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Director/Writer Jon Erwin Discusses OCTOBER BABY
Director/Writer Jon Erwin Discusses OCTOBER BABY

Director/Writer Jon Erwin Discusses OCTOBER BABY

by Angela Walker - Contributing Writer

Even though he feels like he's been herded around like a farm animal, Jon Erwin is enjoying the process of publicity for OCTOBER BABY, his first feature film that opens nationwide on March 23, 2012. 

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I first met Jon when he and his brother Andy did a documentary on 9/11 called THE CROSS AND THE TOWERS. Jon and Andy developed their photography skills with ESPN football, honed their filmmaking abilities with music videos and last year finished OCTOBER BABY, their first feature story. I caught up with Jon in between publicity jaunts and we talked about the film, his career arc, and the future for this filmmaking duo.

Jump to…

What's Your Purpose?

That's Not Entertainment

Unexpected Healing

Surrendering the Secret

Battling to Theaters

It's Our Vision

What's Your Purpose?

"We didn't come up with OCTOBER BABY because we thought we had this groundbreaking financially viable film. A Christian film dealing with abortion made by two guys from Alabama… I had heard Gianna Jessen speak. She's the voice for abortion survivors, and I didn't even know there was such a thing. Those two words don't go together. I had never thought about that.

"I began to study it for myself, and I was just shattered. I was mesmerized by the reality that we had let this happen. It was heartbreaking and fascinating, and really made me start to think. I really felt I needed to do something about it. 

"We were working with Alex Kendrick on COURAGEOUS and he asked me, 'What's your purpose? What's the purpose of your work?' We had done some short films and documentaries and God put it in our hearts to do something with the subject matter. But the question was 'What?'"

That's Not Entertainment

Jon and Andy knew that a documentary would be unwatchable and it certainly wouldn't be entertaining, which is the name of their business [Erwin Brothers Entertainment]. So something has to first entertain before it can educate or change someone. Jon heard James Cameron talking about AVATAR, and he said he'd gotten passionate about the environment and our relationship with nature. He thought his subject matter was boring so he "got subversive and injected the subject he was passionate about into a blockbuster."

"Certainly you feel preached at in that movie, but it's done with such skill that you're still entertained. I was convicted by that and thought about Luke 16:8, that the children of the world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. I thought, what if we told this story about a beautiful 19-year-old girl we could empathize with? She discovers that she was adopted and never told because she was the survivor of an abortion.

"Instantly, everything in her life makes sense, both emotionally and physically. She has lingering questions, and suddenly, everything begins to make sense. So she goes on a road trip trying to find answers, and ultimately, what I wanted to do, was make a movie about the power of forgiveness. It is liberating and empowering, both for you and for the other person.

"We wanted the audience to laugh as much as they cried, and we wanted to have a road story, a romance, but at the end of the day, we wanted the audience to think about life and their view on it, and how it should change the way they act. My hope is they will be thoroughly entertained, but that we will draw attention to some deeper issues."

Unexpected Healing

The movie was shown in Virginia Beach recently, and Shari Rigby [read her interview here], who plays the birth mother, is post-abortive. She called me weeping when she got the script because she had never told anyone. She thought I knew her story, and that's why I sent her the script.

"The beats of her character's life really closely mirrored her life. We had a woman at the end of the showing in Virginia Beach just weeping. She found Shari, who was there, and said, 'I've had two abortions.' She wept on Shari's shoulders.

"I was hoping to have an impact on young women who are thinking about abortion as an option. I did not expect this outpouring of healing on post-abortive women. That stat is that about a third of all women will have an abortion. They're in our churches, and if anyone says, 'I don't know anyone who's had an abortion.' You do. Trust me. It's very important that as we ring up the issue, we do so with grace and healing and forgiveness. What I love most about the film is that it's bringing healing and forgiveness to these women."

Surrendering the Secret

Partnered with the film is a Bible study called "Surrendering the Secret." It's a study about forgiveness and there are about 700 trainers across the country ready to counsel other women. "Some of them are staying in the theaters until midnight counseling women that have had an abortion. It's a real helpful and healing step in their lives."

At one screening, a big burly man came up to Jon crying. He told him that 20 years ago, he'd taken his girlfriend to a clinic and paid for an abortion. He'd never been able to forgive himself. An older couple had had an abortion 40 years before. Then they became believers and got married, but they'd never talked about it with each other. 

"I read the email. The man came to the screening and wept through the whole movie. He said he'd never felt God's forgiveness like that before. He went home and told his wife the experience, and they held each other and cried for 2 hours. They hadn't talked about it for 40 years.

"It affects men as much as women, fathers as much as mothers. It's been very cool to see the effects. I had a 12-year-old boy come up to me and tell me that the movie changed his life. I thought, 'this isn't a movie for a 12-year-old boy.' He told me his dad had an affair against his mom and he'd been angry. But after seeing the movie, he was going home to forgive his dad. That's spectacular and really validating. I hope that universal message of forgiveness can really help people move on."

Battling to Theaters

It was a real uphill battle to get the film to theaters. Studios wouldn't touch it because the film was labeled "polarizing." Nobody wanted to have anything to do with it. "The smart thing would have been to put it on DVD and move on with our lives, but our investors felt like it needed to be in theaters and so did we. It needed to have a chance to really impact the culture.

"We tested the film in 14 theaters, and it did exceptionally well. It averaged about $8000 per screen opening weekend. We had no idea who these people were; turns out they were Pro-lifers. So that gave us the energy to go out and raise the P&A [Prints and Advertising – the cost to get films placed in theaters]. Then Provident Films got on board and Goldwyn got on board. So it's been kind of a miracle story even getting to this point.

"Because of that, we're really deeply involved and believe we want to steward this thing all the way through to the end. We have so many other ideas and projects we want to dive into, but marketing a film is a marathon. It's almost harder than making it, so I'm trying not to think about making another film. It's a lot more fun to make a film than it is to market it."

It's Our Vision

It's extremely fulfilling for Jon and Andy to see their own vision fulfilled. "With Casting Crowns or Michael W. Smith or Amy Grant, they'll have a song and we'll interpret it visually. The Kendricks had this movie COURAGEOUS on their heart and it was our job to come and serve them. I did some of the action scenes [as second AD] and had a lot of fun. But they were other people's visions and dreams and we were there just to make them happen.

"This time, God put something on our hearts and gave us the conviction for something and we went out and did it. It's very fulfilling to do that. And I believe it's something that is very important. I believe no matter where you land politically or even religiously, the conversations the movie will spark are good healthy ones about life.

"I didn't want to make a film that told the audience what to think, but just made them stop and think for themselves in the midst of this busy, chaotic world we live in. I wanted them to take the time and think 'What do I think about issues like adoption and abortion, and how should that change the way I act? The Bible says that faith without works is dead, so how should that belief translate into what I do?'

"Those are very healthy questions to ask. I was looking at the comment cards from recent screenings, and kids were saying things like 'I'm pro-life now.' 'I'm against abortion now.' That's amazing, and it's something that I hope happens again and again. We've done what we're supposed to do get the film this far, and now it's up to God and to the audience."

OCTOBER BABY opens nationwide in theaters on Friday, March 23. Check your local listings for times and locations.

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