The Preacher and the Producer: "Jumping the Broom" and DeVon Franklin

DeVon's answer, "Well, I had had a busy week. Flown to London for a premier, and then back to the U.S., and then on to Beijing—clear around the world. Some would say that I live in the fast lane, so busy, always on the go and all. But it really isn't that way for me. I am always taking with me and reading my Bible, and God is with me. I see myself as living in the 'faith lane.' Anyway, I had been reading Romans, and when I got to the 8th chapter, I knew that I should write a book to help those seeking success in their lives, and that they do not need to downplay their faith, that God wanted to bless them and bring them success, if they stay with their principles."

DeVon writes how standing up for one of his basic principles, that of keeping the Sabbath, has had a very positive result in his career and life. As mentioned earlier, DeVon is a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and indeed a preacher filling the pulpit once a month at his home church in Oakland. Thus his Sabbath is not a Sunday, but begins with sundown on a Friday. He was part of a crew at the time when it became necessary to film a shot before the end of the day. He nervously looked at the sun lowering in the sky. "On that shoot they wanted me to help with the camera, but when I told them I couldn't work on the Sabbath, they were okay with that. I have found that people in Hollywood have been very understanding of my beliefs. I've talked about them at times with members of the film crew, and we've prayed together and such. People sometimes think of Hollywood as being so full of evil and such, but it's not been that way for me."

I expressed my appreciation that his autobiographical book was not a "Gospel of Success" book like those peddled by some TV preachers, and he replied "No, it isn't, although I do think that God wants to bless us, both spiritually and physically. But it's the spiritual that is most important. God expects us to get ready and to do our part. He doesn't just do everything for us."

Also, I expressed my appreciation of his clever use of film production terms as applied to his life and to the potential development of the life of the reader. (The book's fourteen chapter headings include, Chapter One "You the Movie"; Chapter Two "What's the Big Idea?"; Chapter Three "Selling It"; Chapter Four "Writing the Script"; Chapter Five "Getting Notes"; Chapter Six "Development Hell"; and jumping ahead, Chapter Nine "God's Green Light"; Chapter Ten "Lights, Camera, Action"; and more.) He commented, "I had been keeping a notebook on my ideas, pages of them, so I had lots of these to refer to when I worked with writer Tim Vanderhey on the book—he was a real blessing. I always write down ideas and such as the Spirit inspires me. It just seemed so natural to write about my life and that of those whom I want to reach through the book in terms of producing a movie."

In his book, DeVon tells the interesting story of how he became instrumental in bringing Jumping the Broom to the screen. Several years ago the man who had helped him get established in Hollywood, Glendon Palmer, had lost his Hollywood job, falling onto such hard times that he had to apply for unemployment compensation. For several years he and a friend kept on developing a script about a wedding. When Palmer was at last hired by another film production company, and DeVon was working with Bishop T.D. Jakes (producer and one of the stars in Woman, Thou Art Loosed?) to find a new movie to produce, DeVon called his friend to see if he had any ideas or scripts on hand.

After describing several that did not seem suitable, Palmer brought up his own script about a wedding. This sounded more promising, so DeVon read the script and discussed it with his associates. After a few months he suggested to Palmer the idea of turning the film into a faith-based picture. Hesitant at first, Palmer agreed, discussing it with his co-writers Elizabeth Hunter and Arlene Gibbs. They assented, and so the film went into development, Palmer apparently switching to producer and the two women finishing the script. Production was assured when Angela Basset, who appreciated the ministry of Bishop Jakes, liked the script and signed on at less than her usual rate.

Near the end of our conversation I asked what he thinks of the faith-based films that are being produced for the church market. "Well, I am glad that they have done well at the box office. As they succeed there, they will bring in more money so that producers can be able to afford better production values and scripts and actors for their next films. I am glad that they give people a choice of the kinds of films they can see."

I asked, "Would you want to work for a faith-based film company, rather than a so-called secular one?" "Oh no, I am glad to be where I am. I enjoy working with such good people and can fully practice my faith here. I think God has called me to where I should be."

With a new film and his book out within a few days of each other, the month of May has been an important one for DeVon Franklin, film producer and preacher. Some would say that he lives two lives, but he sees them as two sides of his basic vocation, that of serving the God whom he knows through Jesus Christ. As he maintains over and over in Produced by Faith, it is possible for Christians to maintain their integrity while pursuing their ambitions, even in such a success-obsessed environment as a Hollywood studio. His book and new film certainly bear this out.

5/17/2011 4:00:00 AM