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A Topic That Captures the Heart

with Jon Erwin, Rachel Hendrix | March 15, 2012

Abortion" and "survivor". Those words seem diametrically opposed, but they are joined together in the dramatic movie, "October Baby," releasing in theaters March 23. Jon Erwin, producer of the movie, tells the story of 19-year-old Hannah, whose life is upended when she learns that she is adopted and the survivor of a failed abortion. Also joining Jon in the studio is "October Baby" lead actress, Rachel Hendrix, who plays Hannah.

Abortion" and "survivor". Those words seem diametrically opposed, but they are joined together in the dramatic movie, "October Baby," releasing in theaters March 23. Jon Erwin, producer of the movie, tells the story of 19-year-old Hannah, whose life is upended when she learns that she is adopted and the survivor of a failed abortion. Also joining Jon in the studio is "October Baby" lead actress, Rachel Hendrix, who plays Hannah.

A Topic That Captures the Heart

With Jon Erwin, Rachel Hendrix
|
March 15, 2012
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob:  There is a growing number of Christian-themed movies being created and released in theaters.  Filmmaker Jon Erwin has a new moving coming out called October Baby, and he says moviemakers need to remember that there’s more to a good movie than a good message.

Hannah:  [Movie clip] Three weeks ago I found out that my entire life is a lie.  So I went on a trip.

Jon:  The first thing a film has to be is entertaining.  We go to the movies to be entertained.  Hopefully October Baby is an entertaining piece of art that people go see, and they’ll laugh, they’ll cry—they’ll just feel great, leaving the theater—but it will make them think about life and the sanctity of life—not tell them what to think, but make them think for themselves.

Woman:  [Movie clip] I know where your birthmother is.

Man:  [Movie clip] You have the power to forgive, to choose to forgive.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, March 15th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.   We’ll talk today about the new movie, October Baby, and about the power of a story to influence how we think.   Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  I’ve confessed many times here, on FamilyLife Today, that every year, when I watch It’s a Wonderful Life—when it gets to the part where they find Zuzu’s petals in Jimmy Stewarts’ pocket, it kind of chokes me up; right?

Dennis:  Right.

Bob:  I’ve mentioned that.

Dennis:  Right.

Bob:  Well, the movie that comes out next weekend kind of choked you up when you watched it; didn’t it?

Dennis:  Oh, man.  This may be one of those movies—one of the first movies that I watched before you did, I think.

Bob:  No, I watched it before you did.

Dennis:  Did you?

Bob:  Yes.  I got it a couple of days before I passed it along to you.  (Laughter)

Dennis:  Ah-h-h.  You always have to be ahead of me in these things.  We have some folks here who are part of a brand-new movie that you watched first, October Baby.  Jon Erwin and Rachel Hendrix join us on FamilyLife Today.  Rachel, Jon, welcome to the broadcast.

Jon:  Thank you so much for having us.

Rachel:  Thank you.  It’s great to be here.

Dennis:  Rachel, this is your debut as an actress; right?

Rachel:  Yes, my first feature film.

Dennis:  First feature film.  And Jon, you’ve done a number of music videos, won a number of Dove awards.

Jon:  Yes, yes.

Dennis:  But is this your first film?  I know you made one with your brother when you were a teenager.

Jon:  We’ve been working together, literally since I was 14 and he was 17; and we’ve been making all kinds of stuff.  Yes, done a lot of music videos, and documentaries, and a bunch of stuff.  We have won some awards for music videos that we’ve done in the Christian space; but this is our first time to really venture out and tell our own story, as a feature film, that we feel like God put on our hearts—something we feel like is important.  Hopefully, the audience will feel that way, as well.

Bob:  If we could go back and see that film from when you were 14 and he was 17, what was the story of that one?  (Laughter)

Jon:  Okay, this is embarrassing.

Dennis:  This is your brother, Andy.

Jon:  My brother.  Yes, we flipped a coin on who would come on the show.  My brother Andy and I are partners in crime, and we co-direct and produce.  We’ve worked, literally, together for 15 years, since we were teenagers.  It started at a place called Word of Life Island, a little island in Schroon Lake, New York—a camp where 500 kids would come every week.

Dennis:  Yes.

