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“Spiritual warfare”: When a pro-life film is bedeviled

J-P Mauro - published on 03/23/19

The cast and crew of the upcoming film 'Unplanned' were plagued by accidents when off set.

The upcoming film Unplanned hopes to change hearts and minds with a groundbreaking, unfiltered depiction of the abortion industry. Now, about a week before the film is set to release, the directors and writers have spoken about a series of unlikely accidents that plagued the cast and crew; accidents they have called “spiritual warfare.”

During an interview following a screening for press on March 18, co-director Cary Solomon told CNA:

“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.”

Unplanned is a dramatization of the life story of Abby Johnson, the pro-life campaigner who was once a clinic director at Planned Parenthood. In the film, Abby has an eye-opening experience in a Planned Parenthood facility, which makes her question the course of her life and ultimately decide to rally against abortion.

Solomon and co-director Chuck Konzelman explained that before they began filming, they arranged for a priest to exorcise the set. In order to maintain a reverent approach to the subject matter, they also conducted Mass and Adoration as often as possible during the shooting and offered similar spiritual guidance to Evangelical members of the cast.

As veterans of the film industry, Solomon and Konzelman expected a certain amount of on-set drama or technical issues that could cause setbacks or delays. They were surprised, however, to find the filming process was atypically quiet. In fact, they found “profound moments of tremendous peace” on set.

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

Perhaps it was due to the exorcism or the religious celebrations that the project’s community attended together, but the shooting went on without a hitch. Off-set, however, was a different story.

“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.

The accidents included irregular occurrences, such as one person surviving a biking accident that destroyed her helmet, and a producer’s car getting torn in half when they were T-boned by another car from the adjacent road. Thankfully, none of the accidents led to fatalities or severe injury.

The strangest accident involved their leading lady. Ashley Bratcher, who plays the role of Abby Johnson, survived a car crash that took place under the strangest of 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 collision was bad enough to deploy both her airbags and left Bratcher trapped in her car, but she walked away unharmed.

Solomon said that the production faced financial hurdles that caused the process to take two years, but at no point did he lose confidence that a higher power was guiding their work:

“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.

Unplanned is the first R-rated film to be distributed by Pure Flix, a Christian movie production company. The rating was earned because the film provides an uncensored, graphic look at the realities of abortion, but the co-directors suspect the rating was motivated by politics.

“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.

Konzelman went on to tell CNA that Planned Parenthood employs a director of arts and entertainment engagement. This person ensures that the realities of the abortion industry are kept from the spotlight of the film and television industries.

Unplanned offers a unique glimpse into the abortion industry, because it was written from the perspective of someone who worked at Planned Parenthood. The movie makes no attempt to mollify the realities of the controversial practice.

“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. “And yet, one look at the process taking place in front of her eyes in real-time, changed her entire life,” Konzelman said.

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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