My blog series, The Person Behind the Project, is one where I interview individuals who are doing interesting and meaningful things in the world. I not only talk about their projects, but try to find out what makes them tick. For people in the public eye, too often others tell their stories for them. Sometimes those stories are true and at other times — not so much. As I talk with folks, I hope you enjoy getting to know these folks, not solely as creators of influential content, but as human beings living life in meaningful ways. Enjoy.
I have never met Kevin O’Brien . . .
. . . but after a few interactions on Facebook and Twitter, I thought, what the heck, he’s doing an interesting thing. Kevin is a straight Christian making a film about LGBT Church tensions. He is raising money on Kickstarter to make a film titled, At the End of the Day, that is sure to generate some passionate conversations.
What could possibly be controversial about that?
And yes, he’s my second interview and I am now two for two in white guys who make films, go figure 🙂
You connect with Kevin and At the End of the Day on the website, www.endofthedayfilm.com, on Twitter at @endofthedayfilm, on Facebook at @endofthedayfilm, on Instagram at @endofthedayfilm, and on Youtube.
Okay, first off, the bio. Tell me five things about you.
I live in Lakeland, Florida (between Tampa and Orlando).
I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart for 14 years.
We have 4 9 year-old kids (adopted two, from separate families).
Got a BS in church ministries from Southeastern University (conservative Christian college).
I’ve been making short films for my main income for the past 4 years (over 75 short films).
So what are you working on right now?
“At The End Of The Day” is a feature-length film about a conservative Christian professor who experiences a profound change when he finds himself in a gay support group to foil their launch of an LGBT homeless youth shelter in their small town. It’s a dramatic comedy, intended to start or continue a conversation for Christians about embracing and including our LGBT brothers and sisters.
I am sure that folks have wondered about its message and your intent. Is this movie about marriage equality or LGBT rights?
No. This movie is about treating people as people first. It’s about validating the stories of others like we validate our own. It challenges people to stop trying to answer all the questions, and start asking instead. Then, listen to and honor the answers as valid.
One of the threads holding the story together is the crisis of LGBT homeless youth. 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT – dramatically out of proportion to the 6% of the general population. This is largely due to religious families’ rejection after youth come out to their parents
Have you received any or do you expect any (criticism?) from either those who disagree with where you have landed, or even those with whom you disagree?
Yes – but not as much as I expected to receive (at least not yet). I actually expected to get a lot of pushback when I first launched the website last October. But the thing didn’t go viral or anything, so I guess not that many people know about it yet. I’ve had a few friends and family members disagree completely. They’ve told me I’m doing to the dark side, I’m leading people away from Jesus, and I need to repent. That was not great to hear. But since my intention in this film is to start a conversation, I need to be ready to have that conversation also.
What advice would you give other allies who want to help? What should they be sure to do? What should they avoid?
It can be scary and hard being an ally. For one, you have others who aren’t there yet and think you’re just “caving in” to culture. Then you have the fear of not wanting to be offensive to the LGBT community. There are all sorts of rules and terms and categories you have to learn. It’s not an easy place to be. But it is so worth it! The friends I’ve met over the past year are some of the most encouraging, life-giving friends I have ever met. They continue to tell me that it’s all in your heart when you ask questions. They can tell if you’re asking a question out of a desire to know and support or if you’re being rude and hateful. Ask them about their story. Then listen.
Why Kickstarter and what have been the goods and bads of crowd-sourcing this?
I chose Kickstarter over the other crowd-funding platforms mainly for name recognition. There has been less explaining to do when people hear Kickstarter. The campaign has allowed us to reach all sorts of new people! That has been super helpful, and a great benefit. The challenge for me and this film is rather complicated. 1. I simply don’t have a huge crowd right now! This is my first feature film, and without a large crowd it’s hard to get crowd-funded (ha). The second complication comes from the political temperature of the topic. Many people and organizations on both sides of this issue do not want to share or support it publicly because it’s not made yet or because they might have something at stake. I know it’s a matter of finding the right people with the right causes, courage, and finances to make this thing happen.
Thanks for that info about At the End of the Day, now tell us a little more about what makes Kevin tick. First, what have you binge-watched lately?
Oh, Blackish for sure! It might help that we’re have both the parenting thing and the race thing in common (remember, we have two adopted brown kids). But my wife and I absolutely love that show. It’s an amazing time celebrating and calling out racial and parental issues – and realizing many of our issues aren’t really issues at all.
Speaking of family, can you share a meaningful tradition that your family keeps?
Throughout the year, our family writes down meaningful moments on a slip of paper as they happen and place it in a jar. At the end of the year, we divide up the paper and take turns reading our memories from the year. It’s a great time of celebration and joy – as well as honoring the darker times.
As you raise your four nine-year-olds, they must tell you what they want to be when they grow up. When you were a kid, what do you want to be when you grew up?
I really wanted to be an astronaut. I loved space, the space shuttle, NASA, and all of it. One of my favorite movies growing up was Space Camp. I remember endlessly drawing the space shuttle.
So what bring you joy?
Making people cry. Not to sound dark, but I love it when my films move people to tears. And that’s mainly because I know from my own life, that the most longstanding life changing moments seem to happen when I am the most vulnerable. When someone else’s story connects with me in a personal way.
And of course then, what is a pet peeve of yours?
Oh, man. When people watch youtube videos (or any thing really) on their phones with sound full blast in a public place like a restaurant or store. That bothers me to no end. Go somewhere else or turn it down or get some earbuds.
Now the fun stuff begins, Please complete the following phrases . . .
I just don’t understand . . . why people boycott entire organizations if they don’t agree with one thing they do.
I freaks me out when . . . any part of my body falls asleep.
Green is to salmon, as surreal is to . . . seriously? 🙂
I am hopping on a plane tomorrow headed to . . . Ireland. But I have to take my wife.
There should be a movie made about . . . a conservative Christian professor who goes undercover in a gay support group.
My mom, dad and/or relative makes the best . . . marinated grilled chicken. Seriously, I could eat it all day long!
My beverage of choice is . . . Caramel Macchiato
You can’t pay me enough to eat . . . Indian food (though – I’d eat it if in some strange way that got my film funded)
I love the sound of . . . thunderstorms (though I’m probably supposed to say my children’s laughter).
I sometimes spoil myself by . . . going to movies alone.
Thanks for doing that. I like to end these interview with my guest paying it forward a bit. Who else should people know about?
The Zebra Coalition in Orlando is a fully operational support center for LGBT youth. They offer counseling, programs, and beds for LGBT youth in all stages. They are doing the work.
The Kickstarter time is in its final week and, as of the time of this posting this interview, it’s about 1/3 of the way, so if you would like to support the making of At the End of the Day, be sure to visit the Kickstarter Project.
While I can’t promise anything, if you have some folks who are doing cool things and who might be an interesting interview, please let me know. In the mean time, check out more from The Person Behind the Project.