Written By: Melissa Donofrio
Originally a short that was leaked in 2013, “Love is All You Need?” takes a unique twist on the topics of tolerance and bullying. The twist is, those who identify as gay are considered straight, those who are straight are considered gay, and heterophobia is a prevalent issue. Leading the incredible cast is Tyler Blackburn ( Pretty Little Liars) and Briana Evigan ( Step Up 2: The Streets) who play Ryan and Jude, the star crossed lovers of the film. Jude is the star quarterback of the girls’ football team. “Love is All You Need?” is emotional, impactful, and powerful as it tackles the injustices in our society. I had the opportunity to interview Director Kim Rocco Shields about her film and the controversy surrounding the original short that went viral.
When I asked her about the short and it’s leakage, Shields said that it went viral and without any marketing or advertisements, it reached about 40 million people. She also told me that the short was “designed to be a feature…. because there are so many different speaking points on this subject matter” of bullying. Shields created the short so she could test it among audiences to see if her concept “could be taken by a widespread audience”. I was surprised to learn that this concept of an inverted world has been used in plays, comedic acts, and movies, but the message did not speak to the issue at hand. Shields decided to change the narrative of using stereotypes to characterize certain groups of people, and believes that “the world is not defined by stereotypes”.
As a result of her changing the narrative, her short was deemed controversial. A Florida teacher’s contract was not renewed after he showed the video to his class. I asked her about her reaction to the controversy and she said, “I tried to… support the message of this film because I created it.. to bring awareness of these issues”. When she noticed the dialogue surrounding her video, she realized that “great changes” come from those talking about the issues at hand. Despite the controversy, Shields received numerous emails describing how the video has changed lives, and students have written theses on how the video impacts society.
It took Shields six years before the feature was fully funded and decided to not partner with a major studio company. Her reason being that she thought they would make her write a whole different story that played in to stereotypes. The production of “Love is All You Need?” took place in Los Angeles, California and she had 22 days to shoot the film.
The film contains actual speeches from the Westboro Baptist Church, but Shields took a creative liberty and changed the speeches to reflect hatred towards heterosexual individuals. The text messages that appear on screen are the actual messages that were sent to students who later killed themselves. The film also discusses the discrimination of those based on weight, race, age and gender. Shields reveals the torture and humiliation of those who are considered a minority. There are moments in the film where the torture was so gruesome that tears started to form in my eyes.
Once the screening of the film was over, a brief Q&A session was held with the director and members of the cast and crew. The audience learned that it took 70 rewrites of the script before it was finalized. The Westboro Baptist Church responded to the feature. They also received a call from someone in Long Island, New York who called the film disgusting. Their response was, “do you know what an allegory is” and hung up on the male caller. Lastly, we learned that Shields fought to have a girls football team in the film so mainstream American would understand her message of equality of the sexes.
“Love is All You Need?” leaves the viewer with a call to action to realize that minorities are still being discriminated to this day. This needs to change. The trailer for the film can be found at www.loveisallyouneedthemovie.com.