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By Christine Rousselle, CNA, March 19, 2019
– The writers and co-directors of the upcoming film “Unplanned” have spoken of how they prepared for a “spiritual battle” to make the pro-life film in the hopes that it will change hearts and minds through it groundbreaking depiction of the abortion process.
“We, from the beginning, knew that it would be spiritual battle, spiritual warfare. It was prophesied over us that this is not a normal movie,” co-director Cary Solomon told CNA in an interview following a screening for press on March 18.
“Unplanned” dramatizes the truth-life account of Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson’s decision to leave the organization and become a pro-life campaigner.
Solomon and co-director Chuck Konzelman told CNA that they arranged for a priest to exorcise the set, and bless the cast and props.
“We tried to do Mass and adoration as much as we could,” said Solomon. 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. We didn’t have any problems that you would normally have on a movie,” said Solomon. Konzelman agreed, and added 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 filmmaking.”
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 have been 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 herself, she had a deer, a stag, jump backwards–I’ve never seen deer jump backwards–on the highway into her car and wiped out her car and almost killed her,” said Solomon.
The accident saw both airbags deploy and left Bratcher trapped in her car. “And yet, she got out and walked away. She was stuck on the highway, in the dark.”
Konzelman said that despite the challenges faced during filming, and the financial hurdles to completing 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 the production to the marketing, which I never would have expected that would be the case,” he said.
“The Lord has 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.
The film provides an uncensored, graphic, look at the realities of abortion, and 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 political message.
“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.
He explained to CNA that 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 hopes her 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. No matter how pro-choice you are, you can’t be more pro-choice than Abby Johnson was,” said Konzelman.
Prior to becoming clinic director, Johnson herself underwent two abortions. Both of these are shown in the film.
“And yet, one look at the process taking place in front of her eyes in real time, changed her entire life,” Konzelman said.
In fact, 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 him to change heart entirely on the issue. Solomon shared a clip where 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 him. “And now when you know, you can’t un-know.”
Unplanned will be released in theatres nationwide on March 29. The film is rated R due to disturbing images and violence.