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Chris Dowling, director of Run the Race

Roadside Attractions releases the warm, wise and wonderful Run the Race on February 22nd, 2019 nationwide.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Between entertaining the audience and provoking them emotionally as well as intellectually, which of these three elements was the most challenging to tweak in the editing room?

Chris Dowling: Intellectually. I was trying to find the line between pandering to an audience which happens a lot in movies that have any layers of faith in it. I think the audience can think for themselves and I give them a lot of credit for it. Tweaking it emotionally was easy.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you manage to avoid flashbacks and to incorporate the exposition so naturally while trusting the audience's intelligence and imagination?

CD: I'm a big non-flashback kinda guy. I like the audience to catch up, so I don't think that we have to know all of the exposition in the beginning of the film to set it up. We kind of let the story fold through the characters' dialogue, actions and their relationships. Little moments creep up where you go, "Oh, ok! These boys are abandoned by their father." or "Oh, ok! His dad had a tough time with the death of the mom, too!" He's not just a jerk who just left; he has some issues, too. Trying to find it organically and letting it live in the conversation and in these characters versus trying to have just talky scenes. It's like they always say: "Show, don't tell."

NYC MOVIE GURU: When Zach met Ginger outside of her house as he was about to meet her parents, why did you cut right to the dinner scene while skipping their introduction and chit-chats?

CD: That's something that was in the first version of the script that I got that I had written out of it. We've all met parents before. We've all had that kind of conversion before. Ultimately, I just wanted to get to the meat. They're about to sit down and the real conversation is about to happen; I don't need the chit-chat. As is, that scene is a long scene, but it's an important scene and I think it's a very nature scene as it unfolds. There are a lot of moments in that one scene. I don't want to couch it around some other scenes with these guys talking or exposition. I was like, "We're going to be living in this moment, so let's go in and have that moment and then it's time to move on." I give the audience some credit---they can figure it out!

NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you find an effective way to hook the audience within the film's first few minutes?

CD: Even if you look at reality TV, if you give audiences characters that they care about and that they would be invested in, audiences would watch anything. They'd watch Kim Kardashian brush her teeth or whatever if they like Kim Kardashian that much. I think that what we have to do as storytellers is to get our audience on board with our characters and their situation and obstacles pretty close right off the bat. There are not a lot of films that are dramas that deal with two brothers trying to tackle the world together. It's a kind of relationship that's missing in a lot of places. It has to feel real and authentic. You have to believe that these two brothers are in this really crappy situation and also that they really love each other. Once you get invested in that emotionally, it's relatable, so you care and want to go on the journey with them.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What was the process like to give Zach some personality? He seems very witty, sarcastic and funny as a human being.

CD: A lot of credit goes to Tanner Stine who was playing Zach. That was one of the reasons why we cast him. When I was watching this guy, I wasn't necessarily, there was this thing about him. He was who I was envisioning Zach to be. He's so funny and so dry sometimes and awkward sometimes. Kelsey Reinhardt, who plays Ginger, were so good together and so natural. Even the awkward moments---his first love, not knowing what to say here---a lot of it was scripted, but we also just let it breathe in the moment. When they're on their first date, I was just letting them roll and throwing things at them. They were hilarious, but it was cute and endearing. You remember your awkward first moment when you were trying to figuring each other out. With any film that I make, I want to lean into an authenticity. It's just like real people having real conversations. That's what appeals to me. There's even this one weird moment where Tanner's walking out to meet Ginger and hugs her to go meet her dad for the first time and leans in to kiss him and he says, "Oh, sorry. My breath smells like coffee!" Tanner, the actor, had just had some coffee and it was the only take that he did that on, but I was like, "Awesome! I love it! Let's keep that one in there!"

NYC MOVIE GURU: Which scene or scenes do you think represent Run the Race's emotional center?

CD: The dinner table scene has really affected a lot of people because it feels like a very honest conversation and it really lets us into Zach's head and where he's at for the first time. It's a very brave moment where he's pissed off after knowing that he might lose his girlfriend after saying all of that. That's a very core emotional moment. Nanny's talk with Zach at the end with the great monologue that wraps everything up and resets his course. It's her revelatory moment, too, where she goes, "Hey, I've had some really crappy stuff, too. You can just deal with it and move foreword and look for the goodness and find God or you can wallow in your own pity all the time."

NYC MOVIE GURU: How were you able to avoid cheesiness and preachiness, especially during Nanny's powerful monologue? When do aphorisms become cheesy and preachy?

CD: It really depends on the audience in a lot of ways. For me, I'm probably hyper-critical of that because I just don't like ever like--unless I'm watching a super-corny film---movie moments that remind me that I'm watching a movie. It feels so put-on and on-the-nose. Those are the things that take me out [of a movie]. For us, the barometer was, "Does this feel like a real moment that these people would really be having? Does this feel like a real reaction or are we just trying to do a rah-rah pep rally to try to preach to the audience?" I understand that broad movies, commercial movies do that, but there are a lot of audiences that really enjoy that, but it's just not really my style.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think is tougher: to forgive yourself or to forgive others?

CD: Forgiving yourself. As humans, we make bad decisions. We keep walking down that road because we don't want to face it and go further and further and then suddenly we're so far away from it and we just go, "I'm here." A lot of people complain, "I just got myself here and I can't go back now. I've come too far to go back now." I think that that's a part of forgiveness. I'm a father. If I was ever a spot in the relationship with my daughter where I moved that far away, it would devastate me. Even when they forgive you, I'd still go, "I was the one who did this to my kid. I hurt my kid." That's a hard thing to do. I think it's all about forgiving yourself.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think is the purpose of struggle in life?

CD: Struggle is necessary for growth. It's just like anything in life. If you've never touched that muscle, it's never going to be bigger. We're never going to deal with it or never going to get better [without struggle]. It also lets you recognize the good times. If you had no struggles and everything was just an even keel, that would be such a boring life, so I think that you need to struggles to see, "Hey, there's also all these good times!" Just like there's all this evil in the world, but there's also love and beauty in the world. I think it's about working opposites and when you flex that muscle of struggle, you're going to get bigger, wiser, stronger and healthier. You might be able to even pull somebody out who's having that same struggle somewhere down the road. You can be useful and find a purpose because of your struggle. I think you have to recognize that in order to do it, but I think that struggle is very important.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How would you define charisma?

CD: There's something about the person that makes you want to go, "Hey! I want to be around that person! I want to know how they're like the way that they are!" There's not a true definition because people are charismatic in different ways and even dangerously so. Ultimately, there's something that pulling you towards that person and that performance whatever the case may be. That happened with Tanner Stine. In this movie, he has so much charisma. People are really responding to him. He's just a dynamic guy who's drawing you in. He has these moments of witticisms and sarcasms and moments where he's really deep and thinking things through. When you see him, there's something about him that makes you want to say, "There's something going on with that dude! I want to be around that guy!" So, I think it's really about affinity.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What film do you think would pair well with Run the Race like wine and cheese?

CD: Eighth Grade. I love the vibe of it and that there's this girl who's trying to figure things out and it feels real. She has pimples and her dad is trying to help her. My heart is going out for her and at the end I want to see her succeed, so it's kind of cheating because I haven't finished watching that movie it, but I'm going to say that it's possible as a wine and cheese [pairing].

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