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"King's Heart" Proves Evil Can't Kill Faith
"King's Heart" Proves Evil Can't Kill Faith

"King's Heart" Proves Evil Can't Kill Faith

By Jacob Sahms

Maria and Kevin O’Bryan, the minds behind the short film, King’s Heart, shared with about their inspiration for the story, putting the story into action, and how sports serve as a metaphor for life. Their passion for sharing the story and the way they've woven scripture into the context of the story will move you, and the film itself will inspire you to run your race!

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Tell us a bit about yourselves.

Maria: We’re a husband and wife combo going on ten years of marriage with two kids. We met when I was directing an off-Broadway play, and he came and auditioned.

Kevin: I had moved out to New York from Indiana in 2001 for an architectural internship, and ended up going back to Indiana starting Bible studies in the theater department. I ended up moving back to NY to pursue acting, and ended up in the Christian off-Broadway play that Maria was directing. We have a passion for pursuing this full time for the Lord.

How did you get involved in King’s Heart?

Maria: It’s loosely based on my brother, Louis, who suddenly passed in 2010.

Kevin: People have asked us about a full-length feature, and we really feel like we’ve told the story that the Lord called us to tell.

Maria: A lot of the audience members were surprised at the end to find out that it was a true story.

Kevin: We wanted it to resonate with people’s lives, and then have them go, ‘oh, wow, this really happened!’ We wanted the story to stand on its own. We thought people might get caught up in the characters instead of internalizing it for themselves. Sometimes, it’s just amazing to sit back and see how it all came together. We’re just in awe.

What was your motivation for sharing this story?

Maria: As the real life events happened, the people around us were quick to say the things we captured in the dialogue of the movie. “I don’t know why God does the things he does.” Or, “maybe he was saving him from something worse later.”

Kevin: That’s not the God we believe in. We believe what it says in the book of John, in a God who loves us. We believe that there’s an enemy who came to steal, kill, and destroy. We wanted to show the God of the Bible, and to bring knowledge that there’s an enemy out there.

So many people will dwell on the initial act of Louis passing on. But we believe that Louis was just the initial act aimed at killing the faith of the family to steal their future and eternity.  We thought that the analogy, to steal the seed, kill the face, destroy the future, helped tell the story.

In the film, Jackie says, “he was stolen from us, and I wanted to know why.” It was the enemy’s intent to send a ripple through the family. It’s been very tough for Maria because it’s so close to her. She’s really been the tuning fork or litmus test about how we did it. 

We want people to see that God is there to help them get through it. “Rise up and don’t be defeated.”

Maria: It’s a spiritual battle but a lot of people don’t acknowledge it. When something bad happens, most people blame God. The purpose is to open people’s eyes to, in our opinion, how they’re loved by God and wants them to be in intimacy with him. So that when something bad happens, they can rest on God’s power, not their own.

You depict evil as a moving, seeking presence bordering on madness, almost tangible but not quite. Talk about using that as the way you show evil in your film.

Kevin: We had a lot of conversations about it because we didn’t want to make a cheesy a little demon character (laughs). We wanted the audience to be able to see it from the enemy’s perspective, to convey that targeting us. It took us a long time to get that imagery, what it would look like through the lens, distorting the color.

Maria: It has a stalking feel to it and we really felt that the enemy is stalking us day and night, to find that opportunity to jump. We wanted to portray that you couldn’t see it in your flesh, but you could feel it moving. It took us awhile to finally decide on the depiction with the colors and the imagery.

How did you connect with the Sidewalk Prophets, whose song plays at the end of the film?

Maria: My brother’s wife, Jackie, was driving and listening to K-Love, and the song came on the radio. We were listening to music trying to see what would best suit it. Jackie just called us crying, overwhelmed, “It’s Louie, you have to hear it. It’s Louie.” We reached out to the publishers for rights, which was its own learning curve. That’s basically how we came in contact with the song, and we felt like that was what the Lord wanted. It fit perfectly.

Kevin: Louis truly lived like that. The words the King character says to his son about going out there and giving it your whole heart each play was how he raised his kids. As much as we wanted to get the kingly character of the Lord out there in the movie, it really represented how Maria’s brother lived it out.

Maria: He really was a reflection of the Lord. So effortlessly, it was just who he was. He was quiet and humble, and the Lord’s kingly character came through. His son and his friends joked him around, calling him ‘King.’ It’s for the father in heaven but also my brother.

The sports metaphor can seem trivial when compared to the life of a person, but you tie it in nicely to the use of sports by the Apostle Paul. What made you continue to use that language?

Kevin: Our intention was to do projects of the utmost quality; we want to weave the word into projects that are of such quality that they’re like mainstream projects. Those Scriptures were just really integrated into our own lives. We don’t want it to be cheesy, but worked in so carefully that it’s almost like people don’t know we’re saying the Word to them. So people could grab onto them and take them, cheering each other on. Maria really wrote the Uncle Phil monologue.

Maria: Louis was really quiet in his walk as a believer, just a sweet, sweet guy. He was never forceful in his faith or anything of that nature. But they flowed right out. It’s not how big you are, or about the score at the end of the game, but about how your heart is when you’re going through it.

In our own lives, we wanted to press on to the goal we’re pursuing. The coach that is based on doesn’t actually do pep talks before the game but we felt like that moment could resonate with the audience, with kids going through trials. It’s about that glory, and that crown. It’s about the Lord. That was the intent to get the word in there, but we didn’t really have to struggle with it. It came right out.

It would be nice for even a non-believer to see those things and claim those words in their next game.

Tell us about the football game that followed the events of the film. 

Maria: It was bittersweet for my nephew. Every play he played was for his father. It was the first time that his father wasn’t present at one of his games since he was little. The team was very supportive. It was special for the kids graduating, for my family, for my nephew, and in the memory of my brother. I imagine it had more meaning than an average game. 

What’s next for the O’Bryans?

Kevin: We have a lot of projects in the works. We have two feature length movies and a third film which is a feature-length animation, collaborating with a writer out of Australia. We’re hoping to be filming next year, with a working title of Blue Jacket. It’s for the older high school/younger college crowd about making choices and the potential outcomes. It’s about the simple choices to go out on a date with someone and where those choices could lead. We also have a romantic comedy, a Broadway-esque show, and an episodic series.

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