Jon:  When I was 14 and he was 17, around about there, we did a video for the island.  We would have these little hike cameras, and we would make these videos.  They would be commercials or weekend review pieces.  We did this big, epic extravaganza called Summer Knights.  It was like Knights of the Round Table, and I thought it was really an epic.  I thought it was incredible.

Dennis:  The most awesome.

Jon:  The most awesome thing ever.

Dennis:  Sound of Music—in that category?

Jon:  It blew away Sound of Music, in my mind, at the time, when I was 14.  We showed this to 500 screaming kids, and the thought was that they would stand and cheer.  That would have been the goal.  I sat dead center of 500 kids, and the video played.  It was awful.  I thought it was great; but in retrospect, it was awful.  Literally, it ended dead silent.

Dennis:  They didn’t boo, though.

Jon:  Well, no.  Here’s what happened.  The guy beside me said, “Is that it?” when it was over.  It literally shattered me.  To this day, when we screen our films, I won’t be in the theater.  I’ll be like pacing the hallways.  (Laughter)  We’ve gotten better from there, but that’s where the journey started.  God just put us in entertainment very early, and then He began to shape our skill.  Then, He began to really transform our hearts and realize how we could use this amazing thing. 

Like you said, It’s a Wonderful Life—that’s a movie I go see every year.  I heard something that said, “Pain is temporary.  Film is forever.”  We say that a lot on our film sets.  The idea is that everybody associated with that film is gone; but the film lives on and the message of the film lives on.  There’s just something so special about films and what they can do in our culture.

Dennis:  I wanted to make sure you told the story about a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old making an epic film because there are moms and dads listening who have kids who are all over technology.  They’re making videos, and they’re doing stuff.  They’re wondering, “Man, this is a waste of time.”  But you never know—

Jon:  You never know.

Dennis:  —how God will be building a fire in the heart of a young man or a young lady who may be performing, maybe a Christmas play—

Rachel:  Well, I have my funny 14-year-old stories about acting, too.

Dennis:  Well, go ahead.

Bob:  Go ahead.  Tell us.

Rachel:  Well, we get started in small things.  I think, when I was 15, I auditioned for Guys and Dolls.  We did a joint production at our two rival high schools.  I auditioned for the lead, Sarah.  I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Guys and Dolls.  Well, she’s—

Bob:  The Salvation Army lady; right?

Rachel:  She’s a singer, and you have a lot of singing parts.  I got up on stage, and I auditioned.  I just –oh, I just froze.  My voice was, “Ah-e-ah-e-ah”, trying to sing, you know.  My knees are literally knocking; and they’re like, “Oh-h- ka-a-y. Well, go stand over there, with all the other rejects; and we’ll find a place for you.”  I got cast as a crap-shooter.  I played a man!  (Laughter)  I played a crap-shooter in Guys and Dolls.

Dennis:  So who was wounded deeper on this deal—Jon in his debut or you?

Jon:  I was pretty messed up.  I don’t know.

Rachel:  You know, I did wear lipstick, though.  I’m sure the audience was very confused about that crap-shooter, Number 12, over there.

Bob:  We should say the movie we’re talking about, October Baby—Rachel, you have the lead role—

Rachel:  Right.  Right.

Bob:  —in the film.  Jon, you and your brother directed it, wrote it, and produced it.

Jon:  Yes, uh-huh.

Bob:  Tell us the story.

Jon:  October Baby is a movie I probably would have avoided as a first movie.  It’s an issue I probably would have avoided, but God captured my heart with the issue.  I was working on the movie Courageous.  I was directing second unit, and Alex Kendrick—a great guy; a great friend—looked me in the eye and said, “What’s your purpose and what’s the purpose of your work?”  That really penetrated my heart because, at the point, I hadn’t really decided where I fit.  Then, around that time, I learned that two words could fit together that I didn’t know could fit together—that’s the word, “abortion”, and the word, “survivor.”  I didn’t know that that was a reality—that somebody could survive an abortion and have ongoing effects forever. 

It’s a heavy subject; but I felt like, “What if you wrapped it in an entertaining film?  What if you told a story?”  The story of October Baby is about a young, beautiful girl that your heart just goes out to—19-year-old, Hannah.  She discovers that she’s adopted and was never told because she’s the survivor of an abortion.  She has to go on a road-trip, a journey to find her birthmother, to find answers, to find who she is.  Ultimately, it becomes a story about the power of forgiveness—about how amazing and powerful forgiveness can be. 

