The award-winning producer's new book, "The Hollywood Commandments," offers a guide to combining your faith and your purpose.
- Posted on Oct 5, 2017
DeVon Franklin knows a thing or two about success.
The award-winning film producer and New York Times best-selling author has been behind box office hits like Heaven Is for Real and The Karate Kid. He’s made millions of dollars for movie studios and brought stories to the screen that have captivated audiences around the world. But most importantly, he’s proven that you don’t have to sacrifice your faith for success (and vice versa).
In his new book, The Hollywood Commandments, Franklin blends scripture and spiritual teachings with his own experiences in the secular world, hoping to weave a path for others who want to pursue their calling.
In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader
We spoke with Franklin about the meaning of success, the trap of false modesty, and the one question he always gets asked.
There were a lot of “Aha” moments in this book. Why did you want to write it?
In the church, there really isn't teaching around how to become successful. How do you dominate your field of interest? I wanted to write it to address that very issue. God has called all of us to operate in our gift and operate in our calling. Too often the church has conditioned us in this ‘beware’ mentality. ‘Yes, we want you to be everything God wants you to be, but don't go too far.’
It's like the myth used to be that the world was flat; if you go too far you're going to fall off. Well, many times, spiritually, we still believe that. The best way to honor God, and give our life back to Him is to be everything He created us to be. I wanted to write The Hollywood Commandments as real strategy on how to do it. I'm combining spiritual teachings with secular strategy, so that the gap can be filled. So any person of faith can read this book and say, ‘Oh, okay. Now I know how to begin to navigate my industry and navigate what I'm called to do.’
I’m sure you’ve gotten this question before: How do you hold onto your faith working in Hollywood? How do you want to address that so maybe you don't get this question anymore?
So much of Hollywood is vilified. ‘It's the same as Sodom and Gomorrah. It's the Devil's playground. How do you keep your faith in Hollywood?’ But I ask a similar question back. You can only be tempted by what you want.
Temptation is relative to whatever industry you're in and whatever your personal ambitions are. You could be in ministry and face great temptation. The enemy is always going to be there to try and tempt you to take a shortcut, to tempt you to operate outside of your character. If I'm not thirsty and someone puts a bottle of water in front of me, it's not tempting. Why? Because I'm not thirsty. I wouldn't say that Hollywood in and of itself has more temptations than any other industry. It comes down to the person.
For me, in Hollywood, my ambition from day one has been to make change. Whether it's through writing a book, whether it's through speaking, whether it's through being on television, whether it's through making movies. You know, my goal is to use entertainment as a vehicle to help bring change into people's lives.
How do you handle the notoriety?
So I wrote the commandment “How to Manage the Walk of Fame” so that you know how to deal with that. If you're great, then people are going to know you. Bottom line. I want to be successful. I want to be great. Okay, so now I have to be very careful because it's not just about achieving it, it’s about how I achieve it.
The ends do not justify the means for a person of faith. The means are everything. So I have to really be patient. I have to be persistent. I have to look at my character. I have to look at my integrity and I have to constantly check in with God. God is this what You want me to do? Is this how You want me to do it?
The enemy wants nothing more than for us to never operate our full gifting. This is why I wrote this book. Because I want people to take more accountability and responsibility for their lives and say, ‘Success is within my grasp and here's how I can find it. Here's how I can navigate any temptation that may come my way and here's how I can better because of it.’
What do you say to people who feel like their faith requires them to pursue a certain path – they may not feel called to something like missionary work, but that’s what’s expected of them by the church?
Your difference is your destiny. Too often the church has this pre-approved list of what's accepted. It's okay being a missionary, leading the praise team, being a doctor, a lawyer, being a pastor. Those are preordained. If you don't fit that then either people will vilify you or they will tell you, ‘No, no, you have to do one of these.’ And I believe the way that God looks at our gifting is much broader than that.
There’s a section in the book about knowing your worth but as Christians. We’re taught to be humble and modest. Do those ideas conflict when it comes to pursuing success?
I think it's a really important distinction. Yes, I am humble about recognizing that my gifts and my abilities do not come from me. I'm humble that God would choose me to do what He's called me to do on Earth. Now, false humility is what gets us in trouble when it comes to negotiating or walking out on our calling. We're like, ‘Oh, well, you know, it's okay. I don't need much. You know, it's all right. I know I'm not getting paid what everyone else is getting paid, but it's okay, I'm just happy to have my job.’ That's false humility.
If you are here and you create value, you deserve to be compensated for that value. And you have to articulate and sometimes campaign to be compensated for that value and that is completely within your right as a believer.
You have a great story in the book about being Benny Medina’s driver, which seems like a low-level job. And yet you found great reward in it.
When you are aspiring to become great at what you do, to move up the corporate ladder, to get further in your career, what, then, is beneath you? I have to put myself in environments where I can get opportunity, which will give me more information, which will help me build my experience, which is the combination to become successful. In that example of, okay go drive your boss around, 'Oh this is beneath me.' Beneath what? You're at the bottom. What's beneath you? Right? That was my attitude.
I had a chance to make a direct impression on him. So anyone out there that is [wondering], ‘Is this service or servitude? I learned that the power of service will really help transform your whole life and career because the better you become at servicing someone, the more opportunity they're going to give you, the more information you're going to get, the more expertise you're going to receive. Then as a result you're going to become more successful.