Sam: Hi Kevin! How are you!
Kevin: I am fantastic.
Sam: I’m glad to hear that. First of all, let me commend you on your film because I thought it was absolutely beautiful. But since AT THE END OF THE DAY isn’t out yet, provide our readers with a brief synopsis of the film?
Kevin: Absolutely! AT THE END OF THE DAY is a dramatic comedy that explores the tension between the evangelical church and the LGBTQ community. The film advocates for LGBTQ youth that have faced religious rejection. The story follows Dave who is a conservative Christian professor, who finds himself planted in a gay support group to stop them from launching an LGBTQ youth shelter in their small town; for homeless LGBTQ youth and the story kind of goes from there.
Sam: What influenced you to write this story?
Kevin: I feel like the biggest thing is my faith and how I was raised. My idea of faith and the importance of good theology changed over the years. As I have grown up, met people, educated myself and learned how damaging bad theology can be when it marginalizes people out of fear. I grew up like Dave in a conservative Christian home. I always wanted to make a feature film, but (I) never felt like I had a strong enough story to tell. As my faith started evolving and shifting this was a topic that my eyes were opened too. I felt like there was definitely a room for my voice to be a specific angle on this story that hasn’t been done before, definitely not in narrative film. There have been a number of very powerful documentaries, many of which have changed my life and led me to it. One of them is FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO which follows five families who grew up in church and one of them came out as something other than heteronormative. At the end of that documentary, I knew right then that this was going to be my first feature. I didn’t have the story yet, but I knew that tension that conflict was where it was going to live.
Sam: As I was watching the film I felt like there was no stone left unturned when it came to addressing controversial topics in the LGBTQ community. Your writing addressed what bathroom a transgender woman uses, being denied the ability of a same-sex couple to have a birthday party at a facility, the derogatory term “fudge packer.” The script addressed forgiveness, scripture and a variety of tough questions. Everything was just seemed spot on. How long did it take for you to plan and perfect this script?
Kevin: The script was about six months. I had the first version of the script in October of 2014. Then it was a matter of 10 or so drafts afterwards of honing it and getting feedback from some people. Definitely, within the six months, the scripts didn’t really change much after that. Our first big revision was combining a few characters and kind of streamlining the story. The authenticity in some of these characters or what I hope is the authenticity in these characters was really the driving force for me to make sure I perfected what a gay student who attends a Christian college feels like. That was important to me, as I am a straight gender person. I was terrified of writing that because I wanted to come off as authentic. But that is what I keep hearing is that “This felt real, this was my story and thank you for sharing it.”
Sam: How did you get the funding to back the film?
Kevin: A lot of donations given by generous friends and community members that believed in what we were doing. We had an idea to raise all this money with investors and do it for a certain budget. And my producer friend kept telling me to do this for as little as you possibly can. So we ended up not finding any investors. But the rest of it we raised about $55,000 through crowdfunding campaigns.
We actually had three crowdfunding campaigns. I always feel like I can’t be honest unless I talk about the first one that failed at The first campaign we had for 75,000 dollars went through Kickstarter, we did not reach that goal and since Kickstarter is an all or nothing platform it fell through. But then we did a successful follow up for $20,000 and then another campaign through a company called Seed & Spark who does specifically indie films. The rest of it we have taken out personal income to make sure that we could finish the story and get it out into the world.
Sam: I’m sure that you were kind of like Dave the character you wrote who had beliefs that were taught to you throughout your adolescence. How has creating this film changed some of the relationships with those who taught you those beliefs and possibly aren’t as opened minded as you are now?
Kevin: Hmmm. Well, some of those relationships are not what they used to be. Whether it’s each of us kind of went our own ways. You know a lot of them just kind of disappeared back in 2014 when we launched a website and first started talking about making this movie and that our views and beliefs had changed. I’ve moved away from where I grew up in Virginia, and in 1998 I moved to Florida to attend a college. I don’t have direct contact all the time with the people and community I grew up with. Some of them are along the ride with us; some of them are “I hadn’t thought about it in this way” and are open to conversation. Some of them also have been hurt in other ways when they have done something the evangelical church did not agree with; whether it was having a child outside of marriage, divorce or something like that. I feel like, if we don’t ask ourselves these questions and take the time to research and learn for ourselves, a lot of times life presents us with a situation where we are shoved into a position where we are not in the acceptable community anymore. Some of them have been fantastic conversations, and some of them have kind of fallen silent, and we no longer communicate on a regular basis. It’s kind of hard when this has been the big project that my wife and I have been working on for the past five years. When someone asks “What’s going on in your life?” Then we talk about AT THE END OF THE DAY, and it makes them uncomfortable. It can be challenging sometimes.
