Weekend Feature: Devon Franklin is an Adventist and Powerful in Hollywood
by Debbonnaire Kovacs
When he was a boy, DeVon Franklin loved movies. Lots of kids love movies, but DeVon was, as he puts it, “captivated,” not just by the movies themselves, but by curiosity and interest in the making of them. He moved from wondering how these images and emotions were created to wanting to do it himself. Of course, being a kid, there was something he wanted even more—to be a football player. But getting into the film industry was his “fallback plan,” so when he didn’t make his high school football team, DeVon turned to his love for movies, and found the calling of his heart.
“I wanted to make movies that would produce change in the world, that would inspire hope and help people to get through the … difficulties in their lives,” Franklin says. So he went to the University of Southern California with a business major and a film minor, and was fortunate enough to get an internship in his freshman year. All through college, he continued to work in the movie industry, first in Will Smith’s production company, then working directly with Smith’s partner, and step by step all the way to his present position as Vice President of Production at Columbia Pictures, working on projects such as The Pursuit of Happyness, Karate Kid, and this summer’s Jumping the Broom.
It would sound like a dream career to many people, and so it is. This is a man with some power in Hollywood. But there’s power and there’s power. The only power that matters to DeVon Franklin is the power of God. He is a Seventh-day Adventist who says that living his faith in what some might see as an impossible context is no problem at all.
“I can’t think of anything that’s worth compromising your faith for,” Franklin says emphatically. “If we really believe God is in control and has a plan for us, if we really have faith in Him, that plan will never be dependent upon compromise! It’ s not like God is going to come to you and say, ‘I have this plan for you, but it means that just for a while, you’re going to have to break some rules.’ Never!”
For example, Franklin waxes enthusiastic when talking of the Sabbath and the special blessings he believes God has built into “this particular, special day. I’m very vocal about keeping Sabbath. I make sure it’s a stipulation always. I haven’t had any trouble. If you are frank and clear about your faith, people respect that. “
Franklin was in Beijing during the making of Karate Kid, taking Sabbath off as is his custom, when the idea of writing a book came to him. He wanted to use his position to help others, and share the things he had learned, so that others could perhaps avoid some of the difficulties he had faced in learning to choose faith over fear. He says it’s even more special to him that God gave him this idea on a Sabbath.
Produced by Faith: Enjoy Real Success without Losing Your True Self (Howard Books, 2011) is the story of Franklin’s life and how he integrates his work with his faith. It continues to be a blessing to him to see how God uses this book to bless others. They tell him their stories. A man unhappy in a mundane job reads Produced by Faith, quits his job, steps out in faith, and reports that he’s found his true calling and has never been happier. A woman trying to get a job she really wants, and tempted to let go of Sabbath-keeping, reads the book and decides to be true to God and to herself. Her prospective employers compromise and say she only has to work some Sabbaths. “No, sorry,” she tells them, and they regretfully turn her down for employment. She is disappointed, but at peace. Then they call her back. “We really want you. We’ll give you another project that won’t require Sabbath work.”
Franklin says that one of his greatest goals is to help people to stop living lives of fear. Even keeping Sabbath, or any other commandment, can be done out of fear instead of love, which will still miss the blessing. “I can’t stress enough the exciting sense of liberation when you let go of fear and live in faith instead. God wants to display his power in us in ways we can’t even imagine—but faith is the key.”