“God gave me this day. It’s telling him, “You are the director of my life. I trust that if I honor you with my performance, you will continue to bless me and take care of me.”–DeVon Franklin
DeVon Franklin, a king of many traits and who many women would say is the ‘perfect man’. He has many titles under his belt as he is known for various roles making him a diverse asset. Some know him as a preacher, others as an award-winning Film and TV producer, or best-selling author, not to mention motivational speaker. While he is more known for his contributions to the entertainment and television industries, because of his spirituality and strong faith, his audience and supporters find that his Christianity blows all other titles out of the water.
His Early Life
Born on April 13, 1973 in San Francisco, CA., his story goes like this: His parents married at a young age and while his mother worked to pay for her higher degree, his dad was not as present in his life as DeVon hoped. At age 9, his dad suffered a massive heart attack and passed away at age 36. His father’s death sent him into a traumatic tailspin and with the inability to afford food sometimes, much less counselling, Franklin had to find another alternative to deal with the loss and immediate needs. He turned to entertainment and church. The church was an outlet for the pain he was feeling and it gave him more of a purpose in his life where he was able to overcome the grief and use the energy for good.
He later attended the University of Southern California where he graduated with a major in Business Administration and minor in Cinema-Television; it was a hybrid education to complement his aspirations which quickly came into fruition.
“I have put my faith front and center for everyone to see…..not only has relying on my faith not harmed my career prospects, it has actually enhanced them.”– DeVon Franklin in an interview.
Franklin had an innate passion for the entertainment industry, particularly making movies so he set out to learn everything he could and gain experience in the process. This was how he found solace and therapy for his dad’s death; he would go to see movies as a way of coping with the grief.
“I feel that part of my purpose in life is to make movies. [It’s to] make films that challenge the way that we think, will inspire us, will give us hope, and will empower us.” –DeVon Franklin in an interview.
He initially worked in Oakland, California (where he was raised), for the non-profit Oakland Citizens Committee for Urban Renewal (OCCUR), which was the foundation on which he landed his later internship with Will Smith.
He went on to work as a studio executive for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) then joined Overbrook Entertainment where he interned for Will Smith and James Lassiter in 1998. Will described Franklin’s character as him “living his life the same way he makes his movies: with commitment, humility, and a work ethic that demands respect.”
Franklin then got a job offer from Edmonds Entertainment after leaving Overbrook Entertainment. Then after service there went on to MGM as a studio executive. There he worked on Queen Latifah’s Barber Shop and John Travolta’s Be Cool. Soon Sony Corporation asked him to come on board after MGM sold to Sony Corporation in 2004.
“Sony has fully allowed me as an African-American and a Christian to embrace [my dream]. There’s still an idea out there for a lot of Christians that, when you look at Hollywood, is that industry for us? And I think that sharing my story has helped show that the business is sometimes different than the rap that it gets. I know so many people in this business that are about making the world better, about families, about positivity, and I think that’s a part of Hollywood that doesn’t get portrayed in the media…It’s really run by people who want to do right and who have integrity and are committed to changing the world, essentially. That’s the Hollywood that my story tries to promote.”- DeVon Franklin in an interview.
Throughout his career moves, he has been loyal to the word and direction of God. Before he went into the production industry and founded Franklin Entertainment, he worked for ten years as an executive and as a Senior Vice President of Production (for the last two years) for Columbia Pictures (a branch of Sony). There, he spearheaded and oversaw some of Hollywood’s hit movies such as Sparkle, The Pursuit of Happiness, Jumping The Broom, The Karate Kid, Not Easily Broken, Hancock and Heaven Is For Real.
“Regardless of race, ethnicity, religious belief or gender, the whole goal, especially in the films that I try to put together and push through the system, are films that can tackle that universal experience of life and at the same time find an element that can be inspirational. So with Heaven Is For Real, we approached it from making a movie for everybody.” – DeVon Franklin in an interview.
Maria Elena de las Carreras, assistant professor of film at UCLA, stated that it is a difficult feat to develop a faith-based film that appeals to mainstream and popular culture as well as generate capital.
