(Photo: Kelly Kerr)
"Home Run," a new faith-based film that hits theaters Friday, tells the story of a professional baseball player as he deals with an addiction to alcohol that puts his career in jeopardy. In an interview with The Christian Post, producer Carol Spann Mathews shared the message that she hopes Christians will take away from the film: change is possible.
"I think the thing that I just want to say over and over again is that I believe that there's a huge population of believers, Christians, who sit in our churches week after week and they're feeling very alone," said Mathews, who has produced television series that have aired on The Family Channel, ESPN and ESPN Original Entertainment. "And they're good-willed people, they worship, they do the Bible studies, they're decent people, but they're buckling under a load of shame and guilt from past decisions or habits they can't break. And I believe that this movie is for them, because I think it says, first and foremost, that they're not alone, and that everyone struggles, and that there's hope for change."
Cory Brand, the main character in "Home Run," is a star athlete whose alcoholism catches up with him when he gets a DUI and is suspended by his team. His agent, in an attempt to salvage his career, sends him to his hometown, where he must coach a youth baseball team while also working his way through a faith-based recovery program, Celebrate Recovery.
In order to prepare for the making of the film, Mathews and several others who worked on the film project joined Celebrate Recovery groups. At first, she admits, she didn't think she could relate to the struggles of the other women in her group, but she quickly found out just how much she had in common with them.
"What I realized after several weeks is … I realized that I'm just like them," said Mathews. "And while they might use cocaine I might use a cupcake. You anesthetize one way and I anesthetize another, but we're both using, so to speak, to escape some kind of pain. And even as a believer in Christ, we often substitute the love and the comfort of Jesus with something else. And it's a cheaper version, and it usually creates some sort of problem for us."
The filmmakers' experience in their recovery groups affected the way Cory's story is told, noted Mathews. His journey is also unique among faith-based films, she said, because of the way the screenplay was structured.
"I think, typically, a faith film might have grabbed him a little earlier and had him hit rock bottom a little sooner, and then we would have seen him come to Jesus and all that," she said. "While nothing is bigger than the Gospel message, for sure, for this film I wanted to tell the message of surrender. And I wanted to show his fight; he was going to fix himself. As soon as he realized he had a problem, which it took him a long time to realize that, which is not unlike a lot of us, then he determined in and of himself that he would solve it, and it was a very hard day for him when he realized that he couldn't."
The success of independent films such as "Fireproof" and "Courageous," in addition to the popularity of faith-themed television series like "The Bible," has some people in Hollywood wanting to tap into the Christian film market, said Mathews. Still, faith-based films generally have an "absolutely terrible" reputation in Hollywood, she noted, as many people expect them to consist of poor storytelling and low production value.
"So as somebody who's about to step into that, I wanted to make the best movie I possibly could," she emphasized.
The scriptwriting for "Home Run," which is the first feature-length film produced by Mathews, took a year and a half to complete. Although she didn't write the screenplay, she said she was heavily involved in guiding the film's four writers throughout the process.
It was the script, she said, that attracted Director David Boyd, who has worked as a director on popular television shows such as "Friday Night Lights" and "The Walking Dead." Mathews said Boyd then attracted actors such as Scott Elrod ("Argo," "The Switch"), who plays Cory, and Vivica A. Fox ("Kill Bill," "Independence Day"), who plays sports agent Helene Landy. Mathews said it is by "God's grace" that such a talented group came together to make the film.
"Home Run" will premiere Friday at select theaters nationwide. Information about which theaters will be carrying the film is available on the movie's website.