Spending Time With… Kevin O’Brien

Writer/Director Kevin O’Brien has taken some time away from his work to take part in the online version of Spending Time With…and here for your reading pleasure are his answers to the pre-prepared questions. (Many thanks to Kevin for taking the time out, and to the wonderful team at October Coast for arranging this)

Kevins latest film ‘ At The End Of The Day’ Stephen Martin (“Sleepy Hollow”) plays a conservative, Christian professor that experiences a profound change when he finds himself planted in a gay support group to stop their plans to open an LGBTQ youth shelter in their small town.

When people ask you ‘so, what do you do?’ How do you introduce yourself?

My online bios reed, “I create films that move people to live better stories.” But in real life, most of the time I say “I’m a filmmaker.” Thought it took me a while to feel comfortable saying that.

What’s the first thing you do when you get on ‘set’

I try to say “hey” to everyone there, and hunt down my DP. That’s when the fun begins. I have to remind myself that relationships are more important that the work. And my DPs usually remind me of that.

Do you have any traditions that you have when you are involved in a project?

Not sure if it’s a tradition, but I do my best to remind everyone around me to relax and have a great time. This is awesome, what we get to do. I don’t ever want to take it for granted.

What was the most recent book you read?

The Very Worst Missionary by Jamie Write. It’s a hilarious and thought-provoking story of Jamie packing up her life to be a foreign missionary – as a family of 5!

What’s one of your favourite current Television shows you are watching?

I really loved Homecoming on Amazon. The filmmaking choices, and the confidence in the story telling were so compelling. I was only upset it ended after 10 episodes.

What’s the most ‘starstruck’ you have been?

I am the worst at meeting regular people, so just multiply that by 1,000 when meeting someone I’ve admired for a long time. So I actually try to avoid that. I’d rather be a fan, and pretend this person is more than a person.

What was one of the most memorable films you saw as a child?

It would have to be Glory, the Civil War Epic about the first African American unit in the union. That was the first film where I realized how powerful the medium is, and that a movie can be more than just a movie.

What do you find the hardest part of your creative process and how do you deal with it?

Starting. Every day. For me, I somehow always think if I can start on the first day, then the other days will start flowing with ease. But every single day the hardest thing is to sit down and start working. What’s worked best for me is to set small goals with rewards. Like “I can go see a movie tonight if I get to my 5 page goal.” The funny thing is that once I get started, I often surpass my goal for the day, and often keep going so that I can’t go see that movie, but I get the work done.
And then, tomorrow it starts all over again.

What is one of the best pieces of advice you can remember being given and from whom?

For this particular film, with it being my first, was to make this movie for as little money as possible. We kept trimming and ripping the budget down – mostly because raising the funds was next to impossible. But thanks to that we’re in a much better position to break even.
The other advice is to surround yourself with people more experienced than yourself. Most of the cast and crew, particularly Brandon Hyde, my Director of Photography, fits that bill. I could not have done this film without the amazing people around me.

If you could change one thing about the industry you are in, what would it be?

That it’s relationship based. It must be great once you create those relationships. But when you’re starting out, it’s impossible to know where to start.

Do you read reviews of projects you work on?

Absolutely. I make films to move people, and I want to know if I am moving people. At times they are hard to read, but I think it’s important.

If you had to make a ‘bucket list’ of people you’d love to work with, tell me one name who would be on it?

Jessica Chastain. That woman is fierce and 100% in on every performance.

Do you prefer day shoots or night shoots?

Everything is more magical at night. Always night.

What is one of your most favourite locations you have filmed in?

I loved filming in the home we used for Aunt Patty’s house in At the End of the Day. It’s a 100 year-old victorian home owned by some friends of mine. It’s the oldest home in Lakeland, my hometown, and it’s simply beautiful. The owners were so gracious, and it has so much depth that didn’t need to set decorate much at all.

What film always makes you laugh?

I feel like I want to come up with a really intelligent movie to impress you all with, but it’s “Dumb & Dumber.” True gold.

What film scares you?

Paranormal Activity. I’m terrified of that junk. No thank you.

What film do you love that you feel most people might not be aware of?

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. I’m sure people are aware of it, but it’s not given its due. That is such a beautiful and fun celebration of life and grief. More people should watch it.

In your creative roles? What is the longest day that you’ve ever had?

I don’t have one that comes to mind, but since I was producing and directing on At the End of the Day, I was always the first on there and the last one to leave. I drove the truck that hauled the grip trailer, and the trailer stayed at my house. So I’d always have to arrive early and always leave late. I feel like the whole 22 day shoot was one very long day.

Do you have any ‘props or keepsakes from your films?

I try to keep one small item from each project, especially if the film was of special meaning to me. For At the End of the Day, with it being my first feature film, the crew honored me with the slate we used throughout filming. It was beaten all to deach, and held together with gaff tape, but it’s incredibly special. I also held onto the art piece in the final scene of the film. It’s in a prominent place in our home, and means a great deal to us.

What is your proudest achievement?

At the End of the Day. Hands down. Having completed a feature film is definitely my proudest achievement. If you had told me  7 years ago that I would have written, produced, directed, and edited my feature film, I would have laughed.

Have you ever gotten someone’s autograph? Which is the most memorable for you?

I’m not an autograph kind of guy. I honestly don’t understand them. I know they are important to some people, just not for me.

At the End of the Day, from writer-director Kevin O’Brien, premieres On Demand this February.

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