I think the first thing a film has to be is entertaining.  We go to the movies to be entertained.  Hopefully, October Baby is an entertaining piece of art that people go see, and they’ll laugh, they’ll cry, they’ll be motivated—they’ll just feel great, leaving the theater; but it will make them think about life and the sanctity of life—not tell them what to think, but make them think for themselves.  Sometimes we’re so preoccupied that we don’t think about the important life issues today.

[Movie clip]

Woman:  Your mother came back the next day.  She said she wanted to finish the procedure—that she had to go to school.  She had to have a career, and she knew she couldn’t do that with the baby.  This was the only way.  I took one look at her; and I knew she was in labor, and too young and naïve to know it.  I had two choices.  I chose to take her to the hospital.  When we got there, she was ready to deliver.  She begged me to stay.  I was really the only one she had, so I did.  Your brother came first.

Hannah:  Brother?  I’m sorry.  What are you talking about?

Woman:  Hannah, your mother was carrying twins, and your brother came first.  I’ll always remember him.  He was so teeny.  He was less than a pound.  I saw him shakin’ there.  But you were the big surprise.  Nobody knew about you, not even your mother.  When you came out—big eyes—just beautiful—

Jon:  [Studio]  My goal is for people to go see it and really come out of the theater, having had a great experience of entertainment, thinking, “What do I believe about this issue?  The Bible says faith without works is dead, so how does my belief—how should that translate into my behavior, into what I do?”  That’s the goal.  That’s what I hope that people can do this weekend, and I hope that’s what we can do in the masses—is just by going and seeing an entertaining movie, you’re becoming a part of a voice, where we’re all celebrating the beauty of life together.

Dennis:  Rachel, Jon admitted he’d never dreamed he would be making his first film around the issue of abortion and protecting life.  What about you?

Rachel:  Yes, it’s a jump for both of us, I think, to have this subject matter be the undercurrent of a film.  It’s a coming-of-age story and all of the things that happen to this 19-year-old, who is searching for answers.  Our hope is that we’ve taken this chance and dealt with a subject gracefully, and gently, and beautifully—that it is well-received.  That’s our hope.

Dennis:  You really did do a good job of addressing the subject—yet, not making it in neon lights, flashing—that this is a film about protecting life.

Jon:  Yes.

Dennis:  I like how you said it.  It is a story about a 19-year-old young lady, a college freshman, who is a human being, who has a story around her life.  I still want to know, if I’d known you in high school or college, would I have known you as being someone who really had strong convictions about those issues, as a young lady?

Rachel:  I think so, but you’d probably have to ask the people around me.  I was kind of a—I don’t want to say I was a recluse—but I always wanted to be involved in making art, in whatever facet.  I think I, in my youth, I wouldn’t say I was a very big talker.  I guess, this is a sad fact—I probably wouldn’t have spoken up.

Dennis:  But you had the convictions, though.

Rachel:  Yes.  Yes.

Dennis:  I want to applaud you, as an artist, and you, as an artist as well, Jon, for using your craft of your trade to proclaim your convictions because others are doing that in other ways that are not honoring, I think, what God honors in the Scriptures.

Jon:  Yes.  I was reading USA Today this morning.  There was an interview with George Lucas, where he said every film has a message.  Every film is basically a world-view.  I think that it’s time Christians engaged the arts.  This is a place, I think—the verse that God gave Andy and me is a verse in Acts that says, “David served the purposes of God in his generation and fell asleep.”  I heard Rick Warren say, “David gave God’s truth, what never changed, to his generation that was constantly changing.” 

We have to constantly find ways of doing that.  I just believe that the finest way of doing that today is a movie.  An entertaining movie can get a message across to this generation, and it can really make them think.  I’m just glad that God moved in my heart. 

It was a scary transition for me, from music videos—from Andy and me doing that—from where people would hire us to venturing out and doing something like this for ourselves.  Obviously, it wasn’t that we thought the concept was marketable; it was from conviction.  We felt we just had to do something.  My hope is that the audience will join us.  This has been our movie.  Now, we’re giving it to the audience; and I hope we can all stand up and celebrate life together, by seeing an entertaining movie.

