Interview: Kim Rocco Shields from "Love Is All You Need?"
Kim Rocco Shields is one of Hollywood’s brightest young directors. She has had a great career so far doing dozens of films and working with top directors like J.J. Abrams and Gore Verbinski. One of her latest films is a short called “Love is All You Need?” and is about bullying in a world in which homosexual relationships are the norm and heterosexual people are the outcasts. Kim was kind enough to sit down with us here at The Movie Network and tell us all about her new film.
Nick Leyland from The Movie Network: Why do you have the question mark at the end of the title? Love is All You Need?
Kim Rocco Shields: It's kind of reciprocal, like "Love is all you need, is it?" Because this girl, all she wanted was love, but in the end she took her own life, so it's kind of a satire on the entire concept of the film.
TMN: Can you tell us a little bit about your inspiration for writing the film?
Kim Rocco Shields: I have a company, we're dedicated to make films that make a difference, or make media that makes a difference. We all love what we do and we vie to do that in this day and age. "Love is Al You Need?"... The inspiration came in 2011; I was watching the news, and all these reporters were saying, "How is this possible? How are young 11-year-olds and 12-year-olds taking their own lives? We don't understand how someone so young and innocent can be driven to such a tragic place!" and I thought to myself, "Well, if the tables were turned, they would totally get it. And if they could see what it's like to be a 12-year-old and be tormented in social circles and status quos, everything at that age, because you're so innocent, that's really all you have to worry about. When that gets taken away from you, kids will do some pretty drastic things. So I created "Love is All You Need?" to kind of shine light on that and to give the world the ability, that age old adage, "If you walk a mile in someone else's shoes, then you'll understand." Well, this film gives you that opportunity.
TMN: In the film, the norm is the homosexual relationship, and the heterosexual relationships are more of the ostracized, I guess. Was it awkward for these kids to do this film? Did you have to sit down and discuss with them what this was about because you're working with seven to 15-year-olds or something, right?
Kim Rocco Shields: Absolutely. Actually, I was working with one to 15. As the director, everyone's like, "You don't wanna work with kids or animals." But I love working with kids; they're much more intelligent than anyone would think. For this film, we had to put up a disclaimer in the casting process, what it was about, why we were doing it, and so only people that came to audition, parents were ready for those kids to get it. And before we shot the film, we brought all the kids in for an old fashion table read, in which I talked to them all, with the parents there, about why we're making the film, and every single kid understood it. Our little four-year-olds and the youngsters, they are not allowed to watch it quite yet until they get a little older, but they all know they were part of something very important.
TMN: Why do a short 20-minute film when you could have done a full feature maybe?
Kim Rocco Shields: Actually, we created the short in order to create the feature. The thing with this concept is it's never been done before; it's never been done in this way. And people say, "Oh, I'm making a bullying movie." It's a very narrow audience when you think about it, because audiences want to be engaged and taken away and that's our society right now. But I knew with this concept and this twist, that it could bring audiences to see something they had never seen before, but Hollywood only invests in what they know will sell. So I knew I had to make a short to prove that it could be a viable concept, 'cause most people also think that it can only be used for comedies, and I really believe in the power of drama, and two, that it would be well received internationally. And that's exactly what the short has proven, so I'm hoping through that, I'll be able to make the feature.
TMN: Well, you've won tons of awards, right?
Kim Rocco Shields: It's not only won awards, but it's been viewed by 30 million people on the internet, and it's been self-translated into 15 different languages, which not only is there a market for it, but there is an international market for it. And this is a short film that's never been marketed; it got picked up and leaked, put one on one article, and then it just went like wildfire from there.
My vision for the feature is to get celebrities that are recognizable, so that we can bring in even more audiences to see these performances. And by doing so, it will heighten the visibility of this film and in essence, spread its message.
TMN: Now, did you intend to specifically target bullying for sexual orientation or was it for a whole spectrum of bullying?
Kim Rocco Shields: I always stand by the fact that this is a film about bullying. This is a film about exposing bullying, and it exposes human rights in a different lens. And ultimately what I'm trying to get at is that people should not be prejudiced against because of what they look like or who they love. That doesn't define a person; what defines a person comes from within. And so that's the ultimate message of this film.
TMN: I found it interesting that you put women into men roles. Like with the woman priest that you had and with the girls football team. What was your decision on that?
