Washington-area pro-life activists and other conservatives watched a special March 7 pre-release screening of the film “October Baby” at the Heritage Foundation.
The film is an attempt to make an entertaining and accessible movie about the unexplored struggles of abortion survivors, said Jon Erwin, who with his brother Andrew directed the film.
“I never knew there was such a thing as an abortion survivor,” he said.
Erwin, who introduced the film and led the discussion panel after the screening, said he resolved to make the film after Christian filmmaker Alex Kendrick confronted him about how he was handling his career. “He asked me: ‘What is your purpose?’”
Having already worked with actress Rachel Hendrix, the Erwin Brothers wrote a movie with a purpose for her as the lead, he said.
After a collapse on stage to an opening night packed house in the opening act of a college play, a young student learns her nightmares, asthma, despondency and childhood hip operations were all connected. Not only was she adopted, she was adopted after her mother abandoned her after a botched abortion.
In her feature film debut, Hendrix glows as the 19-year-old Hannah Lawson, who searches for her identity and context after learning so much of what she “knew” was not true.
In her progress, Hendrix’s Hannah must deal with two men and two women. While she searches for her birth mother, she has to figure out her relationship with the woman who raised her. While the mother-daughter dynamic is compelling, the true emotional investment is on the male side.
In the new reality, Hannah’s father, Dr. Jacob Lawson, played by John “Bo Duke” Schneider, the dominant force in her life is suddenly no longer in control of events. Her best friend, Jason, played by Jason Burkey, cannot seem to make things right either. Both men love Hannah, but they have to figure out that their own roles are changing, too.
Before moving on about the plot and characters, it is also interesting to note that Schneider’s curly, golden locks are an un-credited co-star and clearly, the best hair of the film. The former Duke Boy teases, shakes and runs his fingers through his Adonical mane as if it was a prop. Magnificient.
John Schneider and his golden tresses
But, I digress.
Back to the how and why, Erwin was the second unit director on the film “Courageous,” the latest movie from Kendrick and his brother Stephen. The Kendricks make movies out of the Sherwood Baptist church community of Albany, Ga., using congregants to raise the money and staff the cast and crew. Beginning in 2003 with “Flywheel,” and followed by “Facing the Giants” in 2006 and “Fireproof” in 2008, the brothers have sold millions of dollars in tickets, books and merchandise.
During the after-screening panel discussion, Erwin said the Kendricks have blazed the trail for other Christian-themed filmmakers. “Anybody who says they were not helped or influenced by the Kendricks is lying.”
The Kendricks deliberately target men because, generally, it is perceived that men are the ones who decide what movies to see for their families or dates, and they are the ones the Kendricks are trying to reach with their message, he said. “It is different in my house.”
The Erwins are trying to make movies that are more accessible to general audiences and to women, he said.
The scene with Hannah talking to a priest in a Catholic cathedral is part of making the movie more accessible, the director said. Although he is a Baptist, he wanted to recognize the efforts of Catholics and the Catholic Church in the pro-life movement. “It is what brings us together.”
Joining the panel discussion were Hendrix and Shari Rigby, who played the birth mother in the film and who said she was stunned to read the script’s parallels to her own experience.
Rigby said like the birth mother, she had aborted her own child, so she could continue in her career as a paralegal at the law firm.
The actress said it was a secret she kept from her husband for seven years, and when she read the script she decided it was time to come forward with her own story.
Through the process of acting out the scenes, and telling her story, Rigby said she felt God healing her.
Erwin said some of the most positive reactions to the film are from post-abortion mothers, who have told him that, like Rigby’s experience, they have found healing.
The film will be in national release March 23 by Samuel Goldwyn.