There’s a scene in the short “Moving Out,” by San Diego native Rachel Earnest, featuring the ticking of a clock and the passing 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.
“It’s something I remember hitting near my home. When I decided to go out, I was looking at a clock and thinking, ‘How long do I want to wait?’ Earnest says, “I think in terms of coming out, we’re all looking to live happy, fulfilling lives and I think those kinds of stories of coming out continue to be relevant because it’s always hard to go out.”
His film screens 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, with four days of LGBTQ-themed films through Sunday.
Earnest – 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 the time to talk about her film, the ongoing 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, “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 more about the plot and what inspired this story?
A: This is the story of a young college student still living with her parents in Oceanside, California. She is in love with her best friend, who has just married another woman. One Sunday in particular, she is confounded by faith and must finally risk telling her parents who she really is, in order to save herself.
Originally, I decided to tell a different story, which was about three women living together in a dorm, and it was a love triangle. When I shared the scripts with my group of writers and trusted friends, one question that kept coming up was, “Why is our protagonist so scared to tell her best friend she loves her? ” This question forced me to do some introspection and 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 of looking at a clock and wondering how long 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 time out, is where a new clock starts in terms of being able to have that kind of life?
A: Yeah, totally. Our sound designer, who is super talented, is working on this clock sound. In the movie, after the protagonist goes out with his parents, we see a shot of the parents enjoying the moment. We don’t really see her come out, we leave that up to the audience’s imagination, but we see the aftermath and her parents having to process the moment and what it will mean for them in the future. At that time, we no longer hear the ticking of the clock because, as you said, it is a new time to move forward. To relocate.
Q: The film’s description also states that “it is about the subtle and delicate passage from being a child to becoming an adult under the roof of his parents, this moment when a young adult realizes that his parents are as fallible as ‘themselves”. I’m curious how this moment has been for you, in your own relationship with your parents. When did you realize and see your parents this way and what did it do for your relationship with them? And also what has it done for the way you see and understand yourself?
A: When I came out, I won’t say it was easy. I think it’s a challenge in the fact that those of us who come from church communities that are not open and assertive, it can mean losing family, losing friends, losing community. That’s the risk. 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 too. I think what we’re trying to say with this movie too is that 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 was so interesting about the process of making this movie is that I chose to film on location in Oceanside, and some scenes are filmed in my childhood church. Many of our crew members and some of our cast members are members of the LGBTQ community, and it was amazing to see them walking through the halls of the church where I’ve never seen anyone walking around in the church. To have this opportunity to tell my story, in this place, was extraordinary. Even though the church allowed me to shoot there, the struggle is still going on, but what a beautiful moment. While we were shooting the film, we got the impression that there are quite a few people in the church community who are listening. Some of them really embraced the film and put our cast and crew in their homes, so it’s really interesting and it’s sparked some really wonderful conversations with great results with my family and with my parents, who are really become activists.
I realized that parents want the best for you and they don’t always know your point of view. In the film, the mother is afraid for her child. She wants her child to be safe and happy, so she does the things that she thinks will protect her child. I guess that’s the case for a lot of parents, they want to protect their kids and they just do the things that they think helps them and they don’t always know the child’s point of view . So it’s a time of growth and seeing things from a different perspective. I think what’s been so amazing about making this movie is the opportunity to have heart-to-heart conversations. A lot of people coming to the screening of this film festival are people from this church community and I think it’s amazing that we have this gathering of people from the LGBT community and the church community.
Q: How did growing up in Vista and Oceanside influence your artistic perspective as a filmmaker?
A: I absolutely had to have shot with the ocean in the background. It definitely informed me as a filmmaker and I really wanted to show the community for what it is, which is a beautiful place 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 be fully yourself and be fully included.
Q: For some time, we have seen a rise in hostility towards the LGBTQ community in the form of discriminatory policies and laws targeting the community, book bans, and LGBTQ-inclusive programs. What goes through your mind when you see this happen?
A: It’s scary and it’s disturbing. Gay marriage, for example, has not existed for a long time and there are always fears that it will disappear. It’s frightening. I think the flip side is that we have to keep fighting for our rights and we have to keep pushing, keep speaking out.
Q: In that context, what do you hope “Moving Out” can help people understand or communicate about this type of anti-LGBTQ sentiment and its impact?
A: I think the problem is permanent and I think the way around it is to continue these conversations. Our focus with the film has been to try to bring people together to have heart-to-heart conversations, to push for more reconciliation, healing, and to try to find a way forward in a new direction.