Directors speak of ‘spiritual warfare’ while making pro-life film

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By Christine Rousselle, with CBJ editing

Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, the writers and co-directors of the upcoming film Unplanned revealed that they prepared for a “spiritual battle” in the hopes that the pro-life film will change hearts and minds through its groundbreaking depiction of the abortion process.

“From the beginning, we knew that it would be spiritual battle, spiritual warfare. It was prophesied over us that this is not a normal movie,” co-director Solomon told CNA in an interview following a screening for press on March 18. Solomon and Konzelman said they had a priest exorcise the set and bless the cast and props.

Unplanned dramatizes the true-life account of Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson’s decision to leave Planned Parenthood and become a pro-life advocate.

Prepared for battle

“We tried to do Mass and Adoration as much as we could,” Solomon explained. For the evangelical Christians involved in making the film, similar spiritual guidance was offered.

Despite anticipating the usual stresses of the production process, Konzelman and Solomon told CNA that they found “profound moments of tremendous peace” on set, which is atypical of the movie-making industry.

“It was amazing,” said Solomon. “We didn’t have any problems that you would normally have on a movie.”

Konzelman agreed, adding that the set of Unplanned was “the calmest set [he’s] ever been on.”

“There was no screaming, there was no tension–the average day would have no incident,” said Konzelman. “That’s just not normal in film-making.”

Bizarre, violent accidents

Despite the relative calm on set, other incidents plagued the cast and crew, as well as their families. Thankfully, nobody was seriously hurt, but there were several close calls.

“We’ve had probably 15 accidents where people or family members of people who worked on the movie, were in a car crash, […] and the person would just walk away,” said Solomon.

“They’ve all been crazy violent,”  he explained. One person survived a bike accident that destroyed her helmet, and a producer’s car was split in half after being t-boned.

Lead actress Ashley Bratcher, who plays the role of Abby Johnson, survived a near-death car accident under bizarre circumstances.

“Ashley had a deer, a stag,jump backwards — I’ve never seen a deer jump backwards — on the highway and into her car, wiped out her car and almost killed her,” said Solomon. Both airbags deployed and left Bratcher trapped in her car. “And yet, ” added Solomon, “Ashley got out and walked away. She was stuck on the highway, in the dark.” Yet she survived and walked away.

Konzelman said that despite these challenges during filming and the financial hurdles needed to finish production, he never doubted that there was a higher interest supporting the film.

“It took two years for us to raise the money for this film, from production to marketing.  I never would have expected this would be the case,” he said.

“The Lord told us this from the beginning — and this is obviously putting it in human speak — ‘I’ve got this. I got you. Do not fear, for this is for my glory,’” said Solomon.

Remarkable results

The film provides an uncensored, graphic look at the realities of abortion. It received an R-rating from the MPAA.  Unplanned is the first R-rated film to be distributed by Pure Flix, a Christian movie production company.

The co-directors previously told CNA that they would not be challenging the rating, which they feared was motivated by the movie’s overall pro-life political message. On the other hand, they chose not to avoid the violent reality of the abortion process.

“No one’s ever seen [a graphic presentation of abortion] before. It’s been very carefully and very studiously avoided by the [entertainment] industry,” Konzelman said.

Planned Parenthood lies extend to Hollywood “guidelines”

According to Konzelman, Planned Parenthood employs a director of arts and entertainment engagement, “who teaches the mainstream film industry and television industry how to film in accordance with their guidelines.”

Unplanned is unique, Konzelman said, because it tells the story of the abortion industry from the perspective of someone who was once a part of that industry, and does not sugar coat the reality of abortion. He and Solomon hope Abby’s story will inspire other people to either leave their jobs in the abortion industry or to change their minds on the issue.

“Seeing [an abortion procedure] is what changed Abby’s life,” underscored Konzelman, pointing out that prior to becoming clinic director, Abby Johnson herself underwent two abortions, both of which are shown in the film. “No matter how pro-choice you are, you can’t be more pro-choice than Abby Johnson was.  And yet, one look at the process taking place in front of her eyes in real time, changed her entire life.”

Already changing lives and perceptions

The film has already changed the perspective of one viewer: Solomon’s father.

Solomon told CNA that showing his “far left,” pro-choice, atheist father a short clip of the film caused his father to change heart entirely on the issue. Solomon shared a clip in which two volunteers from the Coalition for Life group pray over a 55-gallon drum containing fetal remains.

He said his father told him that Unplanned was “gonna change the world” because of its unflinching portrayal of abortion, which was something he had not previously seen or thought about.

The movie “showed what we [as a society] never wanted to see,” Solomon’s father told his son. “And now when you know, you can’t un-know.”

Unplanned will be released in theaters nationwide on March 29. The film is rated R due to disturbing images and violence.


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