Catholic writers, directors and producers Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman are excited about today’s release of their newest film, Unplanned, the story of former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson’s conversion to the pro-life cause. The pair have collaborated on many films, including God’s Not Dead (2014), God’s Not Dead2 (2016), and Do You Believe? (2015).
Solomon and Konzelman spoke recently to CWR about the making of Unplanned.
CWR: Why did you want to make this film?
Konzelman: Cary and I were having one of our regular meetings in a coffee shop, when a woman we knew came up with a copy of Abby Johnson’s autobiographical book Unplanned. She said, “You need to make this into a movie.”
I started reading it first, and then later Cary. The material was pretty heavy, but I knew it was a film God was calling us to do.
Solomon: The story came to us at a time when we were talking with Clint Eastwood about doing a western with him. Chuck had read the book, and came into my office and said, “This story must be told.” Every person must be told about this epidemic, this disease called abortion.
Chuck and I prayed on it, and we heard, “Not yet.” We were bummed: “Why not yet?” But we were told “not yet” doesn’t mean “no” but just “not yet.” It was four years later when Chuck and I looked at each other and said, “Now!”
Why is the timing so important? Four or five years ago Obama was in the White House, and Kamala Harris was our California attorney general. She tried to put [pro-life activist] David Daleiden in prison. Maybe she would have seized our material, and tried to put us away, too!
CWR: What was the process of developing the story?
Solomon: We went to Texas and interviewed Abby, as well as all the other key people involved in her story. This included Abby’s parents, as well as her husband, Doug.
Konzelman: When she worked at Planned Parenthood, Doug was a believer and pro-life. Abby was a believer, too, but pro-choice. We wanted to understand how things worked out under that roof.
CWR: You probably had to condense quite a bit, but otherwise how true is the film to Abby’s story?
Konzelman: Extremely true. We started to write her story with hundreds of pages of notes from interviews in our hands, more than we’d ever had before. We had to pare away a lot of material, but we did not embellish.
CWR: How difficult was casting the film?
Solomon: It was very difficult. We had intended to go through the typical process when you make a movie, where you have a casting call, with qualified actors from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) showing up. You find people you like and hire them.
But, in prayer, God told us not to use SAG, nor a casting director. I said, “But Lord, we need great actors and actresses.” I didn’t want to make a piece of garbage. The Lord said to me, “I will bring you people that you never would have considered, and these people will be my choice.”
So, we walked ahead in faith, and one by one, the actors we needed miraculously appeared. One woman we hired, Robia Scott, we met in an airport. In the movie she plays Cheryl, who works for Planned Parenthood.
Konzelman: Our abortionist in the film is played by Anthony Levatino, a retired abortionist [who is now pro-life] who specialized in 2nd trimester abortions. In his performance, he was able to show how the abortionist goes about his task with ruthless efficiency.
CWR: You both work as a writing team.
Solomon: It’s the only way we know how to work. I couldn’t do it on my own, and Chuck will tell you the same thing. We write, produce and direct together. He’s my best friend, and was the best man at my wedding. He’s the godfather of my son. We complete each other’s sentences. It’s been a wonderful partnership.
CWR: What challenges did you meet along the way?
Solomon: We had many. The biggest challenge in making most movies is raising money. And, that can be hard with a movie about abortion, as it is divisive and inflammatory.
But the Lord told us He’d take care of the money, and it came to us in abundance. One Friday afternoon, for example, we needed $1 million to begin shooting on the following Monday morning. We had 200 workers standing by, and a 4,000 square foot set, and we were $1 million short.
Everyone was panicking, and thought the movie would collapse. Even Chuck and I sweated a bit. I got a call from Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow, who was flying on his jet. He said he and his girlfriend had been praying, and Jesus told them to send us $1 million for the film. He asked for our routing number, and told us his bank was closing in 10 minutes. I was speechless. He said again, “Do you want the money? If you do, give me your routing number, because my bank closes in 10 minutes.”
I gave him our routing number, and before that 10 minutes was up he wired the money we needed to us from his plane.
We had other challenges, too. Some people in the industry wanted us to change the way we told the story. The Lord told us to be bold, and to stay firm to what we believe. We also had problems with coordinating schedules, and raising the marketing funds we needed.
CWR: Are you pleased with how the film turned out?
Solomon: I give all praise to God. We’ve had something like 5,000 people see it already, including some senators, Glenn Beck and Ben Carson. Not a single person has told us they didn’t like it.
Then there’s the story of my father. He’s 84, Jewish, atheist and so liberal that everything is allowed. He looked at abortion as a blessing. He told me when I was young, “Don’t worry if you get a girl pregnant. You can always have her get an abortion.”
I emailed my dad a single clip from the film, one involving fetal remains in a barrel and a prayer warrior asking to pray over it. I sat with him on the phone as he watched it. He got so choked up he said he’d call me the next day. The next day he did call … and my father does not speak like this … he said, “You know, this movie is going to change the world. You’ve shown us what we didn’t want to see.”
He went on to say that we needed to have laws to put an end to abortion. I cannot believe that came out of his mouth.
As a man of God, I watch what the Lord is doing. And, I think with this film He’s going to save post abortive women. There has been something like 1.5 billion abortions worldwide in recent years, which means many millions of post abortive men and women. This movie will reach out to them.
We had a nurse who had previously worked for [now imprisoned abortionist] Kermit Gosnell come to one of our screenings. Her comment to me after viewing the film was “I saw nothing but love up on that screen.” We’re not about condemnation, pointing fingers or blaming anyone. We’re about hope, love, and forgiveness.
CWR: Who should see the film?
Konzelman: It would certainly be of benefit to a wide audience, both Catholic and non-Catholic, Christian or non-Christian. But, I think it would be of special value to post abortive women and men. I also believe it would be beneficial for every mother of a teen daughter to take her by the hand and go see it.
Solomon: I remember one man who came to our screening with his wife. He said, “I wouldn’t let my young daughters see this movie.” His wife said, “Excuse me, this is exactly the movie our daughters should see!”
CWR: What was your goal for this film?
Solomon: To please the Lord and to do His will perfectly. We made this movie to serve Him. We’d also like it to play a role in putting an end to abortion and the work of Planned Parenthood, and the abortion holocaust occurring all over the world.
CWR: You’re both Catholics, active in your faith.
Solomon: Yes. We’re all in! We love the Lord.
I converted to the Catholic Church in 1997. When I was growing up, my father was a Jew, my mother a Protestant and I was confused. They asked me, “Do you want to go to temple, or to church, or go play with your friends?” So you can imagine I chose to play with my friends. I always believed in God, though.
We moved to Hollywood. It is the darkest place there is. It’s demonic, suffocated and broken. However, the Lord enters through the broken heart.
I asked the Lord what He wanted me to do. Do you want me to be a Jew? Do you want me to be a Buddhist? I’ll do whatever you want. He was all over me. He led me to the Catholic Church. I’d walk into the religious section of a bookstore, and a book about the Catholic Church would fall at my feet. I studied the Catholic Church, its teachings, its history and the saints. I knew He was leading me there.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!