Kim Rocco Shields: That is really interesting. David and I, my co-writer, David, really sat down upon creating the short and feature and thought, "Okay, if David's straight and his friend was gay, what are some of the things that would be different?" I could have went even more extreme, but I didn't wanna ostracize the audience by putting them into a sci-fi world. I wanted just to put men and women on an equal playing field, if you will. So what we envisioned is that men and women would be on that equal field. They probably would've, in ancient times, fought on the battle field together. And by stemming from that, we thought that since football is derived from ancient battle, we thought they would probably be playing football too, with the boys 'cause, again, it's an equal playing field so we just wanted to level up in that regard. Priests? The same. I'm sure there would be men and women priests if the tables were turned, and men and women were just more on an equal playing field, I'm not saying that the roles would be reversed, like men would be like women, and women would be like men; we're very careful not to do that, but there would just be more of an equality all around.
TMN: I also enjoyed the narration in the film by Ashley. It gave the audience a lot of knowledge. Is that what you were intending?
Kim Rocco Shields: That was... There's always that criticism of voice-over; you gotta know when and where to use it. But ultimately, I crafted this 20-minute film to show Ashley's life from birth to death, and ultimately, what the narration comes from is her looking back upon her life after her death and that's what the film is.
TMN: With the topic of bullying, can you tell us some of your thoughts on bullying in the US today? You split the film in half, kind of with the bullying, with the in-person and the cyber bullying with the text messages and things like that. What makes the cyber bullying and all these new things so dangerous today?
Kim Rocco Shields: The main danger of cyber bullying and Internet-based bullying is the anonymity. With cyber bullying and online bullying; people can hide behind a computer and they could say whatever they want. It eliminates the face-to-face confrontation which allows for an even greater presence when it comes to bullying. Because the Internet is not specifically regulated and there's no like, someone watching over it, kids are allowed to and able to interact and find things in a way that they've never been able to before. It's the sad reality we live in today.
TMN: Can you tell me a little bit about stuff that you've done in the past? Because you've been a part of so many movies.
Kim Rocco Shields: Well, I feel I've always wanted to be a director ever since I was little, and music was always my calling as well. I've always been a fan of the arts. So I started in the business as anyone would, as an assistant, and then I started editing. Editing really gives you a sense of how to piece a story together. That really gave me the basic foundation of film, and how to craft a story. And I found myself in the back room looking at a script supervisor notes, and thinking, "Wow, I wish I could be on set right next to the director," and as I looked at the notes, it kind of all clicked. So I switched careers and started script supervising, which went extremely well very quickly, and I got to work alongside some of the most talented directors in Hollywood, and also work on a lot of indie films where directors have problems dealing with budgets and other conflicts. So I really got to learn what to do and what not to do, which eventually led to me opening my own company and having the tenure of sitting on set, and really knowing what every position does has made me a better producer, director and writer.
TMN: I saw that you were part of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, and you worked with JJ Abrams. Your Career seems to be going very well.
Kim Rocco Shields: I sure hope so. I feel like I've only done a small amount and there's just so much more to do and I'm just really excited to make a difference through my craft and really tell some stories that have not been told.
TMN: Well, what can we look forward to seeing from you then in the future, now that this film is out?
Kim Rocco Shields: Well, I have a bunch of projects in development over here at Genius Pictures. I've got a feature film that I'm working on called "Exposure," which chronicles a female marine who returns from Iraq as an amputee and falls in love for a struggling photographer, who has her pose nude for a series of wounded warrior portraits. This is a very interesting film, 'cause not only it looks at women's rights, but it looks at women in the military, and also questions what is beautiful. What does our society look at as beautiful? I'm also working on a top secret TV show called, "The Deep Web," which explores the Internet as we were just talking about, and its ripple effect on society and how it's changed society in so many ways over the past 10 years. I also have a bunch of other projects, all of them are kind of spun around social issues and creating social change through them.
TMN: Wow, you are busy, busy, busy.
Kim Rocco Shields: I try. [chuckle] It's all about the films. "Black Swan" took 10 years to get off the ground. You need, as a film maker, you need to not just have one project, but several projects because as soon as you get the opportunity to make one, the rest, I believe, will follow.
TMN: Wow. Well, congratulations, and I really appreciate you talking with me. And I enjoyed the film. Everyone can see it on YouTube, right?
Kim Rocco Shields: Yes, you can pick it on YouTube or simply LoveisAllYouNeedtheMovie.com.
TMN: Thank you so much for your time.
Kim Rocco Shields: Thank you so much. I really love your website. I use it all the time. I'm honored to be a part of it.