DeVon Franklin was on track to become a mover and shaker in Hollywood when he hit what he calls "development hell." For a time, his upwardly mobile career path was stalling, if not dying altogether. His employer, MGM, was about to be sold, and Franklin, then a junior exec, thought he'd lose his job.
When Sony Pictures bought MGM in 2004, Franklin survived the sale and continued his climb. He's now vice president of production for Columbia Pictures (a division of Sony), where he has overseen such projects as The Pursuit of Happyness, The Karate Kid, and this summer's Jumping the Broom. Franklin, 33 and single, chronicles his story in Produced by Faith: Enjoy Real Success Without Losing Your True Self (Howard Books, 2011). His book encourages fellow Christians to use "faith as a professional asset," with chapters on "Writing the Script," "God's Green Light," and, yes, "Development Hell."
Actor Will Smith, one of Franklin's oldest friends in Hollywood, says Franklin "lives his life the same way he makes his movies: with commitment, humility, and a work ethic that demands respect." Director Tyler Perry says Franklin lives his faith "beautifully and without compromise" while staying "true to God." Next on Franklin's to-do list: Turning bestseller Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back into a film.
Question & Answer
Why did you write this book?
I've seen so many people struggle in their life and career, [partly due to] a lack of dependence on their faith—or not seeing the relevance of faith. Faith has played a tremendous role in my career, so I wanted to share that there's a better way to become the person God has designed us to become.
What's the state of faith-based films from Hollywood's perspective?
There's a vibrant faith market and movies for that market—like Soul Surfer, Jumping the Broom, and Fireproof [all under the Sony umbrella]. There is a spectrum of faith-based films, like any other genre. In comedy, there's family comedy, there's hard-core, there's quirky. With faith-based films, we need to allow for a spectrum within the space and not allow one film to define that space.
Describe a faith-based film.
People go to movies because they want to be entertained, not because they want a sermon. Our challenge in the faith-based market is to create films that operate as great films. Themes of faith are to be infused in the characters and the situations they face.
What's your role in that process?
We're called to "go ye therefore into the world." We can't have any trepidation about that, but we're all in uncharted territory, facing new challenges. There is going to be some trial and error in navigating these waters, but let's do it together knowing that we have each other's trust, instead of being quick to condemn.
Will we ever see an era of biblical epics again, like The Ten Commandments?
It's coming. All across town there are David and Goliath stories being developed, and a remake of The Ten Commandments is in development. It's just a matter of figuring out the right filmmakers. When they do, those movies will perform and be gigantic.
Hometown: San Francisco
Church: Mt. Rubidoux Seventh-Day Adventist Church
Reading now Book of Romans
On your iPod: Mali Music, Kirk Franklin, Donald Lawrence, James Fortune
Favorite movie: The Color Purple
Favorite Bible verse: Daniel 3:16-18
Favorite website: HuffingtonPost.com
Your hero: My mother
What makes you mad: People living beneath their potential
Hobbies: Watching movies, CrossFit, reading
Copyright © 2011 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
DeVon Franklin has overseen numerous movies featured at SonyPictures.com/movies.
Previous "Who's Next" sections featured Shannon Sedgwick Davis, John Tyson, Jonathan Golden, Paul Louis Metzger, Amena Brown, David Cunningham, Timothy Dalrymple, John Sowers, Alissa Wilkinson, Jamie Tworkowski, Bryan Jennings, L. L. Barkat, Robert Gelinas, Nicole Baker Fulgham, Gideon Strauss, W. David O. Taylor, Crystal Renaud, Eve Nunez, Adam Taylor, Matthew Lee Anderson, Margaret Feinberg, and Jonathan Merritt.
Additional Christianity Today articles on Hollywood and faith include:
The Power and the Glamour | Searching for Beauty amid Hollywood's beautiful people. (July 25, 2011)
Church Movies Keep Coming | A California congregation joins the parade with a film about human trafficking. But is it a good trend? (April 20, 2011)
Pop Culture: Why Hollywood Doesn't Like You |A Christian screenwriter talks cultural clashes between evangelicals and Hollywood. (August 10, 1998)
CT also has more on Hollywood, movies, and TV shows on our entertainment blog.
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