Local film hits finish line this weekend

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This article originally appeared in the Southern Indiana based News and Tribune.

Last summer, Southern Indiana residents couldn’t help but notice as their hometown became the unlikely setting of a feature film. 

Now, the efforts made in June 2012 have come to fruition, as Director Dan Lennox and Executive Producer Chris Robinson prepare for their film “Jackson’s Run” to premiere Saturday, June 29, at The Louisville Palace. 

The film stars Rusty Martin Jr., known for his previous work in “Courageous,” and centers around the desire to find purpose in life. According to Robinson, he and Lennox were inspired by the negativity they saw in the world around them. 

“At the time, the financial markets were collapsing, the housing markets were collapsing, teen suicide was at an all-time high — there were just so many issues,” Robinson said. “And we wanted to delve into the problems and fears that teens face in such a big and confusing world. 

“Our main character is looking for purpose; out of a crazy life, he wants to matter. You know, we’re dealing with a beginning date and an end date, and our life is a dash between them. He wants to make sure that dash has meaning.”

The lead role — Jackson Stone — is a troubled teenager who has rejected faith and the church as he blames God for all his problems. A life-threatening illness causes him to ponder mortality, and after a brush with the law, he befriends a tough, streetwise pastor who runs a homeless shelter. At the shelter, Jackson makes a new friend and they each learn important life lessons, according to press materials for the film.

The premiere of “Jackson’s Run” has sold out, with 2,700 tickets purchased, but area residents can still become involved in the days leading up to the film’s debut. A pivotal scene in the movie features a concert, which will be re-enacted from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. today, June 28, at the New Albany Amphitheater. The event is free, and the public is encouraged to attend.

On Saturday, before the premiere later in the day, the New Albany Amphitheater will again play host from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., this time to the Total Impact Sports Clinic and a Creative Worship Workshop, which will feature art, music and dance. The Sports Clinic, like the initial concert event, has “grown out of the movie,” said Robinson, a Floyd Central High School and Indiana University Southeast graduate.

After this weekend, Lennox and Robinson will continue the process of securing a wider distribution for the film. Overtly faith-based films like “Jackson’s Run” often do not perform as well as their secular counterparts, but so far the duo have found success. 

“We’re in talks with companies for distribution. We’ll be in North Carolina next, and we’ve been invited to New Jersey and Dallas and Nashville — we’re being invited everywhere,” he said.

Robinson attributes this quick success largely to “the message of the film, and the vision of helping the uncertain teen.”

“We have a lot of problems in society and I think a lot of people want to step up and try to do something about it. A lot of times, timing is everything. So the message of the film is timely,” he said.

However, Robinson also admits that their larger audience may be due to the movie having more “grittiness” than faith-based films generally contain. 

“It is faith based, but I wouldn’t say it’s church based — it’s a little more of a gritty story. It showcases real life problems and real life answers,” he said. “So I think it appeals to anybody in the general market and that’s probably why we’re having some success. “

Robinson also said that he hopes to reach people who are generally “outside” the church, rather than “preaching to the choir” like many Christian films. 

“Life isn’t really the Disney movie with chipmunks and birds singing at the end,” Robinson said. “That’s not the way life usually is.”

Ultimately, Robinson simply hopes the viewers will understand the essential message of the film.

“We’re all born with a destiny and a hope in the future,” he said. All things can work together for good. God doesn’t make junk basically — we all have a purpose and a plan.”

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