When a homeless man interrupts the comfortable routine of First Church of Raymond, life will never be the same for the apathetic congregation. Convicted by the vagrant’s words, Pastor Henry Maxwell, Rachel Winslow, Virginia Page, Alex Powers, and Jasper Chase are thrust into a journey of discovering what life is like beyond “Christianity as usual.” But as they find themselves opposed by family strife, church politics, and scorned lovers, will they be able to keep their commitment, or will they be dragged back into fruitless lives?
The story of Charles M. Sheldon’s novel In His Steps has inspired and convicted Christians for over one hundred and twenty years. It’s the tale of a group of Christians making the life-changing pledge to base all their actions on a single question: “What would Jesus do?” That simple question propels the rich, comfortable Christian aristocrats of Raymond and Chicago to a life of radical discipleship, sacrifice and joyful suffering in the name of Jesus, which in turn launches a powerful movement that can change the world for the glory of God.
In 2006, writer/director Zack Lawrence was touched by the story and decided to make it as his first feature-length film. For the next two years, the script went through numerous rewrites and various cast and crew were brought on board. However, one major roadblock stood in the way: funding. After a major source of funding fell through, along with other life circumstances, it became clear that God was telling the team that it wasn’t the right time to make the movie, and the project was shelved indefinitely in 2008.
Over the following years, Zack continued learning more about the craft of filmmaking, and was faced with the reality that he was far too inexperienced to be tackling a feature length film! So instead, he focused on making short films and honing his skills (as well as maturing in his walk with Christ!)
In 2010, Zack was working with the U.S. Census Bureau in remote, rural areas of Western Colorado, and was deeply affected by the conditions many of the people he encountered lived in. It reminded him of the plight of the people living in the slums of In His Step’s setting of Raymond, and he felt that God was telling him it was time to revisit the story. However, keeping in mind what he’d been learning over the past two years, he decided to dip his toe in the water with a short film based on the character of Jack Manning, the homeless drifter whose questions to the First Church sets the events of the story in motion. That film was Ragged Edge.
Ragged Edge was submitted to numerous festivals, and was screened at several across the country. And as of 2022, Ragged Edge has the most festival laurels of any of Standing Sun Productions’ movies!
It was at the Paonia Film Festival, that Zack realized just how powerful the story of In His Steps could be! It was a secular festival, and the response from non-Christian audience members was overwhelmingly positive, with many lauding how they were moved by the story.
Zack took this as a sign that it was time to revisit adapting In His Steps once again.
In His Steps
Over the next year, Zack set out to adapt the book as a multi-season web series, with episodes in the 5-7 minute range. With the momentum from Ragged Edge, and a vision (and budget!) scaled back from a major feature film, the 12-episode first season was successfully crowdfunded, and went into production in the Spring of 2012. The series was released online in weekly installments in the Fall, and the second season went into development.
However, after seeing the response to the series, and learning more about the business side of filmmaking, the decision was made to, rather than continue as a series, to instead return to the original vision of a single feature-length film. The scripts of what would have been season 2 were edited and combined with the episodes of season 1, and production on the second half of the film (along with some reshoots of season 1) went forward in the Summer of 2013.
The movie was completed and had a limited self-release in December 2013, and was picked up for worldwide distribution by Bridgestone Multimedia Group in 2015. Since then, the movie has been broadcast and streamed around the world, garnering over 1 million views on YouTube alone!
Zack went on to teach filmmaking at the Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp, an annual camp where small groups of aspiring Christian filmmakers and actors could get hands-on experience making a short film. In 2016, he wrote sequel script drawing on characters from the latter half of In His Steps that weren’t featured in the movie, focusing on the character of Rachel Winslow’s cousin Felicia Sterling. With cameos by Rich Swingle (John Gray) and Ken Lawrence (Henry Maxwell), Felicia’s Pledge was released online in 2017.