Brett Varvel Hopes "Running the Bases" Helps Believers "Stand on Their Convictions"
The lead actor speaks exclusively with "Christian Film Blog" about this faith-based film that releases in theaters this week.
Running the Bases wrapped production in the summer of last year, but Brett Varvel still hasn't seen the final cut of the movie. That will change tonight when he and fellow cast members gather with the filmmakers at an exclusive premiere in Atlanta. Christian Film Blog caught up with him by phone yesterday while he was on the road to the Georgia capital from his home state of Indiana and, not surprisingly, he told us he is "excited to see it."
In the film, the Christian actor's character is a baseball coach who, according to the synopsis, gets "an offer of a lifetime" to move from his small-town team to lead a top-level high school squad. The character is also a devout Christian, and his very public faith soon becomes a serious bone of contention at the new school.
Varvel, who himself starred as a baseball player in high school and now plays in a fast-pitch softball league and even boasts a statewide ranking as a pitcher, loves the sport and tells us he felt "blessed" to have been part of the production. In fact, he long wanted a role in such a film and thought to himself when he landed the part, "Finally, I get to be in a baseball movie." Ironically, though, his playing skills were virtually unneeded since he's the coach.
"I kept bugging the directors. I said, 'Look, give me a scene during practice where I'm demonstrating or something.' So, there's a couple of montage-type scenes, but I don't know if they made the final cut of the film or not."
The husband and father of four young children adds, however, that this is not a baseball movie per se, despite its having "a lot of baseball scenes." The picture's true focus is on whether his character "will stand resolved in his faith" when confronted by opposition, much of which comes from his school superintendent boss in the aforementioned new job.
That part is played by Todd Terry, one of several strong, veteran Christian actors in this movie, as we previously reported here. The two of them really hit it off personally when they met during production last year in Arkansas, with Varvel calling Terry a "gem of a human being" who is "such a down to earth guy." It's a different story on screen, though, and they have some intense and highly confrontational dustups, including one in the trailer in which Terry's character berates Varvel's, telling him, "Your job description at this school reads, 'Coach,' not pastor!"
Varvel states that their "on-screen stuff is quite dramatic, but it was so fun." His character also has some tense scenes with his wife, played by Gigi Orsillo, another Believer in the cast, but he feels the filmmakers didn't let the confrontations hamper the overall tenor of the production.
"The good thing is that there is sprinkled throughout some good humorous bits that bring some levity to the intensity of the film."
In his role as coach of high schoolers, the Indiana native needed to resharpen his authority-figure skills as they relate to leading teenagers (the oldest of his own children is only ten). Varvel, who starred in our first feature film - Miracle on Christmas - a couple of years ago, says he and his wife served in youth ministry at their church 13 years ago after they were first married, but he has since been on "a hiatus from anything teenager related." So, when production first began, he established good relationships off-screen with the young actors, which, he tells us, carried over to their work in front of the camera and beyond.
"It's cool that they would just continue to call me coach off-camera, and then even when I see these guys today, they always refer to me as coach."
This film is directly targeting a believing audience and, as Varvel puts it, "packs a wallop of a Gospel presentation." His hope is that it will prove to be an encouragement for Christians who may feel cowed by hostility toward them because of the Faith, enabling them to better "stand on their convictions."
"If you're willing to just step out in assurance of who you are in Christ, people can't take that away from you even if they disagree with you. The Lord is honored in that, and He blesses us in that."
Running the Bases releases in theaters nationwide this coming Friday, September 16th, and you can purchase tickets in your area via this link to the movie's website.