Filmmaker, Kevin O’Brien took home two awards at the end of the New Hope Film Festival on Sunday, July 29, for his film, At The End of the Day. Holding his awards high, O’Brien was pleased to secure the LGBTQ Spirit Award as well as the Audience Choice for Best Narrative Feature Award.
At The End of the Day, which was written, directed and produced by O’Brien, debuted at the New Hope Film Festival at the New Hope Arts Center in Pennsylvania on the night of July 26.
The film is, “a dramatic comedy about a conservative Christian professor who experiences a profound change when he goes undercover and infiltrates a gay support group to thwart their plans to open a LGBTQ youth shelter in their small town.”
O’Brien who has made a few shorts before, had never taken on the task of actually making a full feature-length film.
“This was a constant, daily hustle and just the determination to learn,” O’Brien said. “I was researching and reading about the history of the LGBTQ community and faith, through conflict and how we got to the where we are and different beliefs and the understanding of scriptures. This was while I was learning how to even write a screen play and how to produce that and get finances and all of that. It was a constant obsession.”
O’Brien, who shared the producer role with his wife, Teresa, owes a lot of the success the film had both on and off the screen.
“The first two and a half years, it was her putting up with and supporting my obsession,” he said. “Once we got into filming and production, she was on set pretty much every day, she was producing with me. She was doing all of this at the same time as making sure our family still worked, making sure we all had clean laundry and all of that, so she was a huge proponent of everything.”
The film, which was set and filmed in the O’Brien’s small town of Lakeland, Florida, was being made when the shooting of the LGBTQ nightclub, The Pulse, occurred in Orlando. This was the deadliest incident of violence against the LGBTQ community in American history.
“This is more of an issue there [Florida] than other parts of the country,” he said. “We were already working on the film when that had happened and being so close to that really hit close to home. It was a very unfortunate thing that really hit close to us.”
Growing up in Florida, O’Brien was raised in a conservative, evangelical Christian household. He was always taught, ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin.’
“I grew up being taught, that was the loving approach,” he said. “There’s this truth, we have, this exclusive truth, the one truth to the world and the loving thing is to share that truth with some people. Growing up as a white, straight guy, I had all of the privileges. It wasn’t until my late twenties, early thirties, my eyes were starting to open to how damaging how much of this is to so many people. It was just something that made me feel like I had an obligation to do something, to bring some change.”
When Kevin and his wife, Teresa started to extend their family through adoption, which they did on two separate occasions, their eyes started to open when they realized that what they were taught might not have always been the right mindset.
“It was just about a lot of the stuff on how the way the world really works, a lot of misconceptions we had on people and groups and family’s histories,” he said. “So, we kept our curiosity and started asking what else don’t we know? What else are we wrong about? Ultimately, it was about the relationships that we built, and people who we were taught that we couldn’t have a relationship with as well as have a relationship with God. But people that we constantly met, were proving that wrong.”
After watching a documentary about five or six families growing up throughout evangelical homes, O’Brien was inspired to create the film after seeing what had happened when one of the children come out as gay.
“I knew that night, that was in April of 2014, I didn’t have the story, I just knew that that tension is where I wanted this movie to live.”
Through O’Brien’s journey in making this film come to life, his belief system that was taught to him as a child began to shift into a separate motion.
“I don’t know if it was the making of the movie or it was when I decided that this is what the movie was going to be about,” he said. “I know that I would not have put the time into the extensive research of the LGBTQ community if it hadn’t been for this film. My faith was shifting a lot before this and my understanding of what faith is and what scripture is was still shifting and making this film certainly put that shift on the fast track. The movie specifically deals with a lot of evangelical church’s treatment and dealings with LGBTQ community, but it’s so much bigger than that. It’s about the way we treat everybody. It’s how we value other people’s stories and their lived experiences and the challenge of valuing that as much as our own.”
O’Brien has one thing he wants viewers to get after watching his film.
“Big picture, I want people to listen,” he said. “Especially people who are more privileged, white, straight guys- I want us to stop acting like we have the answers and ask some questions, then shut up and listen, then value that answer. Part of the problem, big picture, is that even if we ask questions, we set people up to ask questions to give our retort, instead of just asking and just listening.”
At The End Of The Day, aired at the New Hope Film Festival in New Hope, Pa., and will soon be airing at other film festivals across the country.