A Catholic film studio called Spirit Juice Studios released a short pro-life film called To Be Born last June. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch it for free at ToBeBorn.com, or click the embedded video below.
I had the opportunity to interview Rob Kaczmark, the director of To Be Born, to ask him some questions about the movie. You can listen to the full audio interview (19 minutes) by clicking here, or you can read the transcript below. I will be publishing a review of the film later this week.
Josh Brahm: This is Josh Brahm, host of Life Report, and I’m here with Rob Kazmark, who’s the production manager at Spirit Juice Studios. Rob, let’s just start with this: what is Spirit Juice Studios?
Rob Kazmark: Spirit Juice Studios is a Catholic production company. We’ve been around for about five years now. And we focus on Catholic organizations and try to help them through media. You know, better market themselves through video production, websites.
JB: Let’s talk about this movie, To Be Born. What was the inspiration behind the film, and why did you produce it?
RK: Well, I’m pretty sure that someone we work with came to us and said, you know, I got this priest and this letter from the unborn child that he’s been using in front of clinics for ten years, and he saves hundreds of babies with it. And he wants to adapt it to a film. And so he’s like, would you mind meeting him and getting together? So I sat down with him, and – great priest and, you know, real good heart. And I’ll tell you, he really just has a love for the the pro-life work. And – so we took a look at the script, and we’re like, well – it really wasn’t a script, it was more like a letter from the unborn child. And so we said, you know, to really make this into a film that’s gonna hopefully make some impact it’s gonna need some work, and the monies that you fundraised wasn’t quite enough, and so we said, “Well, how about this. We’ll help you out with it. We’ll – we’ll fill in the cracks for it and – and make it all kind of come together.” So he was very open to that. And – and so we really adapted to the – just the letter and the script and kind of gave, you know – who’s the mother, why’d she’s even considering having the abortion, you know, was the father there? It’s kind of like – just all the little elements that you need in a story. So, you know, we did casting for it and kind of the whole nine yards. And it kind of just came together.
RK: You know, I think every pro-life film has its value. They all sort of serve, you could say a different demographic within sort of the pro-life arena. I think ours really goes after, as far as the marketability, the same thing that the letter did. You know, Father Steven would stand outside his clinics, you know, praying, and if a girl, you know, if he had a chance to talk to them he would have them read this letter. You know, it’s a first-person perspective from the child during the abortion. So I think the film is very powerful in that — in young women or in any age women who are considering having an abortion, you know, who maybe aren’t sure as far as, you know, what they should be doing or kind of, you know, their — they just kind of need some guidance. I think this is gonna help guide them to, you know, see what the horrors of abortion are. I mean, the film is — it is a little intense. We’ve had people let us know that. But it was done purposely. Before we started working on it, Father Steven recommended that I watch a medical procedure of an abortion. Before I got involved, you know, I was pro-life — I was very much pro-life. I wasn’t that knowledgeable in it and so, you know, we were talking and he said, “why don’t you just watch?” He goes, “I’ve got a DVD. It’s literally a medical procedure of an abortion.” He’s like, “There’s no agenda. It’s just, you know, a video.” I was like, “Okay, I’ll check that out.” And it really kind of just rocked my whole per — not even my whole perception, because I knew that’s what happened before, but once you actually see it — once you see body parts being pulled out, you know, from a woman, it really does a number on your brain. And it really impacted me. And so I wanted the, you know, the abortion scene in the film, to reflect that badness, that craziness, that just absurdness that, you know, a human being is being dismembered.
JB: Yeah. I thought, you know, as I kind of look back on it — I mean, I agree, certainly, that middle part is really intense. But I think I’m fine with that because it’s kind of — how else do you creatively try to demonstrate or move people? But I think it’s equal to — or tries to be equal to how horrible abortion is morally, with the horror music and all that stuff. That’s a creative way to try to demonstrate the horror, morally, that is abortion.
RK: Right. Right, yeah. That’s a great — great analogy.
JB: What has the response been to the movie so far?
RK: You know, it’s been — it’s been very good. We — we worked on it for about two years because we really wanted to kind of get it perfected. So we got a lot of feedback throughout the process doing, you know, small screenings and — you know, early on there was, you know, some criticism and so we tried to sort of adapt it a little bit and kind of change it so it would kind of please a majority of the people who were gonna watch it. And, you know, we — when we debuted it we rented out a theater and there were like 400 seats in it which completely sold out, packed theater which was — so that was great. And — but as far as, you know, online, we — it was doing pretty good. We have it in three different languages: English, Spanish, and Polish. And it’s — it did really good right out of the can and then, you know, I think we didn’t have the proper marketing budget to really, you know, keep pushing it and keep getting it out there. And so it’s kind of — I would say it’s kind of leveled off. But it just kind of stayed where it’s at. We had a little mishap with our YouTube channel so we had to reupload it. And so we lost some of the views, which was unfortunate but…
JB: What happened there?
