For anyone planning to see the movie “Run the Race,” there may be a recognizable name in the credits. Jake McEntire, of Whitewright, is featured in and wrote the faith-based film produced by former NFL player and current New York Mets minor leaguer Tim Tebow.
The film was released on Feb. 22 and its playing nationwide at Cinemark theaters.
“I essentially wrote it in 2004 and then wrote it in 2008 and again in 2010 and 2011,” McEntire said during a recent phone interview. “In 2013, I teamed up with a guy named Jason Baumgardner and he wrote ‘Samson,’ the movie that came out last year. Then when we got funded to shoot the movie in 2016, Chris Dowling contributed to it. It went from 117 to 97 pages and he put his touch on it as well. We believe that each time it has become more heartfelt and gotten a lot better. It took all of us.”
McEntire is not a novice in the world of acting. He developed his love for storytelling back when he was in high school in Whitewright.
“In 2001, during my senior year of high school, we acted in the one-act play,” McEntire said. “We did, ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ the Jack Nicholson movie. I got to play McMurphy and we took the play all the way to state. It was an all-star cast at state. The acting bug definitely hit me in high school. I acted in that play under Mrs. Summers, my theater teacher.”
McEntire graduated salutatorian in 2001 and went on to the University of North Texas where he was still acting. Then in 2004, he transferred to Dallas Baptist University and earned a biblical studies degree in 2006.
“I first got an agent in 2010,” McEntire said. “Linda McAlister is my agent and within a month, I booked a national commercial for Wolf Brand Chili. And that was really such a blessing. Since 2010, I have probably acted in 80 commercials in the Dallas area and got to be in a movie called ‘Red Wing’ which was shot in North Texas. Luke Perry, Frances Fisher, and Bill Paxton were in it. That is where I met Frances Fisher and she has a part of this movie.”
Though by then McEntire had completed his script for “Run the Race,” it was not until 2012 that he got the copyright for the story.
“My agent said that no one would read my script because I had never written a script before,” he said. “She said that I do not really have credibility and that I should make a concept trailer for it.”
McEntire made a six-minute concept trailer that would show investors what the movie would look and feel like when it was complete. In January of 2012, McEntire and others shot for three days with $5,000. He acted as the lead.
“I was 28 at the time still playing an 18 year old,” he said. “We put something together that we were proud of and it kind of went viral a little bit. It eventually got in the hands of Robby Tebow in 2013. He is Tim Tebow’s older brother. And, I got a phone call from Trey Brunson, our executive producer, who said that he put the concept trailer in front of Tim and Robby Tebow and they want to get on a phone call with you.”
So in the summer of 2013, McEntire spent two hours on the phone with Robby Tebow talking about the script.
“I was just pacing around my house going nuts,” McEntire said. “He said that he and his brother were looking for vehicles that could make an impact around the world and he thinks this could make an impact around the world. You and Trey need to come out to L.A. and meet Tim.”
So in the fall of 2013, Brunson and McEntire went to Los Angeles to speak with Tim and Robby Tebow.
“I just poured out my heart to him — the story of exactly how everything happens in the script because he had not read it yet,” McEntire said. “The hair on Tim’s arms stood up. And, he said at the end of it, ‘I think God is doing something behind all of this. Let’s figure it out.’”
After that first meeting, Robby Tebow came onto the project as an executive producer.
“Tim was still on the fence because he was still playing football then,” McEntire said. “He was just 26 years old. He did not know if he really wanted to make movies. He loved the story and loved us, he just did not know whether he was into it right then.”
Then for the next few years, it was just Robby and Tim Tebow, Trey Brunson and Erik Dellenback working behind the scenes.
“We were just trying to raise money for this movie,” McEntire said. “In 2014, we had a company that said they would fund us. It was a company out of Chicago and Australia. We signed these documents. We paid legal fees.”
The company said it was going to wire the “Run the Race” team $1.5 million to make the movie.
“For six months, they lied to us saying the money was going to be wired to us on a Friday and it never was wired,” McEntire said. “In the fall of 2014, my wife Charity and I had to sell our house in Highland Village, Texas, to pay off all the debt and continue making this movie. We just felt a voice in our hearts saying that God did not want us to give up. We had to be at peace with if it was just us and Jesus and there was no movie. As soon as our hearts were at that place, miracles would happen.”
In the spring of 2015, McEntire got a phone call from Bill Reeves in Nashville, Tennessee. Reeves said he had seen the concept trailer and wanted to meet with McEntire in Nashville. When McEntire asked Reeves when he wanted the meeting to happen, Reeves said tomorrow.
“So I went to Nashville the next day and met with Bill Reeves,” McEntire said. “We started a friendship. He respected and appreciated my heart and why I wanted to tell this story. He signed on and said let’s do it. I want to be a part about this. He was so confident about this with or without anything that he was like, ‘Let’s go and get this thing funded.’”
When Tim Tebow heard that, he was all in. The film had the credibility it needed and in December of 2015, Tim Tebow signed on to be an executive producer as well.
“We had funding,” McEntire said. “We had backing and then in 2016, it was getting ready to film. We raised our budget and we were ready to go.”
They filmed in the fall of 2016 in Birmingham, Alabama. It took 23 days to shoot the entire 101 minute film and three months to edit it. McEntire said the crew has been refining and honing it since then.
“We said this movie took 14 years to make and we really believe that God answered more than 14,000 prayers to get this movie to be made,” McEntire said. “A lot of those prayers have come from people who have stood beside us and prayed for us. They are people that have given their money, their time, their effort. We are very fortunate that a week ago today on the 20th, we had a premier in Denton, Texas at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema where all the people in Texas who helped contribute to make this film.”
McEntire said the amount of love and support he and his wife received to make this film was overwhelming.
“God did it through a group of people not just one guy,” he said. “You are humbled because you are hoping that people love it as much as you do. It is one of the best feelings in the world. We are proud of the film. We think it is an authentic real and gritty movie. It is believable. It is unchartered waters for me. I am just trying to take it all in and try to enjoy it.”
The inspiration for the film was McEntire’s own story as well as the stories of his friends growing up.
“I tore my ACL in high school and that happens in the movie,” he said. “But essentially, everything that happens in the movie, I kind of cherrypicked off of all of my best friend’s testamonies.”
He has several new projects in the works, but currently is focused on finishing this one strong.
“I want to encourage people,” he said. “This film originated in North Texas and North Texas means a lot to me. I just want to encourage people that whatever the dream that God has put on their heart, continue to run after it. Give it to him, but run after God first. When you do that, your dreams do come true.”