Abortion continues to be one of the most politically-flammable issues in American politics. While it has maintained its position for decades as one of the most talked about and debated issues in society, it rarely gains the in-depth exposure it deserves on television and in movies. Perhaps because it is so controversial, many shy away from exploring its implications in these forums. But “October Baby,” a new film by brothers Andrew (co-director) and Jon Erwin (writer and co-director), takes the issue on without restriction.
While new to feature films, Andrew Erwin, 33, and Jon Erwin, 29, based out of Birmingham, Alabama, have an extensive history working in the music industry. They’ve directed videos and worked with well-known acts in both the Christian and mainstream world — Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and Switchfoot to name a few. They’ve even won Dove Awards (the Christian equivalent to the Grammys).
The Blaze caught up with Andrew recently to discuss the impact he hopes the movie, which has so far come out in a limited capacity, will have on the abortion dialogue and on Americans’ views on life. Considering its less-than-conventional nature, “October Baby” is sure to be a discussion starter.
A description of the film on IMDB reads, “October Baby is the coming of age story of a beautiful and naive college freshman who discovers that her entire life is a lie and sets out on a road trip with a host of misfits to discover herself and the answers she craves.”
Hannah (played by Rachel Hendrix), the central character, is a beautiful 19-year-old college freshman. Despite her youth and her good looks, she has always had a sense that something was missing — a sense that she doesn’t really have a right to exist.
Her world is turned upside down when she finds out that she was adopted. While shocking enough on its own, this is the only beginning of her personal tale. In addition to grappling with this new-found knowledge, she also learns that she was the survivor of a failed abortion — a startling fact for the young girl to process. So, she decides to embark on a road trip with her friends in an epic journey to find her birth mother. This, of course, is the premise of “October Baby.”
Below, watch the trailer:
In creating the film, the Erwin brothers weren’t looking to be combative regarding their take on abortion. Instead, they sought to tell a story about forgiveness, redemption and the value of life. In our discussion about the movie, Andrew boiled its main premise down to three words: ”It’s about forgiveness.”
While many women have abortions for a multitude of reasons, Andrew says he believes in “forgiveness and healing” and that he and his brother wanted to pass this sentiment onto their audience. “Its not about throwing stones. [Women who have had abortions] don’t have to live in shame,” he says. The brothers were intent on telling the story through “positivity and love, not hate.”
“My generation is more pro-life than the generation before it. My generation is looking for a positive message to come on board with,” he explains. “Instead of sitting around and throwing stones, we want to lift up the value of life — to lift up the value that every life deserves a chance. And to bring awareness that there are abortion survivors.”
Believe it or not, they initially never set out with an agenda. In fact, Andrew explains that they would have rather tackled other subjects for their first feature film. “If you had originally asked us what we wanted to make a film about, we would have said anything but the subject we chose,” he explained.
Their path toward the completed product was an intriguing one. While watching YouTube clips, Andrew explains that he and Jon encountered Gianna Jessen’s story. Jessen, a survivor of an attempted abortion, has gained notoriety by sharing her story across the nation. The brothers were so moved by her story that they had to take action.
“Gianna is an amazing person with such a lively personality,” Andrew explains. “She survived a saline abortion and after hearing her story we became challenged and motivated.”
To many, abortion survival may seem like a bizarre or improbable notion, however it’s a reality for people like Gianna. Below, watch her story, as told during a 2008 anti-abortion address:
As the brothers began to discuss their plans, they realized Gianna’s story would be much more impactful as told through fiction. “As a documentary, this wouldn’t be palatable,” Andrew explained. “So, we decided to put the story in an entertaining, coming-of-age love film that allowed us to bring awareness.” Thus, they decided to loosely base Hannah’s journey on Gianna’s personal story.
Andrew explained that he and his brother wanted to get people talking. “Abortion is a complicated issue. We we figured that the best way to look at it was through the eyes of complicated people,” he said. ”I cant really change anyone’s mind until I engage their heart. If I can take you on a journey with a character you care about, it may challenge you to think about the issue another way.”
While documentaries often educate (and/or indoctrinate), the Erwin brothers wanted to tell this story through a softer, gentler and more flexible lens. Andrew hopes that viewers will begin to ask questions about the complicated matters of abortion and abortion survival. Being offensive of brazen wasn’t ever part of the plan in composing “October Baby.”
“From all angles it’s handled with sensitivity, tact and accuracy. We’ve want to capture peoples’ emotions,” Andrew explained. “You fall in love with this girl Hannah and you want to go on this journey with her.”
Making the film wasn’t an easy task, as the brothers did extensive research and engaged with people on all sides of the debate. Interestingly, Andrew says that they encountered a lot of abortion survivors along the way. Gianna, of course, has become a huge fan of the film and was consulted during the production process.
But considering the more leftist nature of Hollywood (teamed with the complicated nature of the movie’s content), one wonders what the industry had to say about the Erwins’ film endeavor.
“We talked to a lot of people who gave us advice on how to approach the subject,” Andrew says. Jon and I have a very unique brand. Our version of faith films is something that’s fresh and hasn’t been seen before. It’s a new style that could add some variety.”
While this may be true, the brothers still faced an uphill battle. Secular experts advised them that “October Baby” wasn’t necessarily a good career move. “We were told to scrap it and break even,” he explains.
The young brothers weren’t sure what to do, but feeling called and compelled to tell the story, they decided to forge on and see it through. In the end, Provident films and American Family Studios got behind the project and it gained the support needed to launch it off the ground.
So far, the audiences who have had the chance to see the film have truly enjoyed it (“October Baby” has an average seven out of 10 rating on IMDB). Andrew says the biggest criticism has been that the movie isn’t in theaters nationwide yet — something that will be rectified in March 2012 when it does, indeed, hit the big screen.
Find out more about “October Baby” here.