(PHOTO: Erwin Brothers)
It’s a topic untouchable for Hollywood and a subject matter not many are willing to take on: abortion.
But a passionate team of filmmakers, actors, and producers are all taking a risk and hoping and praying that their new coming of age film “October Baby” will begin to change all of that.
“To take on such a weighty issue can be risky and probably wouldn’t have been our first choice but most of the time as a filmmaker you don’t go find the story, it finds you,” Andrew Erwin, co-director and producer of the film alongside his brother Jon, told The Christian Post in an email. “That was the case with our movie.”
Opening for a limited release this Friday in Alabama and Mississippi, “October Baby” tells the story of Hannah, a beautiful 19-year-old college freshman who discovers late in life not only that she was adopted but also the survivor of a failed abortion.
Desperate for answers, she embarks on a road trip with a few of her friends in search of her biological mother, discovering hope, love and forgiveness in the process.
The film features John Schneider (“Smallville”), Jasmine Guy (“The Vampire Diaries”), Jason Burkey (“For the Glory”), and newcomer Rachel Hendrix as Hannah, and is inspired by the real-life story of abortion survivor Gianna Jessen, now a pro-life advocate, songwriter and national speaker.
“We heard a girl named Gianna Jessen speak who is an abortion survivor with cerebral palsy [due to her premature birth from the attempted abortion] and we were so arrested by her testimony that we had to do something with the information we had learned,” Erwin shared.
Looking at the issue through the eyes of a victim was a really disarming way to engage a touchy subject, he added.
Set to play in more than a dozen theaters across Alabama, Mississippi and Memphis City for three to four weeks, the filmmakers chose to release their movie on Oct. 28, 2011, ahead of their nationwide spring opening in 2012, for two particular reasons.
First, they sought to draw attention to an upcoming personhood vote set to take place in Mississippi on Nov. 8.
Known as Measure 26, the amendment will give voters the chance to decide whether life begins at conception or not, challenging the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.
If approved, the amendment will be a huge victory for pro-life advocates, essentially outlawing abortion in the state.
With the advance showings of “October Baby” this weekend, the Erwin brothers hoped to touch hearts and transform minds not only prior to the November personhood vote but also throughout the future as well.
“I believe that to change someone’s mind you first have to touch their heart. We want to make the journey compelling and a film gives that opportunity like no other medium today,” the previous ESPN camera operator wrote to CP.
“To be able to allow an audience to connect with compelling, interesting characters. To make that audience laugh with them, cry with them, and heal with them. And to do that with quality is essential. At its core, it has to be a good movie regardless. That is when they will listen to what we have to say, I think.”
Additionally, the Erwin brothers also wanted to prove that the movie was marketable and in demand despite Hollywood’s rejection of the film through the early limited release.
“This is our chance to test the movie and this is our chance to prove that this movie is viable and it will be out nationwide next spring but the number of theaters it will be in is determined by how it does here in Alabama, Mississippi,” Jon Erwin, co-director and writer of the film said in a promotional interview.
“This is our chance to say together, we’re tired of what Hollywood is force feeding us and we’re tired of Hollywood not listening to our voice. This is who we are and this is what we believe in and we want this in the culture.”
“Every movie ticket is someone’s vote, is their voice,” he added, “and I really believe with this particular film and message every movie ticket is a chance to save lives. I think it’s time that the unborn have a voice and I think that’s what this movie gives them.”
Giving the unborn a voice was only one part of the story however. For the Christian filmmakers, faith was also an important element to add into the movie as well.
“October Baby might not be what you expect,” Andrew Erwin explained to CP. “We wanted to look at a complicated issue through the eyes of complicated people.”
“Abortion might be the context or the crisis to set up the story but the movie is about forgiveness and healing. Faith plays an integral part of that as Hannah wrestles with how to find truth and forgiveness. I love how the Gospel of redemption shines forth in an honest way when you deal with very human pain.”
The coming of age film has been screened more than 10 times across the country. Stories of abortion survivors and post-abortive women have overwhelmed the filmmakers.
Jessen herself, who sang the song “Ocean Floor” featured in the upcoming film, watched the film and commented, “I laughed so hard, I cried so hard and I healed. Thank you.”
“I hope [the movie] is just as healing for those who have had abortions as it is for those wrestling with the issue itself,” Erwin continued. “Our film doesn't attack anyone but I feel it handles controversy in a humble, sensitive way that I hope inspires rather than divides. The stories of people keep coming!”
Quoting a filmmaker he respected, the Birmingham producer shared with CP, “Great films don't force feed answers. They ask the right penetrating questions.”
That is exactly what Jesus did, Erwin wrote. When people came to him he asked them questions they couldn't answer.
“My job as a filmmaker is just to challenge people to stop and look at something in a new way, to challenge them to think. I hope ‘October Baby’ brings people to the table who disagree on both sides and raises the value of life, past politics or personal opinions to be seen for what it really is, a human issue. These very real victims like Gianna deserve a voice.”
“I hope our movie ‘October Baby’ plays a part in that bigger picture of engaging hearts through story and helps people remember that life is beautiful,” he concluded.
“October Baby” is the Erwin Brothers’ first feature film. They have previously directed music videos and produced concerts and television programs for platinum-selling music artists like Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Switchfoot, Skillet and American Idol Ruben Studdard among many others. They have also received 10 nominations and back-to-back wins for Music Video of The Year at the GMA Dove Awards.
The film, which was shot in the brothers’ native state of Alabama, was created in conjunction with American Family Association and through a marketing partnership with Provident Films.
To watch more exclusive interviews and learn more about “October Baby” click here.