'October Baby' film spotlights abortion survivor
The movie, "October Baby," chronicles a young woman's search for the truth about her past -- a past that includes discovering that her mother tried to have her aborted, only to place her for an adoption when the abortion failed. The film, though, doesn't dwell on abortion but instead weaves the story of the main character's past in with a romantic plot and a college road trip.
It is being promoted by the same company -- Provident Films -- that marketed "Courageous" and "Fireproof." It also has an endorsement from Alex and Stephen Kendrick -- who directed and produced Courageous and Fireproof -- as well as endorsements from a host of pro-family leaders, including Dennis Rainey, Richard Land, Ted Baehr and Charmaine Yoest. LifeWay Christian Resources is offering Bible study materials to accompany the movie (LifeWay.com/OctoberBaby).The film was made for less than $1 million -- a small movie budget -- but has received high marks for its production.
There are no stats on abortion survivors, but October Baby's Jon Erwin, who directed and produced the movie with his brother Andrew, says there are more than many people would think.
"I think a lot of people find the story unbelievable, and that's the beauty of it -- it's absolutely inspired by a true story," Jon Erwin told Baptist Press. "I screened it one night, and a young person came up to me and said, 'This is my story.' And that keeps on happening. She said, 'I was an abortion survivor. My sibling was killed.'"
Erwin has received emails from as far away as Africa with people telling them they were abortion survivors.
The story itself was inspired by Gianna Jessen, whose story is among the first that pops up when the phrase "abortion survivor" is Googled.
This is the Erwin brothers' first movie, but it's not their first time behind the camera. They've directed music videos for Christian artists and won Dove Awards for Music Video of the Year -- for Casting Crowns' "Slow Fade" and "Until the Whole World Hears ... Live" and for Francesca Battistelli's "Free to Be Me." They've produced concerts. They also directed an educational documentary DVD, "Mysterious Islands." Still, their friends keep asking them: Why make your first movie about an abortion survivor?
"God shattered my heart over this issue," Erwin told Baptist Press. "I honestly did not know that the words 'abortion' and 'survivor' could go together. It so shocked me and so motivated me, and the more I studied it, it so mesmerized me that I felt I had to something about it. I work in a business called entertainment, and we first have to entertain. So I thought, 'What if we put this subject matter into a romance, into a coming-of-age story, and into a movie that will be entertaining to watch?' By them watching it, they would be exposed to an issue and kind of be forced to think. We're not trying to tell people what to think. We're just trying to get them to think for themselves.
Erwin, who attends The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., added, "In my own journey, I said I was pro-life, I've always been pro-life and I was raised in a Christian home. But what have I done about that? Faith without works is dead. I felt it was time to do something."
Actress Shari Rigby also felt convicted to be part of the film, but for different reasons. The Erwins sent her the movie's script to gauge her interest in playing the role of the birth mother, not knowing that 20 years ago she had had an abortion. Even more ironic: The birth mother in the movie works in a law firm, and Rigby was working as a paralegal in a law firm when she had her abortion. After reading the script, she called the Erwins asking: How did you know about my past? But they knew nothing.
The movie, Rigby told Baptist Press, was a way for her to heal from a decision she regrets.
"I felt like it was God-ordained instantly," she said of being chosen to play the role. "I'm a believer, and I know the promises of God and I know He can do great things with our lives. When I sat down and I started reading this script -- to have something on paper that was parallel to my life, I just knew it was ordained."
There were times during filming, she said, when she was not acting.
Rigby said she realizes many viewers will find the topic of abortion survival unbelievable. But she knows it's very real. Her oldest son went to a Christian school where a teacher had adopted two children who had survived an abortion.
"I actually was made aware of abortion survivors many years ago," she said.
The Erwins were inspired to make a movie by watching the work and success of another movie brother tandem -- the Kendricks. Jon Erwin served as second unit director on the set of Courageous. He had already begun writing the script for October Baby when Courageous was shot in the spring of 2010. Prior to Courageous, Erwin said, he viewed his work as a career with the goal "simply to get paid and feed my family." The Kendricks asked him: "What's the purpose of your work?"
"That was a difficult question for me to answer," Erwin said. "Stephen and Alex motivated me to step out there and really try to follow God into the great unknown, and we did. And it's quite a jump from being a work-for-hire guy to being a guy [in charge of a movie]. I don't think I would ever have made that jump without the Kendricks."
Erwin wants people to watch the movie without a political lens. Just like the character in the movie, he said, survivors of abortion often have medical problems for life.
"It's a human issue," he said. "Take away the politics, take away the stigma, and look at the person and see it through the lives of social justice. It's absolutely real."
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Learn more about October Baby at octoberbabymovie.net. It is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material. The movie has no language or sexuality. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).