Eight years ago, former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson released a book telling the story of her transformation from abortion advocate to pro-life advocate. Now for the first time, Johnson’s conversion is being told in a narrative film, Unplanned, that will hit theaters in March 2019.
The $6 million budget drama was written and directed by God’s Not Dead writer-directors Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon, and filmed under the working title Redeemed. Bolstering the creative muscle are producers Daryl Lefever and Joe Knopp, whose latest release, I Can Only Imagine, has grossed more than $83 million on a $7 million budget.
Live Action’s founder and president Lila Rose also makes an appearance in the film as a reporter.
Unplanned was shot secretly in Oklahoma over the summer, according to The Hollywood Reporter. In an interview with The Stream, Solomon explained that the “strict embargo” on everyone involved in the production was due to protecting the set from possible harassment, “[b]ecause it would be very difficult to film if people were trying to burn down the warehouse while we’re in it. Or if protestors show up to scream and throw stones.”
Ashley Bratcher (90 Minutes in Heaven, War Room), who plays Johnson in the film, doesn’t shy away from the risk of controversy among her friends of varying opinions in the film industry. “This is a chance to open up the conversation to my pro-choice friends,” she told The Stream. “Here is one woman’s real-life story. Let’s talk about it.”
Konzelman told THR that “no matter which side you come down on, there’s a big chunk of this movie that will make you uncomfortable, because Abby has been pro-choice and pro-life.” Solomon echoed the painfully objective nature of the subject, adding, “it’s not an attack movie, it’s about right and wrong. We just try to tell Abby’s story, and it’s an interesting journey.”
A catalytic character in Johnson’s life, Coalition for Life volunteer Karen – a role blending the influence of both Karen Herzog and Heather Gardner – is portrayed by Stacey Bradshaw (Touched By Grace, Wanted). “My heart overflows as I sit here thinking about my time on this film set,” Bradshaw writes on her blog. “God’s hand was on this project from start to finish, and I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do with it!”
Herzog now works for Johnson’s organization And Then There Were None, which aids abortion clinic workers in their own quests to leave the abortion industry.
The dramatization of Unplanned has been a cathartic experience for Johnson herself. “It felt like my diary had been opened,” Johnson told The Stream.
“With most stories, you see a lead character growing in wisdom,” Konzelman explained in the same article. “This is sort of the reverse — Abby is falling deeper and deeper into evil. She doesn’t realize she is being prepared for her change.”
But acknowledging sickness is a prerequisite for healing, and healing is the heart of the Unplanned story. “No one is too far gone for redemption,” Johnson said in an interview with The Stream. “Healing and God’s mercy are available for everyone. That’s really the message that I hope this movie will convey to the public.”