Jon Erwin, writer/director OCTOBER BABY
Jon Erwin and his brother Andy are fist-time feature filmmakers. They cut their teeth in the business by writing, producing and directing award-winning music videos. I talked with Jon about this new project, OCTOBER BABY which will be in theaters beginning Friday, March 23rd.
Dove: I understand that you were second unit director for COURAGEOUS. Was that your introduction to the Kendrick Brothers and Sherwood Pictures?
Jon: Yes. Alex and Stephen [Kendrick] contacted me about a camera they wanted to use that I was familiar with. The script called for several special action scenes; a cop chase requiring stunts. My experience with chase scenes and other action sequences and stunts in music videos helped prepare me for this job. My role was to take a small group of cast members and get them off by themselves and film some of these more dangerous scenes, making sure no one got hurt in the process.
Dove: What was it like working for the Kendrick’s?
Jon: While I was there, Alex asked me, “Jon, what is your purpose?” That was a very convicting question, because my brother Andy and I didn’t quite know where we fit. Up until that time, we were “hired guns” working on other people’s projects – mostly music videos. We won “Video of the Year” three years in a row at the Dove Music Awards [produced by The Gospel Music Association] and felt we were at the top of our game.
Dove: So how did Alex’s question convict you?
Jon: It took me several months of prayer and searching to find the answer. Finally Andy and I “got out of the boat” if you will, and stepped out into the great unknown. We were seriously considering what was next and we felt led to make our own film. It was about that time that I heard two words I had never before heard in the same sentence – “abortion” and “survivor.”
Dove: In what context did you hear those words used?
Jon: I was referred to a YouTube video of Gianna Jessen, who had survived a botched abortion and was totally shocked by such a reality. Andy and I wanted to tell Gianna’s story, but felt that a documentary would be too vivid and painful. I thought of the verse [Luke 16:8] “And it is true that the children of darkness are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light.” So we thought that it might be best to inject Gianna’s story as an abortion survivor into a love story about a young lady who was taking a road trip trying to understand who she is.
Dove: How did you incorporate Gianna’s story into your film?
Jon: Hanna, the lead character in our film, finds herself on a journey of self-discovery to get to the bottom of her emotional and physical problems. She learns along the way that she was adopted and was miraculously rescued during an abortion attempt. The ultimate message in the film is finding the power of forgiveness.
Dove: Abortion is a pretty risky subject for a feature film. What motivated you to step out anyway?
Jon: A lot of friends told us not to make this controversial film. Studios wouldn’t touch it. But we felt led to make it because it’s such an important issue, and we are already seeing positive fruit as a result.
Dove: I think you handled this delicate subject with great sensitivity and style without white-washing the issue. Thank you for your courage and filmmaking skills. OCTOBER BABY is a very well-crafted story sure to move everyone who sees it.
Gianna Jessen, abortion survivor and so much more!
Gianna Jessen is an abortion survivor, writer, conference speaker and talented singer whose true life story inspired the film OCTOBER BABY. The first thing I noticed upon meeting Gianna was her friendly and open disposition.
Dove: Thank you for taking the time to share your story. I was stuck by your bright smile and enthusiasm. Where do they come from?
Gianna: I am passionate about my relationships with God and my friends. The only real family I have is made up of those friends who are around me, like the Erwin’s. If I hadn’t been passionate about living, I would have died. God literally saved me from being burned alive in the womb.
Dove: What struggles have you faced as a result?
I have been blessed with the illness of Cerebral Palsy. When I say that, some people wonder what I mean. I tell them that CP is rough, but it beats death.
Dove: I had heard your story several years ago and was greatly moved. You have become well-known for the tragic circumstances that you were subjected to at birth. What’s next for Gianna Jessen?
Gianna: I know that many people who have heard my story have been blessed and that many, if not hundreds of babies have been saved as a result. And for that I am grateful. I believe that God now wants to take me from the title of “Abortion Survivor” to singer- songwriter. I hear God saying, “I never intended for your life to be singularly focused on the tragedy surrounding your birth. You have so much more to offer the world.”
Dove: It seems like you’re transitioning from what was done to you at birth to what you’ve done on your own.
Gianna: That’s right! It’s time for me to fulfill the other plans God has for me; plans for my growth that came out of the experience I had. My starting point began at age 14.
Dove: Jeremiah 29:11 quotes God as saying; “I know the plans I have for you…” Has God spelled out any plans for your future?
Gianna: I’m going to Italy, most likely in November, to sing with Bocelli. [Andrea Bocelli, the renowned blind Italian tenor]. All I can think of is singing the Doxology with him. I want to honor God with my music and my life and to magnify Christ. I was recently contacted by Joni Erickson Tada, and she wants to meet with me and share our stories. I first saw her when I was age 7 and crawled up to her chair and hugged her. I’m really looking forward to meeting her.
Dove: What place are you at today?
Gianna: I wrote on my Facebook page that I’m 34 years old and the cycle of my life has been joy, sorrow and miracles interspersed with fleeting moments of happiness. I’m beginning to understand the power of God’s grace. So I try and emulate that grace in my encounters with others. Too many people major in the minors and focus on the unimportant things. If we can overlook our differences, we can become better children of God.
Dove: Thank you for sharing your heart, Gianna. I’m certain that God has a bright future for you and your special gifts of music and writing.