Award-winning film and TV producer, DeVon Franklin is posturing himself for Franklin Entertainment’s forthcoming box-office release, BREAKTHROUGH, alongside, Stephen Curry‘s Unanimous Media, and 20th Century Fox. The true story’s production grabs hold of its’ viewers and gives new meaning to stepping out on faith. Starring Chrissy Metz, (This Is Us) the film centers around a mother’s relentless belief following the impossible circumstance of her adopted son, John falling through an icy Missouri lake.

Despite loved one’s deteriorating optimism and the scientific prediction of John’s survival being meager — his mother, Joyce encouraged her community to extend prayers towards him. Echoing the inspiration of Franklin’s breakthrough movie, Miracles from Heaven, the producer invited to the Dallas-based roundtable discussion for BREAKTHROUGH. Together we explored the power of spiritual wellness, the film’s inner workings, how he ensured the BREAKTHROUGH cast resembled the real world and more. Find out why BREAKTHROUGH is a soon-to-be ticketed success in Franklin’s words now.

When did you realize there was a calling on your life?

DeVon Franklin: My father died when I was nine. My mother did not have money for therapy or anything like that. Going to church and watching the entertainment was therapy. I was one of those kids that just believed. You know? I was always one of those children [who reflected] like, “Okay, this is what the Bible says. This is what God said, and I believe that.”

So, I got baptized when I was 12 years old. Faith then became a piece of the fabric of my life. When I made my way through entertainment, it was always something that was with me. I felt, “How can I do this without God?” Coming into it at a young age, [spirituality] was something that made a difference and is something that continues to make a difference today.

In your book, The Hollywood Commandments, you talk a lot about people who have faith but are trying to find their way in this entertainment industry. It is a challenge to balance the two. What advice can you offer regarding your journey?

DF: Yes, since you mentioned it, The Hollywood Commandments is now coming out in paperback. (Laughs) We retitled it, The Success Commandments, it will release in April. Often with faith when people are trying to navigate their careers, they focus on faith, which is great. Still, they do this at the expense of putting in the work.

Your faith and my faith will not make up the difference for the work I do not do. It is so important to realize that. I have seen so many people of faith not make it as far as they could. They did not have the discipline. They did not put excellence in the work. In order to be successful, it is faith plus work. For me, I knew I wanted to be in entertainment. I knew I wanted to be a producer when I was young.

I started (working) in entertainment at 18 years old. I did not begin producing until I was 36. That is eighteen years and a lot of work. That is putting in the time and learning the craft, what goes into being a good producer, and making great films. Also, I was servicing other people. So, I would say to any person of faith trying to navigate any industry, not just Hollywood, “Yes, believe you are going to make it. Yet, work every day. When it is time, you will be ready.” Also, don’t put more on God than required. We have to participate as well.

You previously spoke about the darkness of this business and bringing light to it. What can you say to people who are concerned about assembling — considering people have been targeted in places of worship because of their faith?

DF: My heart goes out to those communities and families who have [recently] been affected. You know it is devastating. It is tragic and terrifying. So, it is understandable that any person of faith would think twice. [There are questions like], “Should I go? Is it going to be safe?” However, if we do that, those that want to put fear in the world win. So, it really requires us to be strong and be in solidarity — no matter what anyone’s [religious background] is.

We should not create division. We should be there for each other because we are all in this together. One of the reasons I wanted to produce BREAKTHROUGH is because it puts positivity back in the culture. A lot of times these things are happening because people latch onto negative things that are circulating in the culture.

As a result, they feel justified in doing what they do. I cannot control what other people are doing. I can only control what I do with the platform I have. The goal is to put positivity, inspiration, motivation, and hope into the world. This is used as a way to show people there is another way.

I do think it is important that we do anything we can to be present for anyone who is affected by these issues. They are issues that are going to require all of our participation. It is so important that we don’t look at these occurrences as a Muslim thing or a Christian thing. We are all in this, and we have to figure out how we can protect our communities. We need to continue to preserve places of worship.

In BREAKTHROUGH, Chrissy Metz’s character, Joyce, is not enthused about Pastor Noble’s service music selection. How opened-minded do you believe church leaders should be with methods to involve young people while incorporating tradition?

DF: Yes, that is always still a hot button issue. I think that each ministry is different. What is so important about ministry is identifying (what works), similarly, to restaurants. When you look at different restaurants, each has its own style and flavor. There is not one restaurant that does it all, except for The Cheesecake Factory. (Laughs) Beyond that, that is about it!

I think with ministries it is important not to try to be everything to everybody. Own what you do well. Have a style of music that works for the form of worship. Sometimes that will mean more traditional [selections], other times that will mean more contemporary (options). Whatever is organic to the ministry that is what they should try to do. There (is no need) to try and do something or become something a ministry is not.

