October Baby Premiers! Author and Co-director Jon Erwin Talks about the Film
Jon and Andy Erwin have produced a powerful message of Life in their first feature film
"October Baby" premiers in select theaters on Friday, March 23. As I said in my review, see the film then take others to it. The Erwin brothers have created this movie for us, delivering a powerful message of life that will become a tool we can use to witness for the cause of life. It's now in theaters and the rest is up to us.
Recently I was able to catch up with Jon Erwin to talk about the film and get an insider's perspective on the project.
While he co-directs with his brother, Jon also focuses on writing and producing. He has been around film and video production for just about half of his life. At fifteen years old he lied about his age and maneuvered his way onto a camera crew. By eighteen, he was already working full time as a camera operator for ESPN, ABC, NBC and others. He has developed a reputation as a skilled cinematographer who is adept at utilizing today's digital technologies.
In my preparation to review and write about the movie, I had read that Jon's inspiration for the film, of which he was the co-author, came from an interview he had seen with a real abortion survivor, Gianna Jessen.
"I heard Gianna speak," he explained, "and first learned that the words 'abortion' and 'survivor' could go together. Then I did something that I would encourage everyone to do, I 'googled' it - 'abortion survivor' - and just began researching it.
"I was just shattered by it. My brother and I both started thinking and praying about what we should do. God gave us a film camera and we thought we should do something with it, so we started writing this. I wrote it with Theresa Preston, who is just terrific. I had not met Gianna before the movie but we've become dear friends since then and she has done a lot of interviews for us and just loves the movie."
So why try putting together a story instead of making a documentary about the subject?
"We didn't think we could make it a documentary because it was almost too painful to look at. But what if we inserted the issue into an entertaining coming-of-age love story?"
"The movie does not tell you what to think as much as it encourages you to stop and think for yourself - think about the issue, think about your stance on it and how you should act with it."
Having watched the film a few times, I was taken with the fact that the Erwin's had delivered a powerful message without getting preachy or disguising fact sheets in extended plot exposition. They really told a story.
"We didn't want to villainize anybody, we didn't want to make a political film. We just wanted to treat this as a human issue, because you can't argue with the story. People won't change their minds until you first touch their heart with an emotional story. Then they'll be open to talking about the issues."
Erwin talked about one time where they saw their approach validated; it happened in a screening at a film festival in Los Angeles. After the show a lady approached him and began the conversation by saying, "I'm an atheist and I'm a liberal but I can't deny that the character in your story is a victim. And if that really has happened, I have to go home and re-think my view of this issue."
Not only has it really happened, such as in the case of Gianna Jessen, but at least one of the actors in the movie was a real-life counterpart to the role she was playing. It was Shari Rigby, who was the abortive mother in the film. Jon tells the story.
"That actor, Shari Rigby, I don't know if you saw the clip online. When I sent her the script. we just sent it to her because she looked so much like Rachel and we had worked with her on a Casting Crowns music video that had won video of the year. She called me back weeping, saying, 'How could you have known my story?' She was post-abortive and had lived her role in the movie twenty years prior. She lived with the secret for about a decade and then finally told her husband. She had gotten her life back together, rekindled her faith and met a great guy.
"As a result of the movie, she said, 'I think God wants me to share my story.' When she shared her story publicly for the first time, we videotaped it. The clip has really gotten some momentum and moved so many hearts that now she's speaking at a lot of pro-life events. I'm very proud of her; it was a very brave thing to do. It was just one of those 'God-moments' where we just kind of knew that there was something more to this movie than what we thought."
"October Baby" not only reveals the impact that the horror of abortion has on the mother, but even on people in the industry. We're now hearing about them in the news, like Abby Johnson, who has since become an outspoken voice for Life.
In the film, Jasmine Guy played one such victim. Her scene was one of the turning points in the story. Most people will remember her as Whitley in the Cosby comedy spin-off "A Different World." Still ...
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