Jake McEntire, the screenwriter for the upcoming faith-based movie “Run the Race,” said he had to “fight like the dickens” to keep Jesus at the center of his script, a story 15 years in the making.
McEntire first penned the story in 2004, when he was a student at Dallas Baptist University.
The film chronicles the lives of brothers Dave and Zach Truett, played by actors Evan Hofer and Tanner Stine. One brother, Dave, clings to faith in Jesus while Zach struggles to believe in God. Together, the two high school athletes have profound faith experiences as they learn to cope with the heartbreaking loss of their mother and their father’s alcoholism.
Without being preachy, the film puts Jesus front and center, exactly as McEntire wanted it. But he had to fight for it.
“There was a reason why I wanted Jesus to be the hero of the story — there’s redemption in the movie, but I did not want everything going this guy’s way,” McEntire explained to Faithwire, “because that’s not the normal life that we live. That’s not the Christian life, it’s not even any life.”
Throughout the film, Dave and Zach Truett face seemingly insurmountable circumstances and unbelievable heartbreak, sometimes even questioning how God could allow such despair. As the story evolves, though, the thread of faith never unravels.
McEntire owns the fact that the the movie isn’t cliché and doesn’t showcase a fantasy life, because that’s not what the Christian faith promises. Not everything works out how Zach believes it should, but he’s “still OK” because “he’s got peace and he’s got joy.”
“I wanted to show it where Jesus wins no matter what,” the screenwriter said. “The gospel still wins.”
The Hollywood writer, who starred in the 2013 movie “Red Wing,” told Faithwire it was “very hard” to keep such strong Christian elements in the movie, admitting there were “a lot of arguments at times.”
McEntire said he had a number of major conversations about the script, ranging from whether someone “actually surrender[s] to Jesus” and if the name “Jesus” is even voiced by the characters.
“We’re talking big, big things that were strong opinions, ‘We’re not doing it’ … [and] strong opinions, ‘Yes, we are, because this is why I wrote it.’”
From a creative standpoint, McEntire said he was happy to go into the process with an open mind, ready and willing to compromise in order to create a better movie. However, McEntire explained, he was determined to protect the story’s Christian message.
“There are Samson-size pillars in this movie that God’s put on my heart that I will fight ’til I die for,” McEntire said, “because I really felt without those — if you take one of those pillars out — you’re not as moved at the end, it’s not as impactful.”
“Run the Race” debuts in theaters nationwide Friday, Feb. 22.