Film producer DeVon Franklin sees a side of Hollywood most movie goers never do, one that flies in the face of the industry’s image gleaned from the tabloids.
“Most of the people I’ve met [in the industry] are decent, kind, wonderful and amazing. They‘re family oriented, and it‘s all about integrity and doing right by your colleagues,” says Franklin, a deeply religious man whose faith hasn’t prevented him from becoming a Hollywood power player.
“People ask, ‘have you been shunned [because of your faith]? No, I’ve been embraced,” Franklin says. “Everyone in this business is aspiring to do something greater, to make greater films, to continue to build upon their legacy.”
Franklin’s Hollywood journey hits bookstores this week via “Produced by Faith
,” his compelling memoir of being a person of faith in the film business. “Produced” documents his impressive career arc, one which didn’t suffer because of his belief system. In fact, it's thrived because of it.
Films like “Fireproof” and “Soul Surfer” prove Hollywood and the faith community can coexist amicably. Franklin’s career shows the same cohesion behind the scenes. His rise from an assistant to an executive behind films such as “The Karate Kid” remake and the May 6 release “Jumping the Broom
” was all part of God’s plan for him. Franklin just didn’t know it at the time.
“God had to get my attention,” Franklin says. “Being in the business, that’s what really opened my eyes. If I’m doing this, it’s because of His will.”
Writing “Produced By Faith” wasn’t Franklin’s idea originally. A book agent suggested the project, and it took him a year of prayer to understand the kind of book he needed to write.
“God had opened so many doors to me. It’s not fair of me to gain this type of knowledge and not share it,” he says. “He hadn’t given me all these experience to say how great I am. It’s a way to share it, open up about the value of integrity in the work place.“
Franklin’s faith doesn’t allow him to work on the Sabbath, which in theory could cause headaches on a film set where hours are long and every lost second of daylight counts. But he says his colleagues have been very supportive of his spiritual needs.
“Produced by Faith” arrives in bookstores the same week as his new film, “Jumping the Broom.” That wasn’t part of the plan, Franklin admits. Nor did he expect “Broom,” which stars Paula Patton and Angela Bassett, to hit theaters with so few hiccups. The film follows two very different black families who come together through a combination of love, faith and marriage.
While many movie projects languish for years before production begins, “Broom” took roughly a year to come together.
“Some movies you choose. Others choose you. ’Jumping the Broom’ chose me,” he says. “Everyone involved in the production believes there is a purpose behind this film not just to make money, which we hope we make lots of.”
If “Broom” succeeds, it will be the latest example of a religious film thriving at the box office. But Franklin doesn’t think the industry has a problem with faith-based films despite their relative scarcity in Hollywood.
Today’s producers still don’t “fully understand how to maximize it,” he says of the faith-based marketplace. “There’s still a mystery of, ‘how do you do it that doesn’t pander and still grows the business?’ With every movie that’s a success in this market, it gives even more confidence that we can make films of higher quality.”
The rest is up to audiences, he says.
“Get behind them and go see them,” he says of faith-based films.
The same holds true of getting more diversity in Hollywood.
“It’s a complex question,” he says of the lack of minorities making the decisions behind the scenes. Box office support for films like “Broom,” which have a predominantly black cast, can help convince studios to hire more people of color. That, in turn, will allow more opportunities for minorities both in front and behind the camera.
Technology is also making a dent in diversity matters.
“The barriers of entry are getting lower because of the technology,” he says. “You can put a movie on YouTube or vimeo, and it actually gets our attention.”
As a film studio executive, Franklin is open to story pitches of all kinds, but that means he has to suffer through some less than Oscar-worthy concepts.
“I get crazy stories like, ‘my dog can hear the voice of God,” he says with a laugh. “I try to be as encouraging as I can. You never want to kill passion.”
Franklin’s own passion for entertainment began at an early age. His father passed away while he was a boy, and he often turned to the big screen for solace. Films like “The Color Purple” showed him families who healed through love and determination, while “Rocky III” also inspired him.
“This guy was questioning his own value and self-worth. That really spoke to me,” he says.
Franklin understands his own character arc is far from complete.
“I’m in the midst of a career journey,” he says, adding the new book and movie are simply parts of that path. God’s plans for him remain in flux.
“I’m looking for a revelation, 'what is it exactly You want me to do and how can I do it?' I don’t think that moment has totally been revealed,” he says.