For this San Diego filmmaker, a short film on coming out is personal
Filmmaker Rachel Earnest — a San Diego native who lives in Los Angeles — presents her short film, ‘Moving Out,’ at the FilmOut San Diego annual LGBTQ Film Festival on Sept. 11
There’s a scene in the short film “Moving Out,” by San Diego native Rachel Earnest, featuring the ticking of a clock and the passage of time. It’s a reminder to the main character that she’s waited long enough to live her truth surrounded by people who love and support her.
“This is something I remember that does hit close to home. When I was deciding to come out, I was looking at a clock and asking myself, ‘How long do I want to wait?’” Earnest says. “I think, in terms of coming out, we’re all looking to live happy, fulfilled lives and I think that these sorts of coming out stories continue to be relevant because it’s still a struggle to come out.”
Her film is being screened at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park as part of FilmOut San Diego’s annual LGBTQ Film Festival, featuring four days of LGBTQ-themed films through Sunday.
Earnest — a writer, director, and producer currently living in Los Angeles — grew up in Vista and Oceanside and has also worked as a story analyst for the Sundance Institute, HBO and Imagine Impact. She took some time to talk about her film, the continued challenges of coming out, and her commitment to telling stories rooted in authenticity and honesty. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity. )
Q: Your 2021 short film, “Moving Out,” is described on your website as a family drama that explores the complexities of faith, community and parent-child relationships. Can you tell us a bit about the plot and what inspired this story?
A: It’s the story of a young college student still living at home with her parents in Oceanside, Calif. She’s in love with her best friend, who’s just married another woman. On one particular Sunday, she becomes confounded by faith and ultimately must risk telling her parents who she really is, to save herself.
Originally, I set out to tell a different story, which was about three women living in a dorm together, and it was a love triangle. When I was sharing the scripts with my writers’ group and with trusted friends, a question that kept coming up was, ‘Why is our protagonist so afraid to tell her best friend that she loves her?’ This question forced me to do some soul-searching and it shifted the focus of the story from the love interest to the protagonist’s relationship with her mother, with her family and with her church community.
Q: When you mentioned your own experience with looking at a clock and asking yourself how much longer you wanted to wait, would it be fair to say that this understanding of everyone wanting to live a happy and fulfilled life, coupled with that coming out moment, is where a new clock starts in terms of being able to have that kind of life?
A: Yeah, totally. Our sound designer, who’s super talented, works on that sound of the clock. In the film, after the protagonist comes out to her parents, we see a shot of the parents taking in the moment. We don’t see her actually come out, we leave that up to the imagination of the audience, but we see the aftermath and her parents having to process the moment and what it will mean for them going forward. In that moment, we no longer hear the ticking of the clock because, as you said, it’s a new moment of moving forward. Moving out.
Q: The film description also says that “It’s about the subtle, delicate shift from being a child to becoming an adult while under your parents’ roof, that moment where a young adult realizes that their parents are as fallible as they themselves are.” I’m curious about what that moment was like for you, in your own relationship with your parents. When did you realize and see your parents that way and what did that do for your relationship with them? And also what did that do for how you saw and understood yourself?
A: When I came out, I won’t say that it was easy. I think it’s a challenge in the fact that those of us who come from church communities that aren’t open and affirming, it can mean losing family, losing friends, losing community. That’s what the risk is. Also, for the families of LGBTQ people, it can mean the same thing for them — losing your whole community, your friends, your family members. It can mean that for them, as well. I think what we’re trying to say with this film, too, is maybe there’s another way forward. The hope is that we don’t have to choose between those we love and our faith.
Part of what has been so interesting about the process of making this film is that I chose to film on location in Oceanside, and some of the scenes are filmed in my childhood church. Many of our crew and some of our cast are members of the LGBTQ community, and that was extraordinary to see them walking around the halls of the church where I’ve never seen anybody who was out walking around the church. Having this opportunity to tell my story, in this place, was extraordinary. Even though the church allowed me to shoot there, the struggle is still ongoing, but what a beautiful moment. As we were shooting the film, we did get a sense that there are quite a few people in the church community who are listening. Some of them really embraced the film and housed our cast and crew in their homes, so it’s really interesting and has brought up some really wonderful conversations with beautiful results with my family and with my parents, who’ve really become activists.
I realized that parents want what’s best for you and they don’t always know your point of view. In the film, the mom is afraid for her child. She wants her child to be safe and happy, so she’s doing the things that she thinks will protect her child. I guess that’s the case for many parents, that they want to protect their children and they’re just doing the things that they think will help and they don’t always know the perspective of the child. So, it’s a moment of growth and seeing things from a different point of view. I think what’s been so incredible, too, about making this film, is the opportunity to have open-hearted discussions. A lot of people who are coming to the screening at this film festival are people from this church community and I think it’s extraordinary that we have this coming together of people from the LGBT community and the church community.
Q: How did growing up in Vista and Oceanside inform your artistic point of view as a filmmaker?
A: I definitely had to have shot with the ocean in the background. It definitely has informed me as a filmmaker and I wanted to really show the community as it is, which is a beautiful location and the people are generally very friendly. I also wanted to show that if you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, you still feel like you can’t fully be yourself and be fully integrated.
Q: For a while now, we’ve been seeing an uptick in hostility toward the LGBTQ community coming in the form of discriminatory policies and legislation targeting the community, to bans against LGBTQ inclusive books and programs. What goes through your mind as you see this happening?
A: It’s scary and it’s concerning. Gay marriage, for example, hasn’t been around for long and there’s always the concern that it could go away. It’s scary. I think the flip side of it is that we have to keep fighting for our rights and we have to keep pushing, keep speaking out.
Q: Within this context, what do you hope “Moving Out” can help people understand or communicate about this kind of anti-LGBTQ sentiment and its impact?
A: I think the issue is ongoing and I think the way around it is by continuing these conversations. Our goal with the film has been trying to bring people together to have open-hearted discussions, to push for more reconciliation, healing, and trying to find a way forward in a new direction.
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