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Jumping in with both feet

The on-the-side thing wasn’t working. Something needed to change. It was all or nothing. So we took a deep breath, said goodbye to our house and Joel’s job, and moved to a spot close to our set. 

[Just before our move, we added baby #5 to our family…Tate Ivan was born! We realize now that God’s timing is so much better than ours…If we would have succeeded in our “big push,” and finished shooting when we’d hoped, The Runner’s cast would have been missing little Ike – and Walter, for that matter, for Brendan was only a toddler!]

We launched into full-time film production with much enthusiasm. A revised storyline, our kids that were now older, and a new camera gave us more to work with. And so we began with practicing one of our first scenes with the kids around a little table in the living room.  And it went … not so well.

Excerpt from our Little Crew journal:

Our first practice shoot was a flop. The kids’ acting was terrible, our script was terrible, Joel was still trying to learn the camera – we realized we don’t have a clue what we’re doing! We learned that the storyline is one thing on paper – it’s a whole different ballgame on film. Our scenes looked cheesy and amateurish. We were slightly panicked, wondering what we had done in leaving Joel’s job – what were we thinking?! But, we learned from every shoot, and we improved with each try. Joel reminded us that we’re in this for the long haul, we’ll learn as we go, and we’ll keep trying until we get it right. We are certainly aware of our need for the Lord!


Two months after our move, we were growing weary of practice shoots in the living room. It was time to do this for real! We built our first indoor set, the prison scene, in a 36’ x 36’ pole building (graduating from the root cellar!).

Daily shoots, five days a week, for three months…and afterward, we had a two-minute rough edit to show for it.  Whew. [Take two on Lesson #4: Movies take a lot of time!]


One more month and we called the prison scene a wrap. Time to move on to our most-dreaded shoot: the outdoor tribal scene. 

Excerpt from journal:

This week launched the first of our outdoor shoots, a formidable scene: the tribal encounter. We faced it with much trepidation: the set, the costumes, the lighting, the camera work – everything felt big! Joel had spent 5 days just clearing brush for our trail adjacent to the river, a very jungle-looking spot. That looked great (after much back-breaking work), but now, how to pull costumes together and actually shoot the shots? Monday Joel did the final trail work, Tuesday we created our costumes: bead necklaces, arm bands with beads and feathers, sepia cosmetic foundation to darken the skin, hair matted with mud, face paint, ripped-up shorts, tank tops run through the mud and dried to a nice dingy brown, grass skirts, and flip flops. These costumes were the most daunting of our movie, and we worried about their looking cheesy – but once on the trail, we had to say, the kids looked pretty much like wild little natives! 

Wednesday we took the kids out for a practice run, and Thursday we began the real thing in costume. Just the preparations for shooting took us all morning – it was 3:00 p.m. before we were in place and ready for “action.” The costumes were indeed quite an ordeal to put on, but the effects were good – and we hoped to get quicker as we went...

We were delighted at the end of the week when we had made it all the way through our scene. Maybe we were getting faster…better…?

Or maybe not. When we proudly showed our scene to the grandparents, they smiled politely  – and suggested that maybe we should try again.

Excerpt from journal:

We scrapped the tribal scene after all. We realized it didn’t adequately portray the point we were trying to make. Too much chasing, not enough story. Grandma and Grandpa confirmed this: they agreed it was a “reject.” Back to square one! This movie is feeling BIG!

The next two months were spent revising the storyboard, battling it out on the hot, sandy trail...editing, revising, reshooting, editing, and revising some more.

We start shooting late afternoon once the sun is not so bright and go until the light is gone – around 9:30. With an hour for clean-up and baths (the ordeal of washing off the natives’ makeup!), we’re usually eating supper (which Grandma kindly provides for us) about 10:15 – home around 11 – in bed about 12:30 a.m.…

As we brought the tribal scene to a close after two long months, we were both encouraged and discouraged. We learned a lot on our outdoor shoot, and were fairly pleased with the end result. But going back, our first prison scene felt draggy and amateurish. This would be the first time we would face "the question" - one we would have to answer many times before the movie was finished - one that never had an easy answer: when do we call a scene "good enough" and move on, and when do we keep reshooting until we get it right? 


  • Fan of Y'all

    Your memories of making The Runner from Ravenshead are fascinating—please keep them coming! :D

  • Chris

    Looking forward to more of your story. Hope you are inspired to create another family friendly film = )

  • Ellie

    please write some more!

  • Joseph Levesque

    It’s amazing seeing how far you guys have gone from your start all the way to New Haven! I pray God blesses you and that you continue to grow and learn – I feel like you’ve done a premium job. Keep it up! :)

  • kirk

    keep it up! :-)

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