For some time I’ve been highlighting the great and underrated work of female directors in cinema. Kim Rocco Shields, who I recently got a chance to sit and talk to, is not just a female director: she’s a director, pure and simple, and for my money Rocco is capable of pushing the envelope further than many male directors.
Proof of this is her recent short film “Love is All You Need,” which (at present) has not only garnered over thirty million views on the internet but has won awards in six different film festivals as well as sparked some nationwide debate (see stills from the article below)
The film shows the evils of bullying from a unique perspective that would make even Rod Serling proud. A young girl in a homosexual world is chastised for seeking a heterosexual relationship. Of course what makes the story, also written by Shields, different is not just the switching of what the world perceives as normal, but the genders of the characters.
Watching a little girl being ridiculed abused and even punched does underline the point of the film with a black marker and, without giving her ending away, Shields told me, “it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.” Shields loves challenges, however, as is obvious by not only her desire to bring a relevant social issue to the forefront by exploiting our culture’s sexual prejudices, but by doing it with a cast made up predominantly of children.
And if the old adage of children being difficult to work with is true, you sure wouldn’t know it from Shields’s film, as the real and natural performances she elicits from her pint-size cast make them not just great child actors but great actors, period. “I love children and hope to make more films with them. It’s a challenge and I love that,” Shields told me. Thankfully, she may get her chance, as her short has made such an impact as an anti-bullying tool in scholastic venues, is it now being developed into a feature which she believes will bring awareness and help to the problem and victims.
Always wanting to direct, L.A. native Shields took a great path on her quest to the proverbial bullhorn. Having studied film theory in school, she became an editor where she quickly learned the importance of telling stories visually. While sharpening those skills on various industrials, videos and commercials she realized firsthand experience was the best teacher. “I noticed on a film set the person who sits closest to the director is the script supervisor so I thought if I had that job I could learn the most.”
She went on to script-supervise for such directors as J.J. Abrams and Gore Verbinski. With this knowledge and her own talent, intelligence and determination, she formed WingSpan Pictures where she directed and produced several shorts and features. “I look at film as a chance to make art, not money” says Shields whose esthetic style of filmmaking gives her a classic edge in a modern era.
Although she’s directed comedy for television, her films seem to be more of her dramatic outlet. “I like to tell stories that create talk because we can’t learn anything by not talking.” Her work certainly proves she’s sincere in her desires as she’s tackled various issues including discrimination, medical concerns and the aforementioned bullying debate via alternate lifestyles. Of course, comedy or drama, her content has a message and the success of her courage in sending those messages has paved the way for her new company, Genius Pictures, a fully-staffed studio in Burbank, Calif., where she will continue to develop the kind of cinematic art she believes will both entertain and make a difference.
Note to festival programmers: don’t box up Shields’s films in the ‘Female Films’ category.
(below, some stills from “Love is all you need”)