RK: One day our YouTube channel was deleted. And, you know, a majority of the stuff we had on there is — is religious and we had just recently uploaded To Be Born, and, you know, we tried contacting YouTube and they were, you know — they’re not too, you know, concerned about people’s stuff so we got no response. And so I don’t know. I came to the conclusion that it may have been because of, you know, someone — you know, ‘cause basically our account was hacked. When I — it was deleted and when I tried to login our password didn’t work. And so I think that someone logged in, did something that they shouldn’t have — or, you know, that they were trying to do to — to sabotage us. You know, for whatever reason, it got deleted. It was a very — it was a bit of a bummer at that point. Collectively, on our YouTube channel, we had about a half a million views, you know, over all of our videos. And so, you know, it was — I often thought of — it’s actually Mother Theresa’s quote but it’s something she had hanging up in, I think, one of the houses she started. But one of the quotes is, “What it takes you years to build, others can destroy overnight. Build anyways.” And so I just kept that rolling through my head, to not get discouraged, so…
JB: Do you know what results have come from the film? Do you have testimonies or people saying they didn’t have an abortion because of this?
RK: Yeah. It’s — I need to do a better job of collecting all of it. But even when it was just being screened, like the rough cuts of it, I’d give, you know, a DVD copy to Father Steven so he can check it out. And said, “Okay, don’t share this. I just want you to kind of look at it and tell me your thoughts.” And he’d come back and be like, “Rob, I — I’m sorry, I had to show it to some people but it saved someone’s life already.” So it was — Father Steven has so many stories of how this film has changed a young woman’s decision to, you know, to keep their baby. And even in — before it was even finished, it was, you know, it was changing a girl’s life. And so I do, you know, I do need to do a better job of kind of collecting all that and putting it all in a collective resource.
JB: What kind of response have you received from pro-life activists or professional pro-life people?
RK: Overwhelmingly positive. Some of the top people who have spoke out and gave us some pretty fantastic quotes. Abby Johnson — she gave a, just a fantastic quote. Jason Jones, he’s one of our title quotes on the DVD. His was, “this little film will change the world.” That’s awesome. Steve McEveety, you know, from Empower, and also Preaching with Passion. He said it’s the most powerful pro-life short film he’d ever seen. Lots of — we have, like, local workers in different, you know, women’s centers spoke out and said it was great. I’m trying to think — I have a whole list of them, I could probably pull it up. But it — it has been very positive from pro-life advocates.
JB: What kind of responses have you received from pro-choice advocates?
RK: The only ones that I know of are the YouTube comments. And…
JB: Those are not always the most intelligent comments.
RK: Yeah. Unfortunately they’re not — they can kind of just be, you know, really quick low jabs. You know, we haven’t actually — it’s interesting that you bring that up because we haven’t actually, you know, sought out pro-choice advocates and tried to get their thoughts in there. Probably because we know they’re just not gonna like it anyways and probably just don’t want to hear the criticisms from them. But that’s interesting. I would be curious to hear what they would say.
JB: Let me ask you this first. The letter during the middle section of the movie, the letter from the unborn child, that this was based on this thing that the priest had been using. Is the text of the letter that’s heard in the voice-over of the film, is that exactly the same as the priest has been using or did you guys modify it?
RK: We did modify it a little bit simply because it wasn’t — if it worked on its own but it wasn’t really in chronologically order as far as like just taking you through — especially if you kind of had something before and after and so we — we did modify it a bit. But, you know, we had revisions with Father Steven to make sure he was comfortable with it. And it was actually written by a woman, Marisol — I believe Marisol Hernandez wrote it. And then — I believe there’s a few of them floating around. I’ve seen — as I was looking online, a few of them out there.
JB: Well, the main question that came up in my mind when I saw the film — I think the only potential complaint I might have with it, but I want to ask you about it, is clearly you guys were careful in the scriptwriting process. But talk to me about the decision to portray the embryo as somebody who is able to hear, able to cry, able to feel fear and pain, able to sense Mom’s emotions, has conscious thoughts. You know, these are things — I mean, in the film, the mom has just had a positive pregnancy test so we’re talking about an early embryo here at this point. And these are things that don’t happen in the first trimester. Was there thought about that or a reason for that?
RK: That’s interesting that you bring that up, ‘cause one of the thoughts kind of piggy-backing on that is if it was that early on in the pregnancy — you should probably know there’s, you know, three types of abortion. The medical names escape me for the moment. So if it was that early on they wouldn’t actually perform that type of abortion.
JB: That’s correct.
RK: They’d have to use the vacuum. And it’d have to be, I think it’s three to six months where it’s D&E, is that what it’s called?
