE has that potential. The script alone attracted Mykelti Williamson, known for his roles in FORREST GUMP and Justified, among others. He plays the boys' high school coach and a mentor in their lives.

"I actually had no plans to do another movie this year," Williamson said. "My manager said, 'You should read it.' I read it, and I was like, 'Whoa!' I definitely want people to see RUN THE RACE because it's worth every moment."

Star of stage, screen and TV, Frances Fisher is well-known as the mother of Kate Winslet's character in TITANIC. She plays Louise in RUN THE RACE, who becomes a surrogate mom to the brothers. Her connection to the film came on two levels-passion for Jake McEntire's journey, and love of the script.

"Years ago, he told me he was writing this movie, RUN THE RACE, and he sent me the sizzle reel," she said. "I encouraged him to keep going. Sure enough, five years later he contacted me, and said, 'I got the money. We're shooting in Birmingham, are you in?' I read the script, and I loved it. It's really great to be here to see somebody who had a vision and has realized it."

In RUN THE RACE, several characters affect Zach's journey and his consideration of faith. Kelsey Reinhardt brings to life the character of Ginger, who is both a challenge for Zach and a romantic interest.

"Ginger is a perfect balance of sugar and spice, which is important, and she has authentic strength about her," Reinhardt said. "I think it comes from the fact that she has a strong sense of focus and a strong sense of faith."

Like so many cast members, the brothers' journey and their commitment to each other make RUN THE RACE an inspirational film to Reinhardt.

"If you're interested in being inspired, and have looked for inspiration pertaining to faith and motivation, this would be a great thing for you to see," she said.

For the scene shot at the University of Florida football game, Director of Photography Kris Kimlin found the experience "unbelievable."

"I've done a couple of other sports movies, but never before with 90,000 people in the stands. It was insane," he said.

But more than shooting sports scenes, which Kimlin has done often, it was the story that excited him.

"When I saw the script, I thought, 'Not another sports movie,'" he said. "But it's such an amazing story. It's not really about sports; that's just the backdrop. And when the backdrop is 90,000 screaming fans, you can't beat it."

On the last day of filming, Co-Producer Trey Brunson reflected on the journey from an idea gripping Jake McEntire to a finished location shoot.

"I met Jake McEntire in the fall of 2004, and shortly thereafter he shared the dream about this movie with me," Brunson said. "I remember telling him, 'That's great, but if you don't write it down no one will ever see it.' And so for years, I've been encouraging Jake, 'You have to make this movie.'"

And now, the movie is made.

For Jake McEntire, it's been about commitment to a story.

"It's about how God changes one brother's life through the other brother as they try to get out of this town and their dire situation by playing football and running track and whatever they can do," he said. "At the end of the day, they realize that if you run after God and you get him, no matter what happens to you, you have everything you need."

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