Bob:  This story—when you sat down to write—you had a wide-open white canvas.  You could write whatever you wanted.  How did the story come together; and did you start off by saying, “Let’s do something about adoption,” or “Let’s do something about the pro-life message”?  Where did it come from?

Jon:  That’s what I love about film.  That’s what keeps me doing it—is that you can stare at a blank piece of paper and come up with an idea, and that translates.  It becomes real, and then people can experience it.  It’s an amazing thing! 

I wish I could say there was some brilliant moment where I had October Baby, but I’m totally ADD.  I was, literally, driving with my wife; and she’s a planner.  She was planning out, at the time, the rest of our lives.  She was basically saying, “The birth of our second child—if he or she was born in this month, we would get this kind of wardrobe.”  She said, “What if we had a November baby?  What if we had a September baby?”  I’m just kind of clued out of the conversation.  Then, she said, “What if we had an October baby?”  It just kind of stopped me in my tracks; and I said, “October Baby.  That would be a great coming-of-age story about a young girl, trying to find herself.”

Dennis:  Well, that fits!

Rachel:  Why October versus September or December?

Jon:  I don’t know.  I don’t know.  That’s just where the idea came from.  (Laughter)  Like any filmmaker does, I put it in the “idea vault”.  There are several things there.  I just became aware of the fact that the words, “abortion”, and the word, “survivor”, go together.  I didn’t know that.  I was so profoundly moved by that.  I didn’t know what to do about it, but I felt I had to do something about it—to bring awareness to this. 

I didn’t want to make an “us”-versus-“them” piece on abortion, or, “We’re the good guys; they’re the bad guys,” or a political piece.  There’s a line in the film that says, “To be human is to be beautifully flawed.”  I believe that, and I believe that there is hope, and redemption, and grace, no matter what we do in life.  I began to think, “What do I do about this?” 

I heard James Cameron speak about Avatar.  He said he became passionate about our relationship to the earth, the environment, and all this stuff.  He said his issue was boring, so he said he became subversive and injected his issue into a blockbuster so that people seeing the blockbuster would be evangelized to his point of view.  I was so convicted because I said, “That’s so shrewd.  That’s so wise.”  The verse, “in their generation wiser than the children of light” came to mind.  I said, “I have this thing that I’m convicted about.  What if I put it into this entertaining idea that I had about a young girl trying to find herself?  What if the catalyst of the story is she finds this out about herself, and she has to deal with it?” 

We’ve always talked about the issue; but very rarely have we looked at the person, at the victim.  So this would be a lens into looking at the person, and that would be a very interesting lens.  Hopefully, it would create a lot of conversation.  Hopefully, it’s a bit of a new lens on the pro-life issue and something that people can use as a conversation starter. It’s amazing that it’s not in your face.  We screened the film out in California, and a lady came up to us at a secular film festival.  She said, “I’m an atheist.  I’m a liberal.  I don’t agree, but I can’t deny that the character in your story is a victim.  You’ve made me think.  I have to think about my stance on this issue.” 

A mom took her daughter.  She raised her daughter pro-life, a very conservative Christian.  Her daughter had gone off to school, become very liberal, become pro-choice; and they watched the movie together.  Without any argument, her daughter said, “You know what?  I’m pro-life now because of what’s in that movie.  I’ve seen it through a new lens.”  That’s our hope—that it can do stuff like that.

Bob:  Rachel, do you remember reading the script for the first time?

Rachel:  I do.  It was January, 2010.

Bob:  What was the experience?

Rachel:  I sat down and read the whole thing, beginning to end, in my living room.  I think, towards the last three or four pages, I was weeping.  I was just very emotionally affected.  He told me the plot, and told me what it was about.  I think the stuff that really penetrated my heart was the reconciliation, and the restoration of her relationship with her father, which also is something that I can connect with personally. 

When I was reading that, all these emotions were flooding; and I remember just having an experience, for myself, not necessarily just what the story was—to wrap up—and say that the script and everything—the gamut of emotions that Hannah has to show, throughout everything, is intense.  As Jon and Andy said, “We wrote this for you, so I hope you can do it.  Yay!  Here you go.”  I remember just thinking, “Wow. It’s going to be amazing to be a part of this.”

