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The Independent Critic

 Andrew Erwin Interview (Continued) 
THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

This has got me thinking. I've been noticing this trend lately of more Hollywood actors and actresses appearing in faith-based films. There's this part of me that's cynical and is thinking "They're just tapping into a market that has gotten bigger," but there's another part of me that thinks that faith-based cinema has really grown, gotten to be higher quality and is really growing into its own. I'm wondering if you have an opinion on this?

ANDREW ERWIN

I do. I definitely do. I think a good story should be a good story. For a long time, family values or Christian values had a strong presence in Hollywood. If you look back at the golden age of Hollywood, there was definitely a strong presence there. For some reason, I don't know why, there was just a period there where they just kind of checked out. I think they've decided to re-engage in entertainment. They see the value of that. I think there's a lot of people at the table who are learning the disciplines of good storytelling. I long for the day when a film that has faith values is judged on the value of its story and not given a free pass because it's a faith film. When I watched Avatar, I thought that James Cameron very cleverly crafted that with its environmental message. But, I didn't go away from that saying "That's a great environmental film." I said "That was a good movie with a good story." I long for the day when faith films can stand on their own two legs and just say "Sure, this has my worldview but whether I agree with it or not it was a good story." I think that as we learn the discipline of great storytelling, hopefully that trend will get better and better.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

That was one of the things that I thought was pretty awesome with October Baby. With a lot of film critics or media, you have sort of the reverse. You have this built-in bias against faith films. In essence, we sort of expect them to be bad and have a hard time letting go of that preconceived notion. With your film, however, you got positive press and reviews from both secular and faith-based media.

ANDREW ERWIN

I'm weird. I actually really like interacting with the secular critics even moreso than the hometown crowd. There were those that reacted to the topic we picked. I was kind of saddened that they went straight to debating politics rather than just critiquing it as a story. It's hard not to carry a bias into something that has a different worldview.  I thought that Variety did a very fair review. I thought the Los Angeles Times did a very fair review. There were several out there that I just really appreciated. I like it when I can interact with somebody that maybe I don't see eye-to-eye with. I like interacting with someone who may not see things quite the way I do, but can at least judge me on the value of my storytelling and my film. I think as a Christian, I want to be able to stand on my own two feet and interact with people who have a different worldview.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

One of the things I remember thinking after the film was that I really would not hesitate to have a lot of my friends watch this film. Of course, I've got certain friends who may not be able to set aside the faith-based aspect of the film or the abortion thread of the story but, overall, I think with a lot of my friends it would lead to an engaging conversation. I remember doing that exact thing when the first Veggie Tales movie came out. I took an atheist friend of mine to see it - she loved it. She could set aside the pieces that didn't fit her worldview and appreciate the film's story.

ANDREW ERWIN

That's a high compliment. I appreciate that. That was the goal. As a filmmaker, I would like to reach a broader audience and engage with more people. I sometimes like watching films that challenge me to think differently. If it's a good drama, it's going to engage me. I shouldn't be afraid to watch a good story whether it lines up with me or not. The people that I valued the most when we were screening the film were from this group I invited to see the film, a group of producers, with whom we don't always see eye-to-eye on different issues. I knew that they were going to give me an honest answer. One of them that I invited said afterward "I didn't know what to expect when you invited me, but you handled a difficult subject with a lot of grace." He threw a couple of other expletives in there. I was thinking I wanted to put that on the DVD cover because that was the most honest critique I'd gotten. It was cool to see a broader audience connect with a heartfelt story of redemption on a difficult topic.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

Going back for a minute to an earlier film, The Cross and the Towers. You really proved with that film and again with this film that you can handle the delicate balance needed to take a difficult topic and churn out a satisfying story without being polarizing or alienating your audience.

ANDREW ERWIN

I really wasn't attracted to October Baby or The Cross and the Towers because it was a hot topic. In fact, I kind of resisted both of those because they were hot topics. As a director, what I fall in love with is some sort of relatable, redemptive human journey that I can really connect with and identify with emotionally. The Cross and the Towers was brought to us as a potential story, we didn't even know what story we were going to tell but somebody brought us one of the people who was featured in it. We interviewed him and it was revealed that this was the first time he'd ever told his story. We talked to the people who wanted us to do it and I said "I'm not really interested in doing another conspiracy piece or the typical "What happened on that day?" kind of piece." They said "What would you be interested in telling?" I said "I'd like to find out the human drama of what it was like to live in it afterwards and have to survive post 9/11 and what that was like emotionally. Where did they find hope?" Then, in the middle of that, we found out about the iron cross which has become a hot topic. The cross was a unifying symbol of hope that they had discovered there.

There was another reason we didn't use a narrator there. We let it be in their own words. I felt like it needed to be very unaffected. I didn't live at 9/11. I didn't live at Ground Zero. I didn't live in New York City when it happened. I didn't lose any body in the towers. I felt like it would be pretty arrogant of me to put my opinion in there. So, I let it be in their own words so that they could tell their own story of what that cross meant to them. Again, it was just a very redemptive story. I do have my values in those stories, but not because I was going out and trying to preach my values. That's naturally the kind of story that I'm going to gravitate to, because those are the kinds of stories that capture my heart. For me, I feel like for me to direct something that I don't believe is disingenuous and that shows up on the screen and doesn't register with the audience.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

Okay, I want to be respectful of your time and I want to make sure we end by talking about the upcoming DVD release on, rather ironically, 9/11. Why would someone buy or rent or otherwise pick up October Baby?

ANDREW ERWIN

I think that October Baby will really capture people's hearts. I was talking to a very popular actor recently and he said that he just went out of curiosity to see it the first time then went back and took his entire family. I've talked to people who saw it five or six times in the theater. It's because they really fall in love with this character of Hannah and her story of forgiveness is a story you can relate to wherever you are in your life. It's a very charming, coming-of-age love story that I think is entertaining as well. It's well worth buying on DVD. I think you're just going to fall in love with Hannah like everyone who has seen the film so far.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

Awesome. Thank you so much for your time. I wish you the best with your upcoming DVD release.

ANDREW ERWIN

Thank you. I appreciate your help in spreading the word about October Baby.

October Baby hits home video on September 11, 2012 and will be available in both secular and faith-based retail outlets. For more information on October Baby, be sure to visit the October Baby website.


© Interview by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic


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