"Love Is All You Need?" to be made into a feature film

Fri. June 20, 2014 7:03 PM by Anthony Morgano

Anti-bullying viral short fundraising with the support of GLSEN

"Love Is All You Need?," a powerful and tragic short film depicting a world where "to be heterosexual is to be ridiculed [and] ?homosexuality is the expectation," was released back in 2011. Three years, 13 awards and 30 million views later, writer and director Kim Rocco Shields is trying to turn her viral short into a feature film with the support of many, including GLSEN, who want to bring her anti-bully message to a wider audience.

"'Love is All You Need?'" is my attempt to show the world what it would be like to walk a mile in someone else's shoes," Shields told ChicagoPride.com. "What it would be like to be bullied, beat up, and shunned by your peers? What it would be like to think that you have no reason to live? I would like to challenge our society to imagine a world where it was expected for girls to like girls and boys to like boys. What if it was abnormal for a girl and a boy to fall in love?"

Which is exactly what the original 19 minute and 13 second film does. Shield depicts a fictional world where same-sex attraction is the norm, where people vandalize suburban garages with "God Hates Heteros," telling the story of a girl, bullied for liking a boy, and the ridicule she faces, which parallels the struggle faced by LGBT youth. The feature film would expand on this world and the story between lead characters Jude and Ryan, who Shields describes as "all-American," hoping to encourage identification even in closed-minded viewers.

"Although 'Love Is All You Need?' may cause some uneasiness in viewers, it is important to keep in mind that everything that happens to the film's characters has actually happened to a child somewhere in this world," she said. "By representing these stories in a feature film we will be able to make strides in using media to promote social change."

"Ultimately," she continued. "I wish for audiences to realize how insane it is to be tormented because of who you are... or what you might be."

Shields has been overwhelmed by the popularity of the short the film, which has received huge amounts of attention, both praising its message and condemning it. The film has been especially popular amongst educators, but when an openly gay science teacher in the small town of Palatka, Florida screened it for his high school students he was met with opposition that ended in both him and the principal losing their jobs, "victims of faith based bullying."

What Shields remembers, though, are the hundreds of emails and video testimonials she's received. The one that sticks out was from a 12-year-old girl named Ashley, who said that after seeing the film she stopped both smoking and cutting herself.

"She was doing these things to defy the mold she felt she was forced into, and... seeing LIAYN helped her stop the destructive behavior," Shields recounts. "This film is not a cure-all for those things, but just to know there was a ripple effect of that nature -- the film not only stopped her from doing harmful things to her body, but also compelled her to send a personal video statement to me personally that was overwhelming and impactful."

The film has also won the endorsement of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), one of the premier LGBT groups and anti-bullying advocates in the country. This is the first time ever that GLSEN has ever partnered with a production company, which speaks volumes to the potential impact of the "Love Is All You Need?" and its ability to create change.

"It was quite an honor for GLSEN to become involved with the feature film," Shields said. "The short film has been hailed as an educational tool, a 'teacher's dream' if you will, throughout the nation and the world and GLSEN was very quick to realize and support that as LIAYN, the short, seamlessly integrates with GLSEN's message which is to ensure that every member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression."

The support of GLSEN as well as educators and viewers spanning the globe (the film has been translated into 15 different languages) gives Shields the confidence that a feature version of "Love Is All You Need?," with an actual budget, A-list actors and commercial appeal will be met with even greater success than the original short. Shields also believes in the power her film has to be meaningful and impactful as a piece of popular media. She lectures at universities around the country about how to use media for social change.

"My personal commitment to LGBT civil rights is through the power of cinema: we can make a difference and impact the world," she explained, saying that we can track media, television and film as a springboard to represent minority cultures, and in doing so bring them into the mainstream consciousness. "The more we show these people on cinema contributes to making them less of an 'other' and more of just part of society. So I dream for a day when we see gay characters on TV and the storylines are not about them being gay. I really think that a film like this can really open up people's eyes and really make them understand, because it allows them to put the shoe on the other foot and really walk a mile in LGBT civil rights issues."

Shields is raising funds and resources via the crowdsourcing platform Indiegogo for the project until July 2. You can donate at www.icanstopbullying.com.

Watch the original short film, "Love Is All You Need?"