Director Of "1500 Steps" On Running Your Race

Director Of “1500 Steps” On Running Your Race

By Jacob Sahms

Australian director and producer Josh Reid sat down with to discuss making his debut film, 1500 Steps, about a young man struggling with faith. In the midst of life’s troubles, he finds respite while running, setting up a parable for life about what it means to run your race.

In 1500 Steps, you both directed and produced. What is your background in filmmaking?

1500 Steps was my first feature-length film, and it was certainly a major challenge, and a very big step up from anything I had done before. I began my working life as an actor with a Christian drama ministry called Covenant Players (I was with the Australian chapter based in Sydney, Australia), where I learnt how to be a character actor and travelled full-time for five years around Australia and Asia. We would go to churches, schools, prisons performing stage dramas. From here I entered the ‘real world’ and found it difficult to transfer my CP skills into anything that made a resume look good. So I spent about ten years (I call them my lost years) working in Call Centers, laboring for builders, and eventually bought a CCTV security camera business. So – I went from a highly creative role which I loved, into work that was just work, which I didn’t enjoy at all. In fact what I really wanted to do was to direct films – but my life was not heading there at all.

One day I read a book by T.D. Jakes called Reposition Yourself and I realized that if I wanted to get back into acting, or directing, or into films that I needed to change things in my life now. This motivated me to enroll in film school, study screenwriting, and apply for media jobs. I started making short films, some which were shown on some Christian TV networks, but I still couldn’t move away from my trade work because short films don’t pay the bills. Later, I accepted a position as General Manager of a local Christian radio station (I am still currently the CEO of this station), and through the Christian Media Australia network I was opened up to a whole new world of Christians in media.

In mid 2011, I was introduced to a lady called Maurine Gibbons who had a screenplay to produce, the funding already secured, but no one to produce it. We teamed up and I became the producer and director of a new film project 1500 Steps. The journey has been long and even nightmarish at times, but in the end, 4 years later we have a great film product that we are proud to put our names on.

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One of the first things I noticed was the score playing in the background on the piano. Who is that? It was haunting and powerful.

The original music was composed and performed by a genius named Jared Haschek. Melbourne based, Jared is from the Christian band Compliments of Gus and we connected because he wanted to get into composing for film. Jared and I spent a lot of time going back and forth, and he really took great care in bringing out the emotional and spiritual elements of the film through his music.

What was the inspiration for your story?

Maurine (who wrote the film) looked around at all the young people in her neighborhood who had no direction or sense of purpose. She wanted to create a story which would inspire teenagers and young people to not only do something useful with their lives, but to dig in deeper and discover what life is really all about.

Competing, whether it’s running, surfing, or rugby, serve as a parallel for faith in your story. What was the motivation for that?

I’m friends with a professional Rugby League (Australian) player, and he often says that you learn so much about life, teamwork, having a vision, and motivation by playing sport. Sport, like life, is full of knock downs, injuries, victories, challenges, and involves a great deal of ongoing training and coaching if you want to continue to play well. In the Bible (John 10 and Hebrews 12 for example), we learn that life is like a race. It is full of ups and downs, success doesn’t necessarily mean that God is ‘blessing’ you, and hard times don’t necessarily mean that God is ‘judging’ you. They’re just part of the journey of the normal Christian life. The challenges that we face and overcome, build our faith.

Adam Dear plays Samuel, a deaf student. Is he really deaf? What was it like working with him to convey the sense of being separate from the community but also included by his friends?

Adam is a wonderfully talented your actor, who is not deaf at all! He does it convincingly, though, doesn’t he? Adam received sign language coaching on set which helped him out, but I think he also did a great job of portraying a young person who is used to being different and not included. Being the only obviously Christian character in the film, we wanted to give a sense of him being in the world, but not of it (John 17:16).

In the opening scene, one of the bullies, Damon, says “religion causes all of the problems in the world.” How is religion perceived in Australia? What does it mean that love is the answer?

Australians are an interesting bunch when it comes to religion. 60% of Aussies still say they are Christians, but less than 5% attend church regularly. Research has also shown that most Aussies are quite okay with Jesus, but have major problems when it comes to church or organized religion. Australians would generally attribute religion to the cause of most wars around the world (this belief is not factual, but one that is commonly held). We wanted to create a film which was not restricted to the Christian market, but rather a film that could be screened to the wider non-church-attending community (such as at a youth outreach night), and so we used a lot of symbolism, misc-en-scene, and metaphor throughout the film to convey the Christian message, rather than having it too obvious. When the film states that love is the answer we mean that Christ as Lord and savior is the answer.

Your film pretty boldly goes after several themes: faith versus doubt, a broken family, bullying, death of a parent, alcoholism, high school, knowing where you came from. What made you work all of them into such an ambitious story?

I think we were nuts! Overall the film was a much bigger project that I think we first realized. Having said that, the main message of the film (or controlling idea) is one of submission to Christ before He can really use you to do His will. This comes out particularly in the beach night scene where Jobe is at his wits end and yells out to God.

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