JB: That’s correct.
RK: And then if it’s late-term, it’s, obviously, much different but that actually was one of the biggest things we were thinking about. ‘Cause we were like, you know, it’s so early on, this doesn’t make sense to have this type of abortion. Like how could we go around this? And then finally we said we just don’t know how to get around this — get by with that, let alone, you know, account for the fact that she could, you know, the baby could hear her, interact with her and stuff. So basically we had to say, well, it’s a movie and it’s, you know, there’s a lot of things that, you know — I mean, it’s not meant to be — I don’t know. I guess we just kind of thought, well, it’s a film and so this is sort of the concept of it and if you can go with it, good. I don’t know. I guess I don’t have a great answer for that.
JB: I guess my concern, Rob, is — I mean, I think what you could have done is have in the story that she’s been pregnant for a while and theoretically she’s thinking about a D&E in her second trimester and then maybe some of those things would have become true. I think my concern — and I thought that might have been the conclusion you guys came to, but I think my concern is that at the very least other pro-life people seeing it will assume this is all based on research and fetal development facts. And you’ll kind of have the same thing where people saw Juno and thought that first trimester babies have fingernails and things like that. And so I guess I’m just concerned about if there’ll be this effect of people now giving out false information about fetal development.
RK: That’s a good point. It’s funny, only one person had really tried to screen this and get quotes from, you know, pro-life advocates. So only one person had pointed that out. And we thought, like, everyone was gonna point that out. There — there is that, you know, it’s not — I guess this film isn’t supposed to be — you know, it’s focused more on the story than, you know, I want to say the hard facts. Because it is, you know, it is factual except for the sense that if it was that early on, that sort of abortion wouldn’t occur. It’d be a different type of abortion. And so — yeah, there is that. I mean, again, we thought about this long and hard when we were making it. It’s just — and then we thought about having her be further down in the pregnancy but we — we thought it’d be strong to have — you know, show early on. You know, how the film actually happened with, you know, telling her boyfriend. You know — I don’t know, we just felt that that had a stronger thing — we wanted to stick with that. And so it was — I guess it was a creative choice that, you know, it does, you know, show that it doesn’t all, you know — yeah, I don’t know. Maybe we should have a disclaimer on it at the beginning and say, “actually it would be a different type of abortion but for the sake of the movie we decided to go this route.”
JB: Yeah, maybe. What do you hope to accomplish with this film, Rob?
RK: You know what? There was a couple goals with this. You know, the first goal is to obviously make — you know, make something that could impact a woman’s choice, you know, in a positive way. Make her see that having a baby, you know, is a positive thing and is, you know, the better choice. So there was that obviously. But also, you know, the goal was to make, you know, a high quality pro-life film. Or short film, rather. You know, I’ve seen, you know, a great number of ones out there and there are some good ones and some, you know, that maybe aren’t extremely high quality. So you know, I wanted to give justice to the cause. I didn’t want to have one that wasn’t up to par. And so I hope that we accomplished it. I mean I — when I look at it I could still pick it apart and wish, you know, technically there are some things we did differently and all that. But I think that’s — I guess that’s common with, you know — I do that really with anything I’ve worked on. So yeah, I would just say the two main goals are something that could hopefully affect women and also, you know, give justice to the cause in a sense of something that’s high quality.
JB: Do you plan to make more pro-life films in the future?
RK: Yeah. We’re actually working on a pro-life documentary right now called Forty. It’s pro-life champions — working with them, they hired us to do the production of it. But it’s very interesting. It’s about forty years of pro-life — well, in America and it’s kind of trying to take — I wouldn’t say trying to take religion out of it, but showing that being pro-life isn’t necessarily a religious issue although, you know, it is core in that. But — and kind of showing some of the other groups that are out there. You know, Atheists for Life, you know, Feminists for Life. Just all the different groups that are pro-life that have nothing to do with, you know — or have any sort of religious backing in there. And, you know, showing some of the religious people as well. But really just showing that this is — this really is the civil rights movement. It’s a human rights issue. And it’s really, you know, the defining issue of our time. I just read something that more people have been killed in abortion — or, nine times more people were killed in abortion than in the Holocaust.
RK: I think that’s an accurate number. And I knew the numbers were up there, but I didn’t realize it was nine times. That’s a lot. That’s a lot.
JB: Okay, Rob. Where can people view To Be Born?
Rob Kazmark: ToBeBorn.com. Just go online there for free, and if you want to purchase it, you can also purchase a copy of the DVD.
Thanks to Clinton Wilcox for providing the transcript.
LifeNews.com Note: Josh Brahm is the educational director for Right to Life of Central California and the host of Life Report. Brahm writes for the Live Action blog, where this post originally appeared. It is reprinted with permission.