The Color Purple. Rocky. Star Wars. These are some of the most inspirational films to have come out of Hollywood, and the spark that ignited 36-year-old DeVon Franklin’s passion for entertainment as a child. A former Sony Pictures Studio executive and well-known motivational speaker, DeVon is branching out and launching his own production company to produce films that not only inspire but also wake people up to their purpose in life. MiLLENNiAL caught up with him at UniciCasa in Culver City to discuss what he has up his sleeve now that he is spearheading Franklin Entertainment.
Going from studio executive to producer can be risky for some. But with a first-look long term producing deal with Sony Studios, DeVon is embarking on his own entrepreneurial aspirations confident that his films will sell. “It’s about finding great content with mass appeal that still has an uplifting quality about it,” he says. Staying true to himself, he anticipates making films that offer commercial value while motivating audiences to have faith in their dreams.
Taking the Stairs Instead of the Elevator
Growing up in Oakland, DeVon was the middle child of three boys. After the loss of his father at the early age of nine, DeVon turned to Hollywood as an emotional comforter. Over the years he developed a love for film and attended the University of Southern California in order to get closer to the business. Throughout all four years, DeVon interned for Will Smith’s management company – Overbrook Entertainment.
Soon after graduating and becoming James Lassiter’s second assistant, he was ready for the next step in his career and was hired as a junior executive for producer Tracey Edmonds. This position earned him the attention of MGM where he became a junior studio executive. Sony later acquired MGM, and DeVon moved into a studio executive position for Columbia Pictures, the major label under Sony’s umbrella.
The first film he oversaw as a studio executive was The Pursuit of Happyness. This was the movie that connected him with what he believed was possible for his work within Hollywood. From that point forward, DeVon was determined to make films that trigger audiences to go after something. He emphasizes, “Hope and inspiration are the secret sauce of content.”
Understanding how box office dollars influence Hollywood’s success and direction, DeVon insists the money is not what drives him, but rather the ability to change someone’s life. “I want people’s hearts to be touched, their lives to be touched, and I want the evidence of that to show up at the box office.” In addition to inspiring viewers through his films, DeVon is also hitting the road and sharing his light with the country in-person.
DeVon Franklin the Orator
DeVon says his job as a preacher and motivational speaker is to “help people shape their destiny” in a practical way. His mission is to help the generation understand that goals – no matter how crazy they seem – are attainable through hard work. He associates his work with a calling in life and defines a calling as a God-given purpose. He eloquently breaks it down as first discovering your talents then searching out opportunity to act on them, and finally receiving confirmation to keep going.
Proving success doesn’t happen overnight, DeVon tells us it took 18 years just to get to the beginning of his dream. He advises young Millennials to not “wait for this magical opportunity to arise and plop in your lap because you’re going to miss it. You have to get up every day and work on it.” Even when faced with adversity DeVon has pushed through and kept going. “Don’t let fear be the thing that stops you.”
Being Christian in Hollywood
As a Christian in Hollywood, it’s difficult to be open about beliefs and values. But DeVon says, “You can’t worry about external forces, you have to focus on – this is what I’m here to do, this is what motivates me, this is how I’m called to live.”
In 2011, DeVon Franklin debuted Produced By Faith, a self-help book that correlates the reader’s quest for success with that of a movie getting made, while using his experiences of turning a script into a produced film. “Each chapter is a step on how the movie gets made so you can parallel that with how your life is ultimately getting made.” He labels it a manual for how Millennials and Gen Xers can find success in their authenticity, and suggests that the biggest obstacle we all face in pursuing our dreams is not having the courage to actually commit to it.
Just as DeVon Franklin injects a refreshing sense of humility and positivity into the new face of Hollywood, content producers everywhere should follow his lead and create stories that not only inspire individual growth but also motivate proactive decisions. We have entered an era of heightened awareness. The more we know the more we are responsible for contributing to our own solutions. Whether that results in inspirational contributions or personal achievements, our actions create unknown ripple effects in other people’s lives. Let us use that knowledge to create beneficial opportunities for all.