Dennis:  I never saw the script, but I did see the movie.  I was sideswiped.  You got me!  What you don’t know about Barbara and me is we have an adopted daughter, and the search for her birth mother continues. 

Jon:  Oh, wow.

Dennis:  It was powerful.  It really was powerful   Rachel, you did a good job.  I don’t know how much we want to reveal here of the plot because it was such a delight.  Can I say that as I cry?  I can—a delight to see how God orchestrated events, not in a plastic or in a veneer-type of way—where it was real surfacey—but it was real life.  It was real people encountering a real story, a 19-year-old girl. 

I was not ready.  You had me because it wasn’t front and center.  I was really caught up in Hannah’s life, and what was taking place there, because I’ve had a Hannah; you know?  I think this is going to be a great movie, for a lot of reasons—the story—but also, and I told this to Bob, Jon, I just thought your production values and your shots really showed phenomenal excellence and honors God—really, with quality that—

People aren’t going to go to this and they aren’t going to say—and I’ve used this phrase too many times here in the last couple of years—but it’s not a cheesy, Christian film.  You know what?  You can put it in there with the best of them.  You guys made a great team, and you did a great job.

Rachel:  Thank you.

Jon:  Thank you for that.

Bob:  This is one of those movies you can take your friends to, no matter who your friends are.

Jon:  Yes.

Dennis:  You can take your kids, too.  They’re not going to be bored.

Bob:  Right.

Dennis:  They’re going to fall right in the middle of this, and they’re going to identify with the emotions and the ebb and flow of what’s taking place there.

Bob:  I think that we should say it’s not geared toward younger children.  You’d want to take your adolescents, your teenagers, to go with you to see this movie.  Again, if you’d like more information about October Baby, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com; and click on the link for October Baby.  It will take you to their website.  You can watch the trailer for the movie there, get more information about where the movie is opening, and find out if it’s going to be in a theater near where you live.  Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.  Click on the link for the movie, October Baby, to get more information.

Let me also mention, and you alluded to this, Dennis, we have a ministry, here at FamilyLife, called Hope for Orphans®.  A big part of Hope for Orphans is helping people understand the issue of adoption, pray about it, consider whether that’s something that would be right for your family.  If you’ve ever thought about adoption for your family, if it’s something you’ve had questions about, go to FamilyLifeToday.com, and click on the link that says, “Adoption Information”.  It will take you to an area of our website where you can get more information.  There are resources that are available to help you think through and pray through whether adoption is something your family ought to consider.

Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call us toll-free if you’d like more information: 1-800-FL-TODAY; that’s 1-800 “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.  When you get in touch with us, someone on our team can answer any questions you have about the adoption resources that we have available.

Let me also mention how grateful we are, here at FamilyLife, for those of you who are Legacy Partners.  A Legacy Partner is somebody who makes a monthly contribution to FamilyLife Today—helps cover the cost of producing and syndicating this radio program, all across the country.  We appreciate those of you who do that faithfully. 

This month, we have set a goal.  We’d like to see about one new Legacy Partner family in every city where FamilyLife Today is heard.  We’re heard in about 1,100 cities; and actually, our goal is about 1,500 new Legacy Partners.  That’s pretty close to 1.4 new Legacy Partners in each city where FamilyLife Today is heard.  We’re asking you to consider joining with the team and becoming a Legacy Partner. 

When you do, we have a Legacy Partner welcome kit that we’d love to send you, that welcomes you to the team.  Throughout the year, we will make available resources to you, special Legacy Partner resources designed to help strengthen your marriage and your family.  Find out more about becoming a Legacy Partner when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com.  Click on the link there that says, “Become a Legacy Partner”. 

Again, we’d like to ask you to just consider that.  Would you and your spouse, if you’re married, pray about that possibility, becoming the family in your city who signs on to become a new Legacy Partner and helps cover the costs associated with FamilyLife Today

Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information; or if you’re ready to sign on as a Legacy Partner, call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say, “I want to join the team.”  Let me just say, “Thanks,” in advance for even considering being a part of that team.  We appreciate those of you who will join with us, this month, as new Legacy Partners.

Now tomorrow, we want to encourage you to be back with us again.  We’re going to continue talking about the new movie, October Baby, that comes out next weekend in theaters.  We’re going to talk more about making movies that honor and glorify God and promote a biblical worldview.  I hope you can tune in for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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