DeVon Franklin may only be 35, but he’s garnered the respect and admiration of a Hollywood veteran twice his age. Not only has he overseen the production of a number of Hollywood films, including The Karate Kid and Jumping the Broom, but he also spends his free time bringing attention to a number of topics close to him, including the high HIV rates for African-American women and staggering incarceration among African-American men.
Now a Vice President at Columbia Pictures, Franklin — who married actress Meagan Good in June — will be honored for his community leadership by the 9th Annual Artivist Film Festival this coming week. ESSENCE.com caught up with Franklin to discuss his involvement with the film festival, where he sees Black films going in the next five years, and his personal passions.
ESSENCE.com: You’re a big Hollywood executive. How did you first come in contact with Artivist?
FRANKLIN: I heard about them through a mutual friend who’s involved with the organization, and she told me about them and what they were doing. And a little while after that they reached out and said, “We really like what you’re doing through film and we’d like to honor you.” I was blown away, but very appreciative.
ESSENCE.com: You’re also being honored for community leadership. What are some important topics to you?
FRANKLIN: One of the things for me that is super-close to my heart is the increasing HIV rate among young African-American women and the increased incarceration rate of young African-American men. When you look at the African-American community, the challenges this generation is facing are staggering. Those two particular causes really motivate me to do everything that I’m doing through the films, the books, and the speaking that I do. To really show there is another way to live. So much of how we take care of the environment or how we take care of others starts with taking care of ourselves. I’ve been wanting to empower and inspire people to take more ownership and responsibility to who God wanted them to be. I feel that if you can accomplish that, you’ll be an even greater asset to the world.
ESSENCE.com: You’ve been behind films like Jumping the Broom and the remake of The Karate Kid. Where do you see Black film in the next five years?
FRANKLIN: I think Black film is growing. I see that there are a lot of different projects coming to the market that are representing more of a diverse taste. I think that sometimes with Black films there is a tendency to think there is one audience and one taste — which I don’t believe in. I think the audience is very broad in terms of the types of movies they want. In the next five years I see a diversity of films and subject matter…. My hope for Black films is that as we continue to expand the audience and the type of films we’re making, they will be viewed around the world and new stars, new directors, writers, producers will emerge. I see an uptick and I’m optimistic about the next five years.
ESSENCE.com: What are you doing to ensure this happens?
FRANKLIN: That’s what I’m committed to. My job is to bring inspirational films to the world — films of hope, films that represent how the world looks. That’s what I’m here to do. I want to do it in a commercial way.
ESSENCE.com: You’ve very sure of your passion and purpose in life. How did you come about discovering that?
FRANKLIN: It’s really understanding that I’m called to make an impact on the world and not settling until I’m able to operate in my purpose. It’s more of a feeling of fulfillment. Sometimes you don’t feel fulfilled. For me, I just try to say, “God, what was I created to do?” I lost my father when I was 9. That was a very pivotal moment because I really felt a void. I had to really figure out what my life is about. I really want to operate in the seed of my purpose and I have felt that way for as long as I can remember. I think that when we all operate in the area we were created for and in our purpose, we really have maximum impact on the world. When the talent within you lines up with the opportunity, that combination is explosive.
To purchase you tickets to the the Artivist Awards, click here.