ANAHEIM — Leading Christian filmmakers DeVon Franklin and Alex Kendrick discussed the importance of humility, integrity, and seeking God’s guidance as they navigate the crossroads of Hollywood and faith.
Franklin, president and CEO of Franklin Entertainment, shared how he strives to make films that are both relatable and inspiring during TV & Film Summit presentations March 27 at Proclaim 19, the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Anaheim, California.
“With a film, you’re trying to tell the spirit of the story while still honoring the specificity in which the spirit of the story was experienced,” he said.
Franklin’s latest film is “Breakthrough,” set to release April 12, 2019. The film is based on mother Joyce Smith’s book that recounts her son John’s miraculous survival from a dramatic fall through into an icy lake. Starring Chrissy Metz, Marcell Ruiz, and Topher Grace, “Breakthrough” highlights the power of prayer.
The film is a result of a series of miracles, Franklin told the audience, revealing that “Breakthrough” is the only movie he has ever produced that 20th Century Fox accepted without a pitch.
“God’s had His hand on 'Breakthrough' since the beginning,” he said. “Part of this is God’s plan and faith and people working together to get it done.”
Franklin also pointed out that the cast and crew of “Breakthrough” are diverse, with females and minorities widely represented.
“Doing an interview, someone asked about diversity, and in the interview was myself, Marcel Ruiz, and Chrissy,” he shared. “And I said, ‘It’s amazing; here I am, a black man, a young Latino kid, and a woman. These were historically the groups that have been kept out of Hollywood, and we all happen to be believers.'”
During a Q&A, Franklin discussed how his faith affects his work in Hollywood and shared how, while on the set of “Breakthrough,” he would regularly pray on-set.
“It’s really the crew who takes their cue from the producer and the director and how they set the tone,” he said. “It was really important to model prayer even beyond our work and what we said. Whenever I’m producing a film, how I work is more important than what I say because that is what communicates to people if I am who I say I am and I believe what I say I believe.”
Alex Kendrick, co-director of Kendrick Brothers Productions, also shared his own journey as a filmmaker. Kendrick, along with his brother, is behind a slew of faith-based films including “Fireproof,” “Courageous,” “War Room,” and the soon-to-release “Overcomer," starring Priscilla Shirer.
As his films received both criticism and praise over the years, Kendrick said he began to realize his own propensity toward both discouragement and pride.
“The more I get into filmmaking the more I realize it is an art, but it should not be idolized,” he said. “Whenever I do something for the Lord, the Lord is very interested in where my heart is – am I truly reflecting Him, or am I doing something seeking glory for myself? We all want to be loved, we all want to be affirmed.”
Kendrick pointed out that God says He “hates” the proud, but gives grace to the humble: “I started realizing, ‘Lord, for you to use me, I have to be willing to be broken and humble,’” he said. “I do not want God to oppose me. If I'm doing films for His glory, I need His favor on me.”
But the only way to have the Lord’s favor, he said, is through humility, which is a difficult prayer to pray.
“He knows when we’re trying to be falsely humble, too,” he said, adding: “Praying for humility is a hard prayer to pray. He humbles us so He can bear more fruit through us. We need to be broken and humbled in order to bear the most fruit.”
Kendrick encouraged other believers in the film industry to remember that their work is a “public presentation – whether it’s straight Gospel, radio or television, motion pictures, or print."
“What you and I do is a public presentation, and ideally all of us would say, 'I want God to use me to draw people to the Kingdom,'" he concluded.