Growing up in Pensacola, Florida, I observed certain beliefs and practices held by the Evangelical community that surrounded me, and these observations helped form the short fiction narrative that is R S V P.
In RSVP the characters of Devon and Stephen are soul mates. Which is why even after Stephen’s physical form has left this world, his soul remains with Devon observing as the films action unfolds. Devon is attempting to fulfill Stephen’s dying wish: For Devon to return to the conservative coastal town Stephen grew up in, and conduct Stephen’s ash spreading ceremony – with his estranged family in attendance. Despite his family’s continued rejection of him after all these years, Stephen looks on as he hopes to observe the fruits of his final gesture of selfless forgiveness.
My purpose in writing this film was to represent what I observe as the pain, destruction, and weakening that is occurring within many religions, due to the practices of condemning and expelling people based on sexual orientation. It is my deep hope, that religion as a whole will shift toward an acceptance and grace that mirrors the love Christ exhibited during his physical time here on earth…A shift that begins small, with one heart at a time, and grows to be tangible and real for all of humanity.
Undoubtedly, this film is “about something”. And although I don’t have plans to always write stories with a clearly intended message, I am deeply drawn to allegory, and this subject matter felt important enough to utilize narrative in such a way. This is my greatest hope for RSVP – that the narrative will help shift peoples perspectives toward the direction of being more empathetic toward others.
The 2012 Kaufman/Libby study, provided substantial evidence that viewers who watch impactful narratives experience a phenomenon that results in a temporary shift in one’s beliefs and worldviews. These findings have led researchers to conclude that fictional stories are as effective as factual stories in influencing or shifting attitudes and beliefs related to the narrative.
I’ve received the gift of hearing feed back after screening RSVP. One instance in particular stands out: A ten year old girl and her mother saw the film in Florida, and later they told me how much it meant to them. The mother said, “My daughter was so moved by your film, she told my husband that he needed to come down here to watch it on the computer viewing stations. You see, we’re Baptist, and we go to a conservative church, but my brother, her uncle, is gay. And its been hard for my husband to reconcile the two. But watching your film reinforced the feeling that has been growing in me, and has always been strong in my daughter; that the last thing we should be doing is withholding love from people. It isn’t our job, or the Church’s job to judge people, our job is to love without conditions, not from afar, but in community. That’s what Jesus is asking us to do.”
I am grateful for the success RSVP experienced during it run on the film festival circuit. Starting with its premier at my home town’s LGBTQ film festival, STAMPED Film Festival, receiving a jury prize at the 2016 Cinema on the Bayou Film Festival, and being one of only 17 short films selected to screen at the Maui Film Festival. But I am most grateful for all of the people who put their hard work and hearts into helping this film be made.