For many Christians, the famous Hollywood hills sign is a symbol of the worst of American culture. To them, the movie industry draws the innocent into its vacuum of moral decadence and crashes them upon the rocks, having compromised their values and beliefs. How could any believer actually want to be a part of the entertainment world? How could they possibly survive once there?
Meet DeVon Franklin. He is the vice president of production with Columbia Pictures and, yes, a devout Christian. His new book, Produced By Faith, outlines how he—and you—can be successful no matter where you go while never compromising your faith. I spoke with the 30-something executive by phone.
When I was nine, my father died of a heart attack at age 36. Part of my therapy was going to film and movies. It actually planted a seed for me. [I thought] ‘How can I be behind the camera? How can I help create those images? How can I be a part of that process that is able to facilitate change in the world?’ Going through such a difficult experience really was what got me the most interested in Hollywood and pursuing a career in film.
Is that what's kept you in Hollywood?
Definitely. I feel that part of my purpose in life is to make movies. [It’s to] make films that challenge the way that we think, will inspire us, will give us hope, will empower us.
What are the factors that go into whether you push a film or turn it down?
One, what's the commercial prospect of the film? You want a movie that has a high-concept idea, something that you believe will actually work, that people will actually go see. Then, as an executive, what are your tastes? [I ask] do I fundamentally get where the target is for this film? And can I help champion this film to help it get there? If the answer is yes, then it's usually something I will advocate.
You said in Produced by Faith that "we only control two things: how we prepare for what might have been and how we respond to what just happened." How do you feel that having faith and being in control are at odds with each other?
It's a beautiful dilemma or dichotomy. Faith without works is dead, and faith is the substance of things that we hope for, the evidence of things that aren't seen. So what we have to do is continuously have faith in God's plan.
We do control how we wake up in the morning, how we approach the office, if we come in the office and we work hard. But what we have to recognize is that, in having faith, we give Him ultimate control to guide us wherever He would have us to go.
And there are times where, literally, I get so frustrated. I'm trying to move this movie forward, and then I look at myself and I say ‘Man I’m missing it! Lord, I'm trusting myself.’ In those moments I have to remember that God is in control [and] trust that He is going to guide this process where He would have it to go.
What would you say to a Christian, dreaming of entering into Hollywood?
The first thing is that you have to be a thousand percent sure that this is the business that God is calling you to do. If you're not sure why you're doing it, or if you're chasing Hollywood for fame or fortune, once you get in, you'll do anything, including compromise who you are or your faith, in order to achieve what you consider success.
So I would encourage anyone that's trying to pursue this business to get rock solid with God first. And once you get that foundation and you know that God is leading you, we must trust Him on how He is going to guide us through this process.
If you're coming to Hollywood, don't be afraid of the development process in your life. Yes, if you're an actor, you'll go through a million auditions. It's OK, that's part of the process. There may be a hundred people who will say ‘no, we can't hire you.’ But all you need is one yes to turn it around.
Commit to the process of success. If you do, through all the challenges, God will certainly allow you to get to where you're trying to go.