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, real good heart. He really just has a love for the the pro-life work. So we took a look at the script, and it really wasn’t a script; it was more like a letter from the unborn child. And so we said, to really make this into a film that’s gonna make some impact, it’s gonna need some work, and the monies that you fundraised weren’t quite enough, and so we said, “Well, how about this. We’ll help you out with it. We’ll fill in the cracks for it and make it all come together.” So he was very open to that. And so we really adapted to the letter and the script and kind of gave, you know – who’s the mother, why’d she’s even considering having the abortion, was the father there? Just all the little elements that you need in a story. We did casting for it, the whole nine yards. And it kind of just came together.
JB: What makes To Be Born different from other pro-life films that are already available?
RK: I think every pro-life film has its value. They all serve a different demographic within the pro-life arena. I think ours really goes after, as far as the marketability, the same thing that the letter did. Father Steven would stand outside his clinics, praying, and if a girl – if he had a chance to talk to them he would have them read this letter. It’s a first-person perspective from the child during the abortion. So I think the film is very powerful in that – in women who are considering having an abortion – they just kind of need some guidance. I think this is gonna help guide them to see what the horrors of abortion are.
I mean, the film 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, I was very much pro-life[, but] I wasn’t that knowledgeable in it. 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 a video.”
It really 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 from a woman, it really does a number on your brain. And it really impacted me. And so I wanted the abortion scene in the film, to reflect that badness, that craziness, that just absurdness that a human being is being dismembered.
JB: I agree, certainly, that middle part is really intense. But I think I’m fine with that, because how else do you creatively try to demonstrate or move people? But I think it tries to be equal to how horrible abortion is morally, with the horror music and all that stuff. That’s a creative way to demonstrate the horror, morally, that is abortion.
RK: Right. That’s a great analogy.
JB: What has the response been to the movie so far?
RK: It’s been very good. We worked on it for about two years because we really wanted to get it perfected. So we got a lot of feedback throughout the process, doing small screenings. Early on there was some criticism, and so we tried to adapt it a little bit and change it so it would please a majority of the people who were gonna watch it.
When we debuted it, we rented out a theater and there were like 400 seats in it which completely sold out, so that was great. And as far as online [goes], it was doing pretty good. We have it in three different languages: English, Spanish, and Polish. It did really good right out of the can, [but] I think we didn’t have the proper marketing budget to really keep getting it out there. And so I would say it’s 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.
JB: What happened there?
RK: One day our YouTube channel was deleted. A majority of the stuff we had on there is religious, and we had just recently uploaded To Be Born. We tried contacting YouTube, [but] they’re not too concerned about people’s stuff, so we got no response. Basically, our account was hacked. When I tried to log in, our password didn’t work. And so I think that someone logged in, did something that they shouldn’t have to sabotage us. It was a bit of a bummer at that point. Collectively, on our YouTube channel, we had about a half a million views.
[At that time] 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.
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. 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 a DVD copy to Father Steven so he can check it out. And I said, “Okay, don’t share this. I just want you to look at it and tell me your thoughts.” And he’d come back and be like, “Rob, I’m sorry; I had to show it to some people, but it saved someone’s life already.” Father Steven has so many stories of how this film has changed a young woman’s decision, [has made her decide] to keep their baby. And before it was even finished, it was changing a girl’s life.
I do need to do a better job putting all that 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 fantastic quote. Jason Jones, he’s one of our title quotes on the DVD: “This little film will change the world.” That’s awesome. Steve McEveety – you know, from Empower, and also Preaching with Passion – said it’s the most powerful pro-life short film he’d ever seen. We have local workers in different women’s centers who have spoken out and said it was great. I’m trying to think – I have a whole list of them, I could probably pull it up.
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 – you know, really quick low jabs. It’s interesting that you bring that up, because we haven’t actually 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 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. 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. It worked on its own, but it wasn’t really in chronologically order. But 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. I believe there’s a few of them floating around. I’ve seen 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 are 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. How could we go around this? And then finally we said we just don’t know how to get around this – how to account for the fact that the baby could hear her, interact with her and stuff. I guess we just 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 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 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 pro-life advocates. So only one person had pointed that out. And we had thought that everyone was gonna point that out.
I guess this film is focused more on the story than…I want to say the hard facts. 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.
Again, we thought about this long and hard when we were making it. We thought it’d be strong to show [the story] early on – telling her boyfriend[, etc.]. I guess it was a creative choice. 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: There was a couple goals with this. The first goal is to obviously make something that could impact a woman’s choice in a positive way. Make her see that having a baby is a positive thing and is the better choice. But also the goal was to make a high-quality pro-life film. Or short film, rather. I’ve seen a great number out there, and there are some good ones and some that maybe aren’t extremely high-quality. So 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.
When I look at [the film,] I could still pick it apart and wish that technically there are some things we did differently and all that. But I do that, really, with anything I’ve worked on. So I would just say the two main goals are something that could hopefully affect women and also 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 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. [It's] kind of showing some of the other groups that are out there. You know, Atheists for Life, Feminists for Life. Just all the different groups that are pro-life that don’t 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 really is the civil rights movement. It’s a human rights issue. And it’s really the defining issue of our time. I just read something that nine times more people have been 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.