Franklin recently signed a multi-year film deal with 20th Century Fox and in 2016 produced Miracles From Heaven with Queen Latifah and Jennifer Garner acting lead roles. The movie grossed $73 million and was deemed one of the top-grossing faith-based films ever to hit box offices. From the year 2004 onwards, Hollywood came to the realization that Christ-centered films had the ability to sell, taking into account the $600 million grossed movie the Passion of the Christ. Franklin thus capitalized on that acknowledgement within the entertainment industry when he looked to co-producing Miracles From Heaven with Sony Pictures.
“I would encourage anyone that’s trying to pursue this business to get rock solid with God first. And once you get that foundation and you know that God is leading you, we must trust Him on how He is going to guide us through this process. Commit to the process of success. If you do, through all the challenges, God will certainly allow you to get to where you’re trying to go.” – DeVon Franklin in an interview.
He is also producing a 2017 animated film called The Star for Sony Pictures Animation which will be the very first faith-based animated film to be released since The Prince of Egypt. He also looks to release projects like The Impossible with 20th Century Fox, The He-Man and Masters of the Universe with Columbia Pictures and Cooley High with Common at MGM. Additionally, Franklin is in production for Chi-Arts an ABC drama as well as Foxy Brown at Hulu.
He has been dubbed by Ebony Magazine as one of the “Top 100 Influential African-Americans in America” as well as one of the “Top 10 Producers to Watch” by Variety Magazine. He has appeared on countless shows inclusive of CNN, Fox News, Oprah Winfrey Network (The Life Class, Super Soul Sunday Show, Help Desk Show), NBC and the Dr. Phil’s Show. He has also been featured in the Huffington Post, Essence, the Root, Global Grind, Ebony, Black Enterprise, Elev8 and JET, among others. Bornrich.com puts DeVon Franklin’s new worth at a coveted $10 million.
Franklin The Author
Franklin contributes to a blog where he lends practical advice on life, love and faith with the hope of providing inspiration for readers to live their true authentic and meaningful selves.
He has written two books; thus far, one is Produced by Faith: Enjoy Real Success Without Losing Your True Self it was published by Howard Books in 2011, which was his first New York Best-seller. Produced by Faith is a how-to-guide to pursuing a successful career while embracing your faith and creating a balance without compromise.
“As we were talking about it and sharing our testimony [about celibacy], there were a lot of people who really got blessed by it, and they just really were like, ‘How did it work?’ or ‘How did it help you?’ and because of that we thought writing a book would be a good way to help. It’s personal. We wanted to share something that was personal and share what worked for us in a nonjudgmental, non-preachy way. But we wanted to put something together that was positive about love, relationships and dating, to really help this generation hopefully have a manual for another way to do it that will lead to success.”-DeVon Franklin in an interview.
“Ministry is not something you put on; instead, it’s how you live. The moment you say, “I’m a Christian,” with that comes an expectation… The moment I say I am something, if I don’t allow my actions to support that, then I betray the integrity of the belief itself…”– DeVon Franklin.
He was ordained about ten years ago. He grew up in Wings of Love Maranatha Ministries in East Oakland where he practically started preaching at a young age, thanks to his uncle, Bishop D.J. Williams. He graduated college and while he was working with James Lassiter, his uncle called and requested his aid to preach in Oakland once a month. At first he was hesitant as he never saw how preaching was beneficial to making movies, but since he recalled how much of a good person his uncle had been to him growing up, he decided to return the favor. Eventually he embraced the practice of preaching and who he was as a person and a man of God.
He has spoken through ministries in many places, from Nashville to Dallas to Los Angeles to the Bay Area. He attributes his discipline to good work ethic and his upbringing in the church; he understood what was required to maintain the church. Eventually he learned how to balance his work and church and how to merge them. He remains observant the Sabbath no matter what, from Friday night sundown to Saturday night sundown; no calls, no emails, no movies; he just unplugs and spends time with family and God.
With over 200,000 followers through social media he reaches the masses through his mobile devices and personal computer. He has thought of the idea of an actual church but at the moment he says he doesn’t feel led to that, but he doesn’t know what God has in store for his future.
“If one day starting a physical church is what He wants me to do, I guess I’ll be obedient. But right now I don’t feel that urge to run and go set up shop like that.”– DeVon Franklin.
“I feel that there’s something unique about my perspective in the marketplace that, coming from the experience that I have professionally, adds a little more relevance, maybe, or it touches people in a different way. I want to continue to keep growing as an individual, as an executive, as a speaker, and continuing to reach more people.” – DeVon Franklin.
By Alexandra Daley