DeVon Franklin is a rarity, an African-American studio executive at the forefront of Hollywood’s hit machine. He currently serves as senior vice president of production for Columbia Tristar Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures entertainment, making him one of the youngest individuals in that position in the industry.
[box_light]He recently oversaw the remake of “Sparkle”, starring the late Whitney Houston in her last on screen role, and “The Karate Kid”, starring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith, which grossed over $350 million worldwide. He also worked on “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “Hancock” both starring Will Smith, as well as the faith-based hit “Not Easily Broken”, and the family comedy, “Jumping the Broom” starring Angela Bassett and Paula Patton, both produced by Bishop T. D. Jakes.[/box_light]
In addition to his entertainment industry pursuits, DeVon is also a preacher, a motivational speaker and the author of “Produced by Faith”, a how-to-guide about pursuing your career without compromising your faith.
In “Produced by Faith: Your Life is the Movie”, it’s all about looking at life in context of it being a story, with setbacks and victories, high points and low points, conflicts and resolutions, just like any good movie. “Produced by Faith” uses the process of making a movie to encourage you to fight for your dreams and to never give up on your faith.
Chandra:“Produced by Faith”, tell us about this book and what gave you the inspiration to write it?
DeVon: The whole concept is for the reader to look at their life as a movie; one of the greatest movies to ever be told. Every chapter of the book walks you through how to get your movie made. You go from development, into production, to release and distribution. Every chapter of the book is there to help the reader look at how to star in their own movie and the process required to make their movie a success. What really motivated me was that I have been in Hollywood for about 20 years and preaching since I was 15. I know that God has given me such incredible, amazing experiences. I knew these experiences were not just for me. I really felt compelled to help people. That’s why I created and wrote the book so that other people who may be struggling in their careers and are not really sure where to go could read the book and get motivation and inspiration, but also instruction on where to go, how to do it and see that their movie is being made. Sometimes when you are not where you want to be, you get frustrated, angry, and have anxiety. But when you look at it as one scene in a movie, it’s a helpful perspective. That helps you get to the next scene that you’re destined to be in.
Chandra: You talk about the fact that you have been preaching since 15, that’s absolutely amazing. Tell me how did you discovered your passion for movies?
DeVon: You know, really as a young kid I would watch “Karate kid”, “The Color Purple” and “Back to the Future.” I would also watch television shows like “Cosby Show”, “A Different World” and Greatest American Hero”, these are just some shows that really motivated me and inspired me. So, entertainment was always such a big part of my upbringing. I was always so curious about how the process happened. How do they make these movies? How do they make these shows and who’s paying the people? I was in love with the curiosity about the process. That’s what really stimulated me as a child that made me want to get into entertainment to make movies.
Chandra: DeVon, as a public figure you are very vocal about your faith. Has there been a conflict in Hollywood, being a movie executive and at the same time also walking in your faith. Have you had any moments of conflict?
DeVon: The greatest conflict is, even if I am in entertainment or not, when you want something. You have ambitions, goals, drives and you don’t really see that happening. The conflict is taking matters into your own hands. The conflict is not trusting God and believing that I can get it done, so I should just do it. That is the conflict, to always defer to God and always say, “ok Lord is this what you really want me to do?” To always try to have a perspective and operate in love and peace, that’s hard. Sometimes, someone makes you angry and you just want to respond in anger. But the conflict is, that’s not how God has called us to respond. I don’t think my conflicts are any greater than any other conflict that anyone else faces. I feel because of the profile of entertainment, many sometimes believe that what I go through must be different. I don’t believe that it’s any different. Whenever you have a dream or vision and you want to achieve it, and you don’t see it happening, there’s conflict. The challenge is to manage that conflict and not let that conflict consume you.
Chandra:So you mention the profile of the entertainment industry, do you feel that sometimes there is an unfair profile about what movies and what the entertainment industry is really about or like?
DeVon:I don’t want to say unfair, I think sometimes un-educated. I think a lot of people think that entertainment is filled with people that have an agenda. I don’t believe that. I think that the agenda is to make good material. And to make material that if you’re making films that makes money. If you’re making television, that will find an audience. I think sometimes what happens is, there can be a difference of opinions about what someone may deem as good material and what someone may deem as not good material. The experience that I’ve had with the entertainment industry shows there are a tremendous amount of people in the entertainment industry that are family people that want to do right thing, are very ethical and have tremendous integrity. I do think sometimes people try to paint entertainment or Hollywood with a very broad general brush, which doesn’t necessarily line up with the experience I had.
Chandra: Thank you so much, I can really appreciate that answer. With being a minister as well as an executive in Hollywood, what have you learned about yourself?
DeVon: I learned that I am more capable than I thought. I think coming in the industry you don’t know if you have what it takes to succeed. I believe I’ve realized that God is showing me that no you have it. Just stay close to me and committed to your craft. Continue to learn and continue to really stay a student, you will be just fine. That has been something that I have learned. That I actually do have what it takes to make it. I learned I’m good with people and learned I do have good creative instincts. These are some of the things I do believe in and feel confident in.
Chandra Wise is the host of syndicated Gospel radio show Inspirational Power Hour (IPH). IPH airs every Sunday from 6a.m.-10a.m. on 97.7FM and every Friday at 8a.m., 3p.m and 8p.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on YesLordRadio.com.