With a background primarily in broadcast journalism around North Texas, neither Marty Roberts nor Jimmy Womble envisioned themselves as feature filmmakers.
But seven years ago, a little prayer and a lull in freelance production work changed their minds. It resulted in Running the Bases, a faith-based baseball drama they shot last summer in Arkansas.
“It was something I always said I wouldn’t do,” Womble said. “Who in their right mind would voluntarily walk into that meat grinder?”
However, the opportunity came about thanks to a shared moment of inspiration between Womble and Roberts, close friends who met at a Wylie church more than 30 years ago.
Roberts had moved to northwest Arkansas and launched his own production company, UP2U Films. He was working primarily in reality television at the time, while Womble was just wrapping a job in Houston. Some creative soul searching prompted a mutual leap of faith in October 2015.
A few months later, the duo had finished the first draft of their screenplay combining sports and spirituality.
“Baseball is just the backstory to what the message is,” said Roberts, a longtime Dallas Stars hockey fan. “We wanted to write about something we knew, and something we could execute. He got the sport, and I got the title. It was a win for both of us.”
Roberts is a veteran cameraman who served as a second assistant director on the 2012 independent drama September Dawn. Otherwise, both he and Womble, an experienced editor, are self-taught filmmakers who relied mostly on their instincts to shape the narrative and characters.
“It was a complicated story,” Womble said. “We knew what each act was supposed to do, and what they represent to the hero’s journey. We knew enough to get that structure down.”
After filming for three weeks last summer, the filmmakers struggled to secure a distribution deal. So they decided to launch a distribution arm for UP2U, with which they now plan to release other faith-based films in addition to their own projects.
Running the Bases opened last Friday in theaters nationwide, including several in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.