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Locals make cameo in faith-based film

Special Photo ---- Renee and Brad Rutledge of Eastridge Community Church have cameo appearances in the upcoming film, "Home Run," opening April 19.

Special Photo ---- Renee and Brad Rutledge of Eastridge Community Church have cameo appearances in the upcoming film, "Home Run," opening April 19.

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Special Photo ---- "Home Run," starring Scott Elrod, shown here in scene from the faith-based movie, will open at Carmike's Crossroads 16 Theater in Conyers on April 19.

A movie could actually be made about their lives, but for now Brad and Renee Rutledge of Covington are just happy having cameos in a new film that will open April 19 in theaters across the U.S., including at Carmike's Crossroads 16 Theater in Conyers.

Samuel Goldwyn Films and its partners will release "Home Run," a faith-based movie starring Scott Elrod, who most recently appeared in the award-winning film "Argo," starring Ben Affleck.

"Home Run" tells the story of a big league baseball player named Cory Brand who spirals out of control off the field with his wild living and troubled past. After a DUI conviction and team suspension, the player is sent back to his hometown where he is forced to coach a youth baseball team and spend eight weeks in the only recovery program in town.

That recovery program is Celebrate Recovery, an international 12-step program that Brad and Renee Rutledge have led at their Newton County church for a dozen years. Mr. Rutledge is the pastor of Celebrate Recovery at Eastridge Community Church and is the national director for the eastern U.S. for the world-wide ministry. Mrs. Rutledge is the national training coach for the organization.

With their own troubled pasts, the Rutledges have embraced their work with Celebrate Recovery as God's calling on their lives.

"Our younger years were filled with drug abuse and abuse issues," Mr. Rutledge said. "We were married and after five years of marriage, we separated. That was my bottom as far as drug and alcohol abuse was concerned and I knew I had to change my life and quit doing the things I was doing. That's when I rededicated myself to the Lord and started attending church.

"Renee and I reconciled our marriage and came to Eastridge. Our senior pastor Scott Moore came to me to ask about starting Celebrate Recovery. The church had the program materials there for four years and after I had a look at it, I realized I was called to it.

"I felt like I did when I was 17 and got saved. I felt called to the ministry then, but I was in the middle of drug abuse and just followed the Lord three short months. That was the beginning of my story."

The Rutledges started the Celebrate Recovery chapter at Eastridge 12 years ago, which was the first one in Georgia. Today there are 100 in the state with 19,000 churches across the U.S. now sponsoring Celebrate Recovery programs.

"The movie came about as a result of the executive producer, Carol Matthews, who had this vision to do a faith-based movie," Mr. Rutledge said. "It was always going to be about a major league baseball player who had a drinking problem and abuse issues from his childhood. Alcohol is what he used to bury the pain.

"(Matthews) contacted John Baker, the pastor of Celebrate Recovery and founder of the ministry at Saddleback Church in California. She wanted to use Celebrate Recovery as an aspect of the movie and how this major league baseball player finds his salvation through Jesus Christ as well as healing from his past hurts."

Baker contacted his national directors and the Rutledges were asked to be advisers to the film.

They were on the set where the movie was shot in Tulsa, Okla., in October 2011, when, as Mr. Rutledge said, they got their "five seconds" in the movie.

"We got little non-speaking roles," he said. "At Celebrate Recovery, we give out what we call recovery chips that mark days and nights of abstinence or sobriety from our hurts and hangups. Renee is in the movie when Cory picks up the surrender chip -- when he surrenders his alcoholism and decides it's time for a life change. Renee is handing out the chips in one of the scenes. There's a head shot of me as we pray the Serenity Prayer."

"I ended up being the chip chick -- that's what they called me," Mrs. Rutledge said. "It took 18 takes to do that one scene. Scott Elrod is just as handsome in person as he is in the movie and Dorian Brown, who plays Emma, his love interest, just has a beautiful spirit."

Mrs. Rutledge said the movie deals with real-life issues in a real way.

"It's very relatable," she said. "You're going to laugh. You're going to cry. You're going to hold your breath wondering what will come up. (It's for) people from all walks of life who have been sexually abused, have abandonment issues, grief, anger issues -- it really touches on so many issues other than alcoholism.

"There are four testimonies that are shared in the movie and although an actor is sharing them these are from real life testimonies. It's really a great, great movie."

Mrs. Rutledge said the movie is well done and said she and her husband have been praying for two years that it will offer a message of hope to many people who are hurting and who are lost from the Lord. She also said it is especially important for Christians to go see it.

"Going to see a movie opening weekend is very, very important -- especially faith-based movies," Mrs. Rutledge said. "All Hollywood cares about is the dollar. If we want more faith-based movies, opening weekend is a critical time because it determines how long it will stay in theaters, go to DVD and many other things. We encourage everybody we know to go on opening weekend."

Mr. Rutledge said the movie offers an opportunity for people to share their faith with others by simply inviting them to see the movie.

"The movie is full of hope," he said.

"Brad and I have seen the movie about 15 times," Mrs. Rutledge said. "In August we were at Saddleback for a three-day training program and all the actors came to Saddleback on Thursday and we did a premiere viewing of the movie.

"This was the first time the actors had seen the movie too and they were there in the auditorium with the 3,500 people attending the training program. In the scene in the movie where the characters said the Serenity Prayer, all 3,500 people in that auditorium said it along with them."

She said it still gives her chills to remember that moment.