Film producer, author and motivational speaker DeVon Franklin has helped bring several inspirational films to global audiences, including this year’s “Miracles From Heaven” and 2014’s “Heaven is For Real.” He recently spoke with Cheryl Wetzstein, manager of special sections at The Washington Times, about the future of faith-based filmmaking.
This interview was edited for space and clarity.
Q: With successes under your belt, and thinking about the inspirations for these kinds of films, what do you see coming down the pike ?
I go back to the Bible and look at the stories in the Bible, and I see how those stories have endured the test of time. And what that tells me is that people are never tired of stories of faith and stories that can inspire them on a personal level and a spiritual level.
So for me, when I look at the future, it’s amazing and incredible at the opportunities that will be afforded us to be able to make more stories that can reach people and inspire people in their faith.
I think the goal is to find stories that can organically do that. And, those stories — whether they are modern, whether they are period or whether they are futuristic — if there’s an authenticity and a connection inherent in those stories, I believe they will become a platform in which people can be reached.
Q: So the “faith” genre is alive and likely going to grow?
I definitely think so. Without question.
Q: Regarding “Miracles From Heaven,” why did you decide to go with that particular project?
As a person of faith, when I read the story for the first time in the book form, it motivated me, it inspired me — what Christy went through and the journey of Annabel and the Beam family was just riveting.
So that was a good indicator that that this was a story that could probably translate very well to the screen. It all starts with “Am I reading it? Am I connected to it? Am I moved by it?” Because, as a person of faith who watches a lot of entertainment and reads a lot of entertaining things, the connection is critical and very important. For me, if I didn’t really understand it, or if I didn’t connect to it, then it’s a very hard project to advocate for — for anyone to advocate for.
So I felt a connection to their story, their journey, and that’s what motivated me to want to help bring their story to the big screen… I felt it would be a great story to inspire people with the revelation that miracles are real, and miracles are all around us and we have to look for them.
Sometimes we are looking for the quote, unquote big miracle. But a miracle of any size is a miracle nonetheless. And we would be surprised how many of them are around us if we would just look. And I thought that story did an awesome job of putting that idea out there.
Q: The movie carried authenticity — I know I and others in the audience believed the people and believed the story…
Going to your point about quality, so much of my background comes from being a former studio executive and having worked with some of the greatest minds in entertainment. And having learned from them, I try to apply what I have learned to (1) how the story is crafted, (2) what production values we have infused in the movie, (3) how the movie is cast and put together, and (4) how the movie is ultimately marketed and distributed.
My goal is to continuously treat films of faith with the integrity and with the care that they deserve. Our stories are big stories. Our stories are stories that can change the world and do change the world. So I always want to approach our stories with the most quality possible and bring in as much attention and awareness and care that we possibly can to them.
Q: I have heard you speak about the next generation and the importance of “building a path to true success.” How does that guide you, especially when picking vehicles for film?
Yes, I believe that it’s so important to build a bridge to the next generation. And storytelling is an awesome way to do that. I really love the opportunity to do movies that can inspire and motivate and that can also be multigenerational… The awesome thing about “Miracles From Heaven” is that it won the Drama Award from the Teen Choice Awards this year. There were so many other types of films in that category — and “Miracles From Heaven” was awarded the best film for Drama this year. And that said, in and of itself, how films like this can bridge generations.
And for me, being a believer and being in Hollywood, and for whatever reason, so many times, I come across so many believers who have dreams and aspirations that they believe — but for whatever reason they believe their faith is an obstacle to the manifestation of those dreams.
I believe God has allowed me to be in Hollywood and allowed me to have a certain level of success, not just for my own benefit, but also for the benefit of so many other believers out there to show that faith does work — to show that all things are possible to those that believe and are called according to His purpose. And that faith is not the barrier, it’s the path.
So much of the work that I’ve been fortunate enough to do displays that in so many different ways. Faith is the path — it’s the path to success, it’s the path to happiness, it’s the path to peace, it’s the path to miracles. And I believe that when we believe that, we will see the impossible happen in our life. And I like to speak on that topic, so that whoever is listening will hopefully be motivated to begin to apply faith in a more dynamic way and see more dynamic results that God has already ordained.
Q: Thank you — last question. We often have favorite Bible verses we turn to throughout our lives. Do you have a favorite Bible verse that you keep reflecting on at this stage of your life?
Yes! It’s probably the Bible verse that is also my birthday, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
• DeVon Franklin is a film producer, motivational speaker and author of “Produced By Faith” and the New York Times best-selling book, “The Wait: A Powerful Practice to Find The Love of Your Life and The Life You Love,” which he wrote with his actress wife Meagan Good. He serves as president and CEO of Franklin Entertainment, a first-look production company with Sony Pictures Entertainment. Images courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
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