(Photo courtesy of runtheracemovie.com)
Q&A: Chris Dowling (Run the Race)
By Sarah Komisky
All good things take time and, with Roadside Attraction’s new release “Run the Race,” that is a true statement. Finding its inception a little over a decade ago, this film found its way into the hands of Robby and Tim Tebow who then partnered up with faith-based director, Chris Dowling, to make their dreams come true. Their desire was to showcase a story about two brothers figuring out life and faith together in an authentic way. Yet, with any pursuit, comes opposition and the question from the public: Can this kind of movie really work? Chris Dowling believes it can and we do too, which is why we knew we had to hear all about this amazing story! As Marked Ministry caught up with Chris, here’s what he had to say on faith, inspiration, the Tebow brothers, relevant issues in the church, criticism, lessons on the way, and, of course, perseverance.
To get started, tell me a little about how the film came about?
Chris: Every movie had a unique story about what it took to get it made, and this one is a testament to perseverance. Jake McEntire (producer, co-writer) wrote this first draft 14 years ago. He believed in this project and kept pushing–[through] many ups and mostly downs. Six years ago, he got it into the hands of Robby Tebow—and that’s when it became real. The Tebow Team brought on my good friend Darren Moorman to produce, and he called me about rewriting the script. After the rewrite, we were ready to roll and they asked me to stay on board to direct. Even post-production took longer than it was supposed to, but we are so hype[d] with this finished product and how it’s impacting audiences.
Over the years there have been a lot of football films that have become classics. What did you want to bring new to the table with “Run the Race” and teaming up with Robbie and Tim Tebow?
Chris: Football is really just the backdrop for a compelling coming-of-age story about these two brothers against the world. People trust the Tebow brand, and I knew I wanted to have everything rooted in authenticity—to feel gritty, lived in, and real people having real conversations. I think we did bring a realness to it. I’ve actually had a few coaches thank me for making the football scenes feel real instead of the over-the-top action you see in many big-budgeted football films.
You wrote the script and also directed this new film. Since this is a film about brothers, were Tim and Robbie Tebow, who are real-life brothers, inspirational in crafting these fictional characters? Or, were you aiming for something else?
Chris: I definitely drew on the relationship between myself and my brother. We are best friends and, although we had it much easier than the characters, the idea of “what if?” is easily relatable. But really, there are so many layers of stuff that characters are dealing with from faith issues, first love, broken families and dreams—and then ultimately trust, forgiveness, and hope. I think you put a little bit of yourself in each character and hope the audience feels the same way—finding elements of their own journey in the story. Obviously, Robbie and Tim were attracted to the brotherhood angle.
At Marked Ministry this month, we are going to be discussing relevant issues people are facing in the church. This film covers a lot of big issues like forgiveness, love, dysfunction in the home, and even doubt. What was your hope in tackling these issues in this film?
Chris: I think it’s about presenting a story with characters that the audience actually gives a rip about. You gotta get them to care. Each character has his or her own journey, just like each person is charting his or her path in life, and it’s never an easy straight path—always full of setbacks, sidesteps and tangents—but you get to watch the characters deal with their issues and hopefully that leads to conversations to take home. And that’s what we’ve seen happening with our audiences.
Some critics have said that the characters didn’t fully develop because they talked through the important messages of the movie. What would your response be to that and was your intention for the unchurched to begin to ask questions about faith in this film?
Chris: I can’t speak to those critics in particular because I’m not sure which messages they are referring to, but I know one thing—critics go for the jugular for faith films. It comes with the territory! The intension is definitely to start the conversations. Look, I don’t have a monopoly on the truth and I don’t trust people that say they have every answer in life—that they’ve got it all figured out—so, I wanted to present these characters’ journey and how they were impacted by the fact that God loves them crazy. That’s [a] very important truth in this strange day and age.
In your opinion, how does this film compare to your other film projects like “Priceless” or “Where Hope Grows?”
Chris: I cherish them all like different children, but “Where Hope Grows” will always have a special place in my heart. It really opened my eyes up to the special place in my heart—it really opened my eyes to the special-needs community, which has become very important to me. I loved putting a hero, like David DeSanctis, on the screen. There was something so magical about hearing how many people it has impacted—even families telling [me] that it gave them hope after recently getting a down syndrome diagnosis for a new baby. Plus, I got to work with my dude Kris Polaha in that one as well, so that’s always gold. He’s my De Niro—haha!
As a person of faith, how do you hope to make your mark in the film industry?
Chris: Tell good stories. Make good movies. Treat people that way that Jesus treated folks.
In closing, what’s one way this film has personally impacted your life?
Chris: I’ve been with this movie for three years, so it’s crazy to think of the countless ways bringing this film to life has impacted my family. Spiritually, with every film, I come at it open-handed and pray that certain elements fall into place. In that way, it’s a solid reminder to rely on [God]…and that He loves you like crazy!
For more on “Run the Race,” visit runtheracemovie.com where the movie will soon be available on digital and On Demand May 21st and available on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 18th from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.