STUDIO CITY, Calif. – The Hollywood entertainment industry has become increasingly aware of the growing market for faith-based films and entertainment, said movie producer DeVon Franklin at the Biola Media Conference at CBS Studios on Saturday.
Franklin, most recently noted for his role as producer of Whitney Houston's last movie, "Sparkle," was given the Biola Media Award at the 17th annual event based on his recent career success. Beginning as an intern 15 years ago, he currently serves as the Vice President of Production for Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
"I've seen that there has been a lot more acceptance of faith," said Franklin during a press conference after the event. "There's been more openness to it in terms of understanding the need to serve an underserved audience out there, specifically the faith-based audience.
"Hollywood has been more willing to develop film projects to tap into that market," he told reporters.
Franklin, who authored the book Produced by Faith – Enjoy Real Success Without Losing Your True Self, said he does not have a cynical point of view about how the Hollywood culture views faith.
"I don't have the experience of expressing what I believe and talking about Jesus and then being labeled a pariah. Sometimes when we live in faith we can be perceived as judgmental," he explained. "Our call as Christians is to be accepting and to love and not to judge. So for me it's about being honest about my faith, but also being loving enough to accept others' points of view the same way that I want them to accept mine."
During his keynote address to an audience of about 600 entertainment media professionals and students, Franklin said he was asked to speak about how stories that "touch the world" can be created.
"I like to think about your life and my life as a movie. So, in order to touch people's lives you have to analyze your own story. You are the main character in your movie," he said. "I've been a Christian my whole life, but people told me that there is no way that you can go into entertainment and still be a Christian or hold onto your faith.
"The moment you tell someone you want to make films or you want to do television or be a part of media, the first thing they say is 'that's the devil's playground' [or] 'that's Sodom and Gomorrah.'"
He said it is important to not become discouraged in spite of the naysayers.
"You have to be very protective of who you share your dream with and how because somebody who you think has your back will tell you, 'well that's never possible.' But I'm here to tell you, let God be the only person to tell you what is and isn't possible in your life," he encouraged.
When asked by The Christian Post what is most challenging in Hollywood, considering many Christians are weary of the entertainment culture present today, Franklin said he was not bothered by outside pressures.
"At the end of the day, I have to view Hollywood not as the place I want to get into [as a final destination]. I have to put the goal as God's will. God is in control of this so I am not going to get frustrated about any industry. If you have the path clear, then you have the path clear," he insisted.
"The thing that I struggle most with is my own ambition. When you are pursuing a dream sometimes your ambition gets the best of you. So, I need to consistently remember that the things that God wants in my life may take more time than I want. So I have to be patient. There are times when my ambition will get me out of my purpose and I have to go, wait a minute, I got to relax, and I have to wait. That is when I have to draw a line and say, 'Am I going to do it my way or God's way?'
"At times, when I have done it my way, things have not worked out so well. I try to check my ambition. Not lose it because my ambition and drive is who I am, but the management of it I have to devote to Him so that I am not getting ahead of myself and doing things that will actually hurt me," he added.
Franklin helped to oversee such hits as "The Pursuit of Happiness" and "Hancock," both of which starred Will Smith and saw enormous worldwide success. He also worked on "21," starring Kevin Spacey, which earned $150 million worldwide, and several other major films including "Pink Panther," and "The Ugly Truth" with Katherine Heigl. He earned a bachelor's degree in Business Administration with a minor in Cinema-Television from the University of Southern California.
Honorees of Biola's award can range from cinema to new media, highlighting directors, producers and innovators who have made a significant impact on culture and their creative community through their Christ-like character and dedication to craft, according to a posting on the university's Website. Last year's recipient was CBS Studio Center President Michael Klausman.