When we last checked in with Tim Kirkman, back at Sundance this year, he was anticipating his first trip to the Park City festival. At his first screening, he clutched a small camera and snapped a shot of the audience. At age 38, after making a pair of feature docs and even working for years at Miramax, Kirkman was thrilled to be in Utah as a Sundance virgin. Ten months later, his first narrative feature “Loggerheads,” is about to open in theaters. Earlier this week we shared a few questions with Kirkman and he offered some answers.
indieWIRE: The film is inspired by true events, can you elaborate a bit on how the story emerged, when you decided to pursue it as a film, and why.
Tim Kirkman: My first film, “Dear Jesse,” featured two founders of a PAC to campaign against Jesse Helms during the 1996 North Carolina senate race. Both women lost sons to AIDS and named their group MAJIC — Mothers Against Jesse In Congress. They introduced me to the woman on whom the story in “Loggerheads” is inspired. She told me the story of how she had given up a child for adoption and then tried to find him years later. So much of what she and I talked about was the idea of shame being thrust upon us for various reasons: the shame of being unmarried and pregnant, the shame of being infertile, the feelings of shame I’d had when I was coming out as a gay man. “Loggerheads,” in many ways, is about how shame destroys the individual, the family, the community. Overcoming shame can be incredibly healing.
iW: What exactly is a Loggerhead turtle, and can you discuss the turtle as a symbol for the conflict of adoption in the film?
TK: Between May and September every year, female Loggerhead sea turtles come up on the beaches on the coast and lay eggs in the dunes, then crawl back to the ocean. A few weeks later, the eggs hatch and the babies have to find their way to the ocean, against many odds. Not many survive this journey from the nest to the ocean. I thought the journey of the loggerhead was a nice metaphor for an adopted child who is making his way alone in the world. Also, the females return to the exact spot where they were born and the birth mother in my film returns home to her mother to begin the search for her son.
iW: Can you talk a bit about your decision to tell the three intertwined stories in “Loggerheads” in three different timelines?
TK: Each member of the adoption Triad — birth mother, adoptive parents and child — has an interwoven story in the film, each set around Mother’s Day weekend in a different year. I chose Mother’s Day specifically to locate the audience in time, but also because it’s a highly emotional holiday for all the members of the Triad. I like movies that are puzzles, that require a little participation from the audience. But I also wanted to focus on a moment in each of their lives where the main characters were forced to make a decision that would alter it forever. It seemed like, at the very least, an interesting way to structure the story, but also to add to the hope that there would be reconciliation.
iW: So, is it true that you did a small release of the film earlier this year in Allentown, PA? What was the reason for that and what impact did those screenings have on your ultimate distribution plans for the movie? Can you elaborate a bit on how you found distribution for your film.
TK: We had a few screenings in Allentown as a result of one of the co-producers’ affiliation with the city. We did it for him, essentially. It had no impact, as far as I know. Strand saw the film at Sundance and made us an offer. That’s how we got distribution, the traditional route, in a way.
iW: Can you talk a bit more about some of the new projects that you are working on.
TK: I’m working on a variety of projects. One is a TV series, another a feature film from a novel, another is a feature film from a collection of short stories. But also promoting “Loggerheads” is practically a full-time job because I’m partnering with adoption advocacy groups to call attention to the archaic North Carolina laws.