The co-director and co-writer of “Unplanned” told a Senate panel on Wednesday that since the film’s release, nearly 100 abortion industry workers have expressed interest in leaving the field.
The Pure Flix distributed movie “Unplanned” tells the story of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who has become an influential pro-life advocate.
Co-director and co-writer Chuck Konzelman testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee the film has overcome many marketing challenges — particularly in terms of being permitted to place ads — and is having a profound impact.
“We have had approaches though Abby Johnson’s organization And Then There Were None — which transitions workers out of the abortion industry — I believe we have something approaching one percent of the abortion workers in the United States seeking to leave the industry,” he told Subcommittee on The Constitution Chairman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who was overseeing a hearing examining how tech companies are stifling free speech.
“The number of actual workers who have reached out is 94,” Konzelman added.
“Abby was very firm that she wanted this film to be a love letter to those trapped in the abortion industry,” he said.
See Konzelman’s testimony starting at 3:11:41.
The filmmaker told the senators that “Unplanned” managed to come in at No. 4 at the box office in its opening weekend, though it was blocked from advertising on multiple platforms.
“The (Motion Picture Association of America) saddled us with an R rating, which strongly discourages much of the Christian audience and all of the Church of Latter Day Saints from seeing our film, since they have a general prohibition against seeing R rated films,” said Konzelman. (See video above starting at 2:34:09.)
He explained a profound marketing impact of the rating was only being able to screen the trailer for the film ahead of other R-rated movies in theaters. The MPAA can grant a waiver to this rule, but it refused to do so.
Konzelman noted that previews shown in movie theaters are the single best form of advertisement.
Besides this roadblock, Fox News and the Christian Broadcasting Network were the only two cable outlets that allowed the “Unplanned” marketing team to place television ads.
Hallmark, Up TV, Lifetime, HGTV, The Travel Channel and USA Network all denied placement.
Additionally, Google Ads — the single largest online ad placement provider — prohibited “Unplanned” from purchasing spots.
Further, Twitter suspended the movie’s account for multiple hours during the Saturday of its opening weekend. When Twitter did reinstate the account, the number of followers dropped from approximately 200,000 to less than 200, according to Konzelman.
The director did give credit to Facebook for allowing his film to be promoted on the platform, where the trailer has garnered over 17 million views.
Konzelman warned the “Unplanned” experience shows just how vulnerable the right to exercise free speech is during the digital era.
“It is all too easy (for tech companies) to label conservative thought as controversial or divisive. Dismiss it as contrary to their guidelines or roll out the dreaded phrase: ‘hate speech,’” he argued.
“In the digital age, exclusion from a platform is not just discriminatory, it is the most insidious form of censorship available or imaginable.”
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