With the casting of this film, how important to you was it that the film resembled the outside world?

DF: For any audience, that is very important. In the real story, John Smith is from Guatemala. We portrayed that accurately in the film. Still, we wanted to make sure the film represented the world that we live in. So, both Tommy Shine and Dr. Garrett are white. Nonetheless, I know Tommy Shine, and said, “Hey! Luke Cage is going to play you. Are you cool with that?” (Laughs) We wanted to make sure the film represents the world.

Here I am, a Black man producing the film. You have a Latina director for BREAKTHROUGH. Marcel Ruiz plays John Smith. He is also Latino. With Chrissy Metz, this is her first feature film, and she is a white woman starring. All of these groups, historically, are groups that Hollywood has held back. Now in this film, we are getting a chance to breakthrough. It is a really exciting time to be a part of it.

How did Stephen Curry get involved?

DF: Of course, that is my brother. We met! I sat down with the two men that run his (production) company, Unanimous Media, Jeron Smith and Eric. They spoke about their desires to get into entertainment. Steph talked about his desire to do a film that involved faith, family, and sports. I told Steph, “Hey, read BREAKTHROUGH. I think you are going to really like the story.”

I pitched it to him. He was very moved by it. Steph read the film’s script in a day, and came back saying, “I am in!” So, I brought him on as an executive producer. The same way he has an all-star team with the Golden State Warriors, I said let’s create a BREAKTHROUGH all-star team. Him coming onboard has been fantastic.

Steph Curry has been able to amplify the message of this film. Working together has been great. This is the first film that he is producing, and lending his name to. I have been in Hollywood for twenty years. I am all about, “Let’s build it.” For me, it is nice to partner in this way.

Did you add the portion about him in the film later?

DF: Oh, yes! We added that later. [Laughs] We had to give Steph Curry a little nod. Then if you notice, at the very beginning of the movie, there is a poster of him at Davidson [College] in the bathroom. So, you know, there is little subtle hints. That was cool.

What would you say to someone who did not experience the upside of the breakthrough in this movie?

DF: The quality of our life comes down to one word, expectation. How we manage expectations determines our happiness, some of our anxiety, frustrations, and those moments we are elated. So, I would say to anyone who [is wavering as a result of] not getting the breakthrough they were praying for, “That is understandable.” However, I would encourage that same person to say, “Maybe I did not get the breakthrough I prayed for. What are the breakthroughs I can actually be grateful for?”

In the face of (BREAKTHROUGH viewers) not understanding the way God operates, I do not understand either. His ways are mysterious. However, I still can look at situations [as affirmations], “I woke up today. I am alive. I have my right mind. I am further along now than I was before.” In the moments we are disappointed, we should still find the things we can be grateful for. Focus on those things.

Following BREAKTHROUGH, what will be your next film?

DF: My next film is going to be about the creator of CHEETOS Crunchy FLAMIN’ HOT. He was a Mexican janitor that worked for Frito-Lay. I am developing it right now. It is a true story, too. I am looking to make it this summer.

If you loved The Pursuit of Happyness, you are going to love this movie. It is the most inspirational story since. Richard Montañez is the son of an immigrant. The CEO of the company sent out a video telling his employees to, “Think like a CEO.” Richard saw the video and thought, “Okay, I can help save the company.” Everyone looked at him saying, “That video was not for you. No, that was talking to the executives.”

Anyway, he was thinking like a CEO as a janitor. Richard pitched, “If we can add chili powder to a Cheetoh, we can get this product to appeal to the Latino market. The company is not marketing to Latinos, and if they do, it will change everything.” The CEO believed in him. Richard created the product, and it’s packaging. They gave him a shot.

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are currently a billion-dollar brand. Richard went from being the janitor to becoming the Vice President of multicultural [sales and community activation for PepsiCo North America]. When you see it, it represents hope and possibility. Here is what happens when you think beyond your status — when you can see something in yourself that others could not see in you.

By Bianca Alysse for

About The Author

Bianca Alysse is a creatively driven Bronx-born writer and editor. Before becoming The Knockturnal‘s music editor she served as Latina‘s creative coordinator and was a contributor at Billboard. The Boricua scribe has a lengthy resume in the music industry and has penned for Universal Music Publishing Group, Epic Records, G.O.O.D. Music, Compound Entertainment, Artistry & Récords, and Arcade Creative Group. Her work has been seen on platforms like VIBE, mitú, TIDAL, Remezcla, and behind the scenes at New York Fashion Week. As an independent contractor, she has written for Sony Music Entertainment’s global business affairs department, Warner Music Group, and currently Roc Nation.

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