What began as a short turned into a fleshed-out feature after the original video became controversial in 2013 when a Florida school teacher was reprimanded for sharing it with students. Despite its anti-bullying message, the pro-LGBT stance the film makes had students, parents and administrators concerned, and they weren’t the only ones—the same thing happened at a Kansas middle school two years later.
“Love is All You Need?” sets up a world that is antithetical to the one we live in now. The majority of people are gay, and anyone who dares fall for someone of the opposite sex is an outcast. With religious values backing them up, the LGBs are loathe to accept heterosexuality, especially when the central town’s star college football player (Briana Evigan) is leaving her popular girlfriend (Emily Osment) for a brooding journalist (Tyler Blackburn). The violence and verbal assaults those who are different (read: straight) face from their gay persecutors serve as a successful metaphor, highlighting just how twisted it is that things are, in today’s existence, the other way around, and just as twisted. (Other recognizable faces with roles in the film include Ana Ortiz, Jeremy Sisto and Leisha Hailey.)
After playing film festivals around the country, K. Rocco Shields took “Love is All You Need?” on a tour of 21 cities where hate crimes have taken place in the recent past, pairing up with local charities to spread the message of love and acceptance that the film hopes to impart. It is now available on iTunes, and coming to Amazon Video and Google Play on December 9.
We spoke with K. Rocco Shields about the “moviement” and some of the stories she’s heard from those who have been affected by the film.
GO Magazine: The movie is pretty star-studded – how did you go about casting?
Rocco Shields: OK, so when you plan a project for seven years, you start to think of everything, and with the success of the short film, I analyzed all the elements and tried to expand on them in order to make it hit the largest audience. Being that this was a feature film, I knew I would have an incredible platform to speak to audiences larger than the short did. I realized that having a recognizable cast was step number one, so I started talking to casting directors right away. The top casting office in Los Angeles read the script and loved it, and I actually signed them on years before the film was made.
We were incredibly lucky to have Mary Vernieu and Lindsey Graham (Betty Mae) on board with the project, they’ve cast some amazing films like “Black Swan,” “Joy” and “American Hustle,” so actors know if Mary is calling, it’s going to be a good project.
As far as the strategy, it was very important to me to bring in a set of actors with as wide a background as possible. So we have people coming in from film, from TV, from the stage. It’s not just what this film is about, but it’s also been about who it reaches. I was very particular in casting actors who would be appeal to a tween demographic because that’s an age where this kind of message really resonates and where the film can cause the most change.
GO: What has the response been to the film on this tour?
KRS: The response has been overwhelming. After every screening, we had a Q&A to discuss the themes in the movie and choices I made to support those themes. People asked very thoughtful questions and then afterward there was always a line of people wanting to share their personal stories with me.
I was so touched they felt they could share them with me. A lot of those stories broke my heart and made me realize even more how important it is for mainstream America to see this film. I was pleasantly surprised that the youngest audience members were also the most vocal and articulate and asked some of the most thought-provoking questions.
I do examine the misuse of religion in the film: because, at the end of the day – every conversation I have with people that are “anti-gay” say the Bible says it’s a sin. Well, that’s not really the case. On the tour, I brought the Reverend Betty Deas Clark with me to handle the “harsh” questions from the right wing, as most of the tour stops were on the bible belt.
Being the former pastor of the Emmanuel Church where nine people were murdered in a mass shooting by a white supremacist about a year ago, she really stands with the film as an allegory for all types of minority prejudice. I use the language of love since it transcends all cultures, barriers, languages and speaks to our common human emotion.
GO: How do you see the film as a tool for activism? Can you share any stories of change you’ve seen?
KRS: This film is such a great conversation starter and a powerful way to make people empathize and really feel what it’s like to be the victim of bullying. But the one thing I want our community to understand: is that I didn’t make this movie for the LGBTQ audience. I made it for a mainstream audience to help them understand what it’s like to be in the minority. Some critics don’t understand this. But audiences around the US really do, and that’s what important here. It’s a tool to be shared with friends and relatives who, for whatever reason, can’t understand what it’s like to be different.
The idea behind flipping the lens was to keep to a set of rules, number one, that the world would look exactly like ours, with only one thing switched but, number two, there would be gender equality represented across the board. These two powerful switches ignite conversation and discussion – and in the history of the world, things don’t change unless they are talked about, and polarized points of view can find commonalities in their differences. This was a deliberate device in the creation of the film to start this dialogue.
As for stories, my favorite one happened the day after we premiered at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose. A woman came up to me to thank me for giving her mother back to her. I didn’t quite understand what she meant, but I said “You’re welcome,” and then she proceeded to tell me that her mother saw the movie the night before and called the next to apologize. They hadn’t spoken in 20 years because the woman was a lesbian. Her mother said she finally understood what it was like for her daughter and was going to start a PFLAG chapter in her small town. I was blown away. Not only did it bring them back together but this mother was inspired to take action. You dream your film is going to do something like that and then when it happens, you’re still completely blown away.
GO: Why is “Love is All You Need” more important now than ever?
KRS: We’ve just elected the biggest bully out there to the highest office in the land, so, unfortunately, this is more relevant than ever. And the current political climate is one of the reasons that I’ve foregone potentially lucrative standard Hollywood distribution deals so that I could get this out now, when people need it.
People often don’t think they can make a difference, or that their voice can’t be heard. But that’s only true if you don’t try. Not everyone can go out and make a movie like I did to change the world, but they can share it, and they can discuss how the movie made them feel with their friends, their families, their co-workers – anyone who will listen. Because that’s how change really happens – one person talking to another and sharing how they feel.
“Love is All You Need?” is available now on iTunes and on Google Play and Amazon Video on December 9th.