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COOKIES & PRIVACY POLICY

Love Is All You Need director: I received death threats over my film

K Rocco Shields tells DIVA about why this project has the power to change the world.

Carrie Lyell

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 11:36:39 GMT | Updated today

Based on 2011's critically acclaimed short film of the same name, Love Is All You Need examines prejudice through a new lens by imagining a world where homosexuality is the norm and heterosexuality is taboo. Carrie Lyell caught up with director K Rocco Shields to find out about reactions to the film, and why she thinks it has the power to change the world. 

 

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DIVA: Tell us a little bit about you and your background. 

 

K Rocco Shields: I started in editing. I always wanted to direct but there is never is there a clear path in this business. So I started script supervising and I worked with some of the best directors. In 2008, I started my own company, and we specialised in making digital content for a variety of private clients. Through that we wanted to create something of our own and I got this idea to make Love Is All You Need.

 

Let's talk about the film then. It was a short film originally, and it blew up the internet back in 2011. Did you expect it to go viral in the way that it did?

 

No actually. [Laughs] We made the short film because the concept has never been done before and ultimately I know that when you want to pitch a concept and you can't explain it as much as you can show it. The short film was made to test this as a concept because the premise, this idea of an inversion where straight is gay and gay is straight, it's been done before. It's been done quite a lot actually. But it's never been done in a way where we don't utilise stigma and stereotypes in order to create comedy, and ultimately I saw this inversion as a way to create a human experience for the viewer which they can really find it relatable. The only way to do that was to not bring stereotyping into it. I don't feel like gay looks like rainbows in the sky. That's not what they look like to me [laughs]. So I made the short film and it won a bunch of festival awards which was so amazing and as I was about to negotiate a distribution deal for it, it actually leaked onto the internet. Literally over night with no prep, no marketing, no nothing, it went to 15 million people plus. I say plus because it was shared at that point over a million times on Facebook and that's not included in this count. That's where it landed. And after a couple years of knocking on some doors, I finally found the funding to make a feature film.

 

How different is the feature to the short?

 

The key to the short film was really listening to the viewer feedback. I had people write to me telling me that I changed their life. I had one letter from a 65-year-old man saying, 'Wow, I always thought gays as someone else and now I realise they are just like me and I want applaud you for that.' Kids were writing me telling me that they stopped cutting when they saw the film because they realised they weren't alone. The social response was so tremendous. The feature film is the same story but what I wanted to do was bring it to more people and ultimately by creating multiple story lines, kind of in the vein of Crash, I'm able to speak to an adult audience with a love story with two kids in college that fall in love and ultimately are ripped apart. As well the story of the teacher who is fired for changing Romeo and Julio to Romeo and Juliet which really strikes close to home because of an incident that happened in regards to the short.

 

Where did the inspiration for the initial idea come from? 

 

The idea was created in response to bullying. All over the news in 2010, it was almost like a rash of suicides had broken out and every day a kid was taking their life. That wasn't the case, it was just the way the media was explaining it. The problem has been going on for a while and moreover, people couldn't think of a solution at this point other than encouraging people that life goes on and whatnot. What I wanted to do was make people feel, because I truly believe that our society is sympathetic. We say it's too bad that happened. But we need to deal with it in order to figure out how to stop it. And so film, being a vehicle in which you can engage an audience in, to explain your view and explain life from another viewpoint, is a very powerful tool to use. 

 

You mentioned some of the positives response you've had. What about the negatives? 

 

I've had death threats. Many, actually. Because "to be gay is a sin", but to normalise it in this way where it's not being stigmatised is quite another. It was hailed as an international educational tool and was translated into 15 different languages. It was short enough to use in a classroom setting and also shape a dialogue around a class period, and as that happened, there was a lot of controversy that hit national news time and time again. A gentlemen in Florida showed it and got fired. I had to go and defend his job to the school board who called me "the face of the sodomite agenda". Then even as recently as last year, a man in Conway Springs, Kansas, again showed it and got fired for it. All of this pushback - negative and positive - has just pushed me to make a feature film because if a short film can cause this much change from virtually leaking on the internet, the feature film will change the world, I do believe, and I have given up everything in order to make that happen. 

 

It's so interesting you say that because as I was watching the film, I was thinking it's quite extreme. There will be people thinking it's not that bad anymore, it's fine to be LGBT, there are no problems, but the response you've had proves there is still a long way to go. 

 

Yeah, and not only that. I mean, look at what is happening in our country right now. It is that bad. There are kids suffering every day. Two out of three hate crimes are not reported. This stuff happens every day and I have seen it first hand. I travelled around the country just recently going to places where these crimes have occurred, and seeing that it's still a very real prejudice which is still very active in the United States and even abroad. There are people being put to death for being gay so this is a very real and a very current problem. And although I am telling the story of Matthew Shepherd, which did happen 20 years ago, it was the ripple effect that caused a lot of the gay legislature in the US because of that hitting the forefront of the news and becoming a human story rather than something that's just reported on and switched over. It changed things, and this film, I believe, will help change more.

 

Are you concerned about how Trump's presidency might affect LGBT rights?

 

Look at the news. There are already anti-LGBT measures being taken. He's appointing these people in positions of power that make it known they are anti-LGBT and they have promised to reverse the measures that President Obama has pushed and we're seeing our nation in an uproar. There are swastikas being painted everywhere, more hate crimes. This film, to me, is for all minorities. Whether you are black or white or Asian or gay, straight, trans. It shows how people are treated as a minority out of fear. People around the country have really seen that message shine through in the film. I could have chosen any inversion. But I chose love because that is the universal language, and that is something that everyone can understand. For instance, after my very first showing, I had a woman come find me the very next day. She told me that she had to come find me because her mother had called her for the first time in 20 years after seeing my feature film premiere. They hadn't spoken because she's gay. That was a powerful reaffirmation that there is still work that needs to be done. This film is not for the LGBT community. It is for us in a sense, to show to our more close-minded family members and friends to say 'This is what it's like to be me, now can you understand?' 

 

If you could show this film to anyone who would it be?

 

Oh gosh. Our current Vice President-Elect, for sure.

 

And what do you think Mike Pence would think of it?

 

I would like to think that he would have something to think about after. I would also like to show Ellen; I would love to show Ellen, honestly. I think that she would get it. She became a major force and a pinnacle in our community because she was able to show that there is a human side to being gay or lesbian and that's why she was accepted by audiences all over the world. That's exactly what I want to do with this film.

 

Love Is All You Need is available now on iTunes.

 

@Seej.

 

More like this

 

First look: LGBTQ web series As We Are

 

TV lesbians: How The 100 revolutionised the fight against bury your gays tropes

 

4 fascinating short films by queer black filmmakers you need to see

 

Watch: Girls on Film

 

Only reading DIVA online? You're missing out. For more news, reviews and commentary, check out the latest issue. It's pretty badass, if we do say so ourselves.

 

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