DeVon Franklin: Making Movies that Move Audiences
By Hannah Goodwyn
CBN.com - No stranger to red carpets and star-studded Hollywood soirees, DeVon Franklin fully understands the unique space he’s in when it comes to being a positive influence in the film industry. As Vice President of Production at Columbia Pictures, Franklin uses his pull and studio backing to make movies that matter.
Thus far, the Oakland native has overseen the production of the critically acclaimed drama The Pursuit of Happyness, The Karate Kid, and Jumping the Broom. From the age of 9, when his father passed away, to his days working with Will Smith, Franklin has kept his faith close to heart. His new book, Produced by Faith, is a commentary on how faith interacts with life, through the lens of filmmaking.
Recently, the Hollywood exec sat down with CBN.com to discuss his book, the culture in Hollywood, and why his life reflects his faith is 24 hours a day/7 days a week.
On how he reacted to losing his dad so young…
Franklin: I was nine at the time. It was just so hard to really understand when you're that age, and you experience that kind of tragedy. It's very difficult to reconcile how you're feeling and have a positive outlet for those feelings. Turning to God and going to church really helped me tremendously, because it gave me a productive outlet to process what I was feeling.
To really understand what God's role was in my life really helped me put things in perspective as best I could at that age. And so it really helped save me.
The part movies played in helping him grieve…
Franklin: Being transported to a different world, to a different reality, being able to have a cathartic experience by allowing the things that I was challenged with in life and seeing these characters on screen meet their own challenges and succeed, it really was very therapeutic for me.
It also sparked this idea and this passion to want to create films and create images that could provoke the same sort of healing and the same sort of escape.
On what iconic movie character meant the most to him…
Franklin: Rocky is one of my favorite characters. The thing that was fascinating about him is that he believed he was a bum. All he wanted to do was to prove to himself that he wasn't. He wanted to prove to himself that he actually had it in him to be a champion. And I relate to that.
There are so many times I think we all struggle with our own self-worth and our own self value. Seeing that character be able to overcome his fears and overcome how he felt really encouraged me.
Growing up, I always felt kind of like the odd man out. I never totally felt like I belonged to any particular group, so feeling that way is a bit isolating. The idea that of like, “Wow, I don't really know if I'm valued. I don’t really feel as….” I know God makes all of us but at the time being a young kid, I was like, “Man, I don't really fit in anywhere.” To see characters like that and then being able to find their place in the world was very encouraging.
Interning at Will Smith’s production company…
Franklin: It definitely was a wonderful way to start my career.
My internships were phenomenal experiences and really gave me a better understanding and perspective on the business that just reinforced my passion to pursue it. I know I was very blessed and very fortunate to be able to have those experiences early on which allowed me to understand, “Hey, I can do this.”
Keeping faith a part of your 9 to 5 life…
Franklin: How can I say that I am of faith and I believe in God, yet I don't bring that to what I do? My having faith in my career and being open about that is just my being open with who I am.
On Hollywood’s reaction to his beliefs…
In my experience, especially in Hollywood, people value you when you are an individual. Even though they may not agree with your point of view, they value that you have the courage to voice your opinion and your point of view and the fact that you have a singular point of view.
Certainly when you're navigating a career you have to understand your industry and be able to flow with the industry. Yet, you don't have to flow so much with the industry that you don't become anything and you lose your voice. You lose your point of view.
So incorporating faith was just an organic and a necessary thing to do. I just have a hard time living two different lives. I do. It's very hard for me to sit up here and talk to you and have a conversation and then go home and be someone different. That duality tears me apart.
I pray that will be good enough especially on my career. And sometimes, hey, it may not be, but I have to follow where God is and who God made me to be.
Picking movies that matter…
Franklin: Wanting to tell movies that inspire can be mistranslated. People think oh, inspiration, oh that's a certain type of movie. And I'm saying no. I'm saying you can inspire someone with a comedy. You can inspire someone with a sci-fi movie, an action movie.
Quite truthfully when you look at the biggest movies of all time, all of those movies and those franchises are built upon characters who have inspired the world. People don't go see Star Wars just because it has great special effects. They went because they connected to Luke. They connected to his journey. They connected to his history and his past. They connected to what he was doing, right? And people who left that theater inspired.
So what I want to do is to redefine what that looks like. The only fear I have with that is that sometimes you'll think oh, it's got to be this inspirational true story. No it doesn't. My goal is that whatever project I do I want it to be about something. By mere definition of helping the story be about something, it's going to inspire somebody; because we're not just doing an action movie for action sake. We're not just doing special effects for special effects sake. We're doing them because they're helping us tell the story about this particular character in their journey.
On how people of faith can pray for Hollywood…
Franklin: Pray for God's will to be done and for those Christians that He has placed in the business that He would continue to protect them, empower them, and that He would continue to allow His influence to be felt in every decision being made.
We're supposed to be in the world but not of it. The Word tells us, “Go ye therefore into the world.” I feel like praying that wherever God leads those He has placed in the business that He would continue to show them who He is and continue to reveal to them the ideas and to reveal to those who are in the industry ideas and thoughts and stories that need to be told. Bless the relationships that we come in contact with, increase the territory, increase the influence.
Franklin: I'm working on a reboot of the Masters of the Universe franchise. You know, He-Men from back in the 80s. So I'm excited about that. That's going to be a monster. We're working on that script and I’m believing we’ll have a script this summer that we’ll be able to start trying to put together.
We're going to do [another film] with the Jumping the Broom team. We're going to do a remake of this 1970s film called Sparkle, which is a musical. So we're very, very excited about that.
I'm also getting ready to do this movie with Overbrook [Will Smith’s production company]. We're doing a number of things with Overbrook, but one of them is the John Keller story, which is a true story. John Keller was an unsung hero during Hurricane Katrina. He saved his entire apartment building of over 200 people, and not one person died, because he risked his life to save them all. We're planning on hopefully making that this year.
So that's a few. I know it kind of runs the gamut, but then I'm excited about that. I'm excited about having a diverse slate of films that allows all different types of stories to be told.
Hannah Goodwyn serves as the Family and Entertainment producer for CBN.com. For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.
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