Jon Erwin, co-writer/director of October Baby, and actor John Schneider, who had a starring role in the film, appeared together this weekend at the Catholic Pro-Life Committee’s annual Bishop’s Dinner in Dallas.
As you can tell by the picture, I got to briefly meet John, who was very nice.
I’ve been curious about Schneider’s thought processes these days. The former Dukes of Hazzard heartthrob has been making some interesting film choices of late, such as pro-life bookends, Doonby and October Baby; the soon-to-be-released pro-family film, Hardflip; and the sex trafficking film, Not Today.
What gives? Has Schneider had a conversion experience similar to Eduardo Verástegui, determining only to make films upholding family values?
Jon and John spoke to the capacity crowd of 2,000 by way of an informal on-stage interview, and fortunately JE asked JS those and many other insightful questions.
As backdrop, John has indeed purposed his career toward making faith-based entertainment. From Wikipedia:
Schneider became a born-again Christian while living with Johnny and June Carter Cash for a short time and speaking with Johnny about Christianity. In 1982, he co-founded, with Marie Osmond, the Children’s Miracle Network to help suffering children. In 1995, he founded FaithWorks Productions in order to produce family-oriented videos and recordings.
I had no idea. Here are highlights from Saturday night’s interview, which I audiotaped…
JS (to JE): You’ve changed the world as we know it. This man and his brother have made it okay in households across this great country of ours to have conversations that were heretofore taboo. I defy anyone regardless of what they believe not to be changed forever by this film….
Why’d he do it?
JE: The first obvious question is why would you want to be involved in October Baby? How do you want people to experience this movie?
JS: I think as actors, filmmakers, and directors we have a very unusual opportunity. We can put forth a perspective on a notion – in this case a notion on abortion, a notion on life itself – and we can table it in such away that causes people to have conversations about it. October Baby is about a young girl who probably shouldn’t be [but] who is, and Doonby, oddly enough, is about a not so young guy who probably should be but isn’t. But because of the way those notions are tabled, we are able to make people reconsider thoughts and belief systems they’ve had.
I’m always open to someone putting forth a new perspective, a new idea, that challenges my intellect, that challenges my heart, what I thought I knew…. So I am hoping in a conversation on the way home that people who thought they believed a certain way will be a little more open – if not completely open – to rethinking what they thought they knew. I think that’s the best we can hope for – because it’s the truth, and truth will set you free. You don’t need to beat somebody over the head with the truth hammer. You just need to put the truth out there and say, “Hey, take a look at it.”
JE: I got an email just two days ago from a girl who was experiencing a crisis pregnancy, and her friends took her to the film, and she chose life. One girl had been to an abortion clinic three times and saw the movie and changed her mind and decided to keep her baby. There are post-abortive parents everywhere finding healing….
JS finds and reads a similar email he received on his iPhone.
JE: So two movies – Doonby and October Baby… and a film on human trafficking, movies expressing the value of life. Why are you interested in these matters? Why did you say yes?
God is up to something
JS: I had an agent a long time ago who would say, “The wagons are circling.” And I didn’t realize these movies… [abortion] is in all of these films. I used to talk at churches and people would say, “It’s so cool what you’re doing for God.” And I said, “Look, God is up to something.” God is always up to something, and occasionally you may be aware that you are part of what He is doing. [Audience applause.]
In when I’ve been doing all these interviews for October Baby and these other movies and I’m realizing God is really, really up to something right now, and I’m here in this room and realizing how incredibly effective you folks have been and are going to continue to be. I realize more than ever that God is definitely up to something in this place. And when you’re part of something God is up to, there’s no stopping you. [Audience applause.]…
Granddaughter here because wife valued life
JS: I just had a grandbaby. The reason I had a grandbaby on January 11 is because a 15-yr-old girl named Elly Pepe – Elvira Louise Pepe – in 1978 or 79 decided not to have an abortion. It’s not going where you think it’s going. This is my wife, and I found out after we had been married for a number of years that Elly… decided to give up her baby Mandy for adoption and not have an abortion. In 2011 Gianna Noelle King was born because of that decision a 15-yr-old girl in 1978. So God’s up to something.
JE: Have you ever worried about the risk? You live in Hollywood.
JS: I think if there is a risk then the rewards are worth it. [Audience applause.] As I said, if it’s the truth – if you believe its the truth – and you put it out there in an excellent manner – if October Baby was not a good film – it’s a wonderful film or nobody would be seeing it. I’m not afraid…. If somebody doesn’t want to hire me because I believe a certain way, I don’t want to to work for that person. [Audience applause.
No such thing as bad publicity
JE: Does the attention October Baby is receiving surprise you?
JS: Yes, it does surprise me. [But] the real reason why it’s on the front page of the New York Times is because it’s making money. October Baby came out on 390 screens three weeks at a cost under $1 million to make. At the same time a movie called The Hunger Games comes out at a cost of $300 million – $300 million. The coffee budget on The Hunger Games was more than… [audience erupts in laughter]. And yet this guy and his brother made a movie good enough that it came out in the top 10 against this colossal giant film. That is why people want to talk about it. I think that’s Biblical. It’s very clever. It’s very wise. October Baby has made it so people who disagree with what they say you said – they can’t help but talk about it because it’s phenomenal. Bully for you….
JE: You’ve been part of the iconic television industry shows, had an incredible career. Why take a risk on a Christian film? What do you think was going on? How does your faith play into that?
JS: Well, the wagons are circling. I was making a film with Shari Rigby, and she said you’ve got to go work with these guys. There’s something going on down there in Alabama… the strength of the script. I’d never heard the words “abortion survivor” together….
October Baby a film industry game changer
JE: Do you think God is up to something [in the film industry]?
JS: The more business that films like October Baby do, the more likely there are to be more of them. You can’t fault Hollywood. i believe in the timeline in Christian cinema there is a big thumbtack right in the middle of where October Baby came out. I think October Baby is a good changer. So support films like that. It is so important that these movies do good business in the theater. It’s not okay to wait until they come out and buy them on dvd. It’s okay to do both [audience laughs]. The only reason faith based movies get green lit, which means people with money behind them put them on film, is based on what they do in the box office, really and truly. So until this little film that could, October Baby came out, Hollywood was not interested in faith based movies…. But you have to go see the movie in the theater…. You have the power to allow more films like October Baby to be made in the future. You have that by casting your vote at the box office. I hear people all the time say, “I can’t wait until this comes out on dvd.” That’s ok [to do] on The Hunger Games. It’s not okay for October Baby [audience laughs].
Message for pro-lifers
JE: Last question. there are a group of people here who care passionately about the value of life…. What message of encouragement do you want to share?
JS: Keep fighting. It’s worth it. Fight for what you believe in, and fight for it with everything you’ve got every day. People will respect your willingness to die for what you believe in. They can’t not respect that. Do that every day. The more everybody tells me I’m foolish or wrong for doing this the more it makes me stronger.
John closed by singing a couple of songs. He has a great voice. The first was from the movie Doonby, “I Ain’t Goin’ Anywhere”…