Devon Franklin, Senior Vice President of Production for Columbia Tristar Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment
He is a Hollywood mover and shaker attaining success by staying true to himself.
Devon Franklin is a rare breed in the entertainment industry; being a young and Black studio executive at the forefront of Hollywood’s hit machine places him as a Hollywood pioneer for African Americans in film. Franklin is at the top of his game however, he begs to differ stating “I’m not there yet, we are in this together.”
Well, he is certainly calling the shots as Senior Vice President of Production for Columbia Tristar Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment. When asked how he felt about his esteemed position he said, “I guess it feels good. I love being able to champion material and get it made. Its nothing better than to be able to see words on a page and to be able to turn that into an actual film that can be released around the world.”
Franklin got his start in the film industry interning at a high-end level company that managed Will Smith, Jada Pickett Smith, Baby Face, Jennifer Lopez and Diddy, “It was pretty big and exciting to get my start there,” he said. “As an intern, I really got my foot in the door.”
There is an ever-pressing concern on Black media in Hollywood. Franklin weighs in stating, “it is a rich community that is incredibly talented,” however, he affirms that the goal is to "continue to get more opportunities for all filmmakers of color and actors of color to build on their God given talent.”
Franklin understands that it can be a struggle for quality films to get made stating, “It’s a miracle if a film ever gets finished.”
“As a studio executive, one of my jobs is to work with directors, producers and help strategize solutions. When we're in production, I get called every other day about new issues and things that arise. You have to be positive and go beyond the anxiety and say how can we fix the problem.”
Franklin is behind the scenes creating quality Black entertainment. He has worked on box office films such as the remake of "Sparkle" and "The Karate Kid" grossing over $350 million worldwide. He has work with good friend Will Smith in films "The Pursuit of Happiness" and "Hancock."
No stranger to working with top-notch actors, Franklin has sought to produce “faith-based” films such as "Not Easily Broken" with Taraji P. Henson and Morris Chestnut, and "Jumping the Broom" starring Angela Bassett and Paula Patton produced by Bishop T. D. Jakes. “My goal is to make films that are mainstream and that will inspire and encourage the viewer. The next movie I am working on is called "Heaven Is For Real," it’s a movie that is based upon a bestselling book that sold 9 million copies and will be released next Easter.”
Not only is Franklin a studio executive but a devoted man of his faith. Franklin recalls preaching his first sermon at age15. “It was youth day at my church and I was picked to speak because I was outspoken.”
However, when Franklin left for college, he wanted nothing to do with preaching. “I wanted to go to Hollywood and make movies and I didn’t know how that was going to fit.”
It wasn’t until he was an assistant at Will Smith’s company that he started to use the gift God gave him. “That was really the beginning to my natural merger to speak and profession of making films,” he acknowledges.
Hollywood and religion are two distinct fields and lifestyles, Franklin as a studio executive and a preacher has credibility in both fields, “my ministry sees me doing things in Hollywood and Hollywood sees me doing things in the church.”
His position in Hollywood and faith compliment one another. “At the end of the day, you have to look at the fruits of your labor, you have to look at the movies and the books and see there is a benefit to the product that is being produce.”
Speaking of faith, Franklin has found his heavenly match in film actress Meagan Good. This past June marked the couples one-year wedding anniversary. The two began dating in 2011 and were married on June 16, 2012, in Malibu, California.
Franklin is the author of “Produce By Faith,” a how-to-guide about pursuing your career without compromising your faith. He has used his faith in Hollywood, in chapter six, “Development Hell” he discusses his transition from working at MGM studios to working at Sony. MGM was selling their film library to Time Warner putting Franklin’s position in jeopardy.
This was a trying time for Franklin whose faith was tested during this time.
“Finding a job in this town is very hard. I was asking God please help me get to Sony,” he said. “I was trying to be strong but I had no idea what was going to happen. It was a time of incredible faith.”
Similar to his own hardships, he inspires others to keep their faith in every aspect of their lives with his book, Franklin tells his readers that one doesn’t have to sacrifice their beliefs and values for success and happiness.
Franklin with his wife and actress, Meagan Good
He has received emails, tweets and instagram posts from people talking about how the book is changing their lives, careers and perspectives.
Franklin uses a Hollywood twist encouraging readers to look at their lives as a movie in a powerful context from which they can then understand where their at in their lives, what scene they are in and how to get to the next one.
The concept of the book gives the reader a step-by-step on how to build their success staying true to themselves. Chapters “Writing the Script,” “God’s Green Light,” and yes, “Development Hell,” parallels peoples lives to the makings of a film.
“I remembered writing notes in my blackberry on a sermon about someone’s life being parallel to a movie, like how do you get the green light in your life,” he said on recalling how he came up with the concept for the book.
Franklin is a top studio executive in Hollywood living out his dream. It is amazing how he makes an effort to help change people’s lives. It is often people who succeed in any profession become consumed in their world. One has to wonder how he stays out of the trappings of Hollywood.
“I speak, preach, travel, go to church and interact with people outside of Hollywood on an ongoing bases, which keeps me in touch with what life is really about,” Franklin states. “I understand that I was created to be of service; making films, writing books, and preaching. I can’t get caught up in the position, it doesn’t define me.”
He has some words for those trying to break into the industry, “it’s a tough business, you want to be called by God to get into entertainment,” he said. “One has to stay focused because it is easy to lose focus and it’s not worth the challenges you face if you can’t do it.”
Working in Hollywood can bring disappointment, a week ago on August 19, actor Lee Thompson Young was found dead in his home. The sudden tragedy had awakened many in Hollywood of the actor’s misfortune. “It is incredibly sad, he was super close to my wife and she has been grieving. It is a devastating lost when a young actor with tremendous potential or any young person passes. His family is in my thoughts and prayers.”
Despite the harsh realities of Hollywood, Franklin is an example that one can be successful while staying true to themselves.