Sam: All of the characters I thought were absolutely amazing, but my favorite was Aunt Patty. I loved her free spirit, and she was a very loving woman. Was there an Aunt Patty in your life or where you an Aunt Patty in someone else’s life?
Kevin: Oh, I’ve never thought about it that way before, as far as me being an Aunt Patty to someone. Holy cow, I hope I could be that. That would be a life goal for sure! But yes, I certainly did have an Aunt Patty in my life. Aunt Patty is heavily influenced by my mother-in-law, whose name is also Patty. Unfortunately, she passed way in the early 2000s from cancer, but she was that free spirit. She was that loving, crazy person that you always wanted to be around. Aunt Patty was definitely my favorite character. I remember the day that I decided that this was going to be the one character inspired by my mother-in-law’s life and how I imagined her if she’d live into her 70’s. You’re not alone in her being your favorite character, because most people felt that way.
Sam: I thought the song selections were wonderful. Especially, the Just A Little Grace by Benj Heard. Who did the musical score for your film?
Kevin: Christopher Franzén, he’s from Sweden. I used some of his music for some of my shorts that I’d done in the past. When it came time to compose I sent Christopher a screener without any music, he loved it and jumped on board! That whole process of working through composing the music with him and giving feedback was a magical month. It was one of those times where it felt like you were actually making a movie. Cause a lot of the time you don’t feel like it, because it is such a slow process.
Sam: How did the idea for the “gay” song game come about? I thought that was so clever.
Kevin: Thank you, I really enjoyed those scenes. When I worked an old job at a church, I would always sing songs randomly or take a phrase and turn it into a song or bring a song into a random conversation. I was looking for something that would be a lot of fun, and that would make Dave uncomfortable. The title of the movie used to be, “This is the Gay that the Lord has Made,” that was the original working title. And that title is what got me. Once I had that title, that’s what propelled me for the first six months or so because I felt like that got the tone of the movie. I knew that wasn’t going to be the final title because it wouldn’t really work. But I wanted to include that phrase and that was a way I was able to work that in, then including other songs and having this be a thing, a game that the group does and had history doing. Also, it let Dave influence them a little bit.
Sam: That was very creative. There wasn’t a director’s cut for the film. If you went back and did one, is there a specific scene of the movie that you would like to provide audiences more insight to?
Kevin: Hmmm, what a great question. There was actually a scene that was cut that will probably become a bonus features in the future. That cut scene I felt exemplified or got what the movie was about. It was a story that a friend of mine shared on his podcast about two uncles who were both preachers, but they had their different takes on what religion and faith was about. I actually had Aunt Patty share the story with Dave, but to keep the film concise as possible, we made it so that Patty delivered the message in other ways. That was a scene that I do miss and hope to be able to share.
Sam: What can we expect next from Kevin O’Brien?
Kevin: I have two ideas that I am in development with right now. Neither of them are easy or simple. The first one that I have been working on involves migrant farming families. Through that story, I am hoping to humanize that whole process. The other one that I’m working on right now is the evangelical mission machine. The impact of the overseas mission, the way the industry has become an industry and how that is affecting others and how the white savior complex plays into that. That is another one that I’m really excited about.
Sam: That’s very interesting. My last question, at the end of the day what matters most to Kevin O’Brien as a story teller and filmmaker?
Kevin: What matters to me is that we can slow down a little bit. When we hear a story that we can listen to it and not feel like we have to give our opinion right away. Listening to the stories of other people who are not like us and valuing those stories as legitimately as we value our own lived experiences.
If you like to learn more about the film, please visit https://endofthedayfilm.com/
Peace Out - Sam