When I received a call from my friend, Director Jeffrey Brown, in early 2007, telling me that he had just read a book that he thought I should read, I had
no idea that we would embark on an 8 year + journey together. That book was SOLD, the award-winning novel by Patricia McCormick and we’re about to release
the feature film based on the novel in March of 2016.
Films each have their own journey and SOLD’s has not been an easy one. The subject is child trafficking, something I knew very little about before reading
the novel. I had seen the film Born Into Brothels, as had Jeffrey, and had a vision of what brothel areas in India looked like but I had no idea that this
is a global issue, a 150 billion dollar business, the 2nd highest grossing illegal crime in the world.
We optioned the book and a week later it was nominated for a National Book Award, then won a Quill Award. We knew that we had something that could
introduce the world to human trafficking in a very personal way, through the eyes of one young girl named Lakshmi.
It was important to us that the film be as authentic as possible so we interviewed author Patricia McCormick about her research in writing the book and we
followed her footsteps on our first few trips to India and Nepal, visiting NGO’s(non-governmental agencies) that she had visited and speaking with
survivors of trafficking aged 14 to 60. So many of their stories were similar.
We learned about the day to day life in the brothel areas of India and visited a rescue facility, housing 150 girls when their capacity was 100 maximum.
There were floors of girls from Nepal, Northern India and Bangladesh. We found out that many of them have to stay there for a year or even 2 until their
traffickers are brought to trial before they can go home or be repatriated to their own country.
Seeing thousands of survivors and meeting hundreds of them, we carried their stories with us wherever we went and still do. The enormity of the issue was
overwhelming at times and we were urgent to get our film made so that we could educate the world about what was happening.
Jeffrey and I traveled often, going to conferences about human trafficking, connecting with anti-trafficking organizations and raising funds to both make
the film and for the grass roots organizations on the ground doing good work. We realized early on that, even before we had the film to show, we could talk
about trafficking and garner support for projects and programs. We became activist and abolitionist filmmakers.
When people hear about this issue they either turn away because they don’t want to hear about it or they want to do something to help right away. A group
of women in Seattle, where I live, who were supporters of the film decided to go to India to see the issue first hand. Moved, devastated and motivated to
do something they came back to Seattle and, together, we set out to find out what was happening in our own backyard. The 12 of us formed Stolen Youth
(www.stolenyouth.org) and have now raised over 2.5 million to help support a coalition of anti-trafficking organizations locally in Seattle.
While funding and packaging the film, we were asked to help organize panels for the 2012 National Association of Attorneys General about how media can
create change in issues like human trafficking. The panels were successful and we still hear from people as we’re traveling that their AG returned from
that NAAG summit and started creating programs to address human trafficking in their state.
A good friend from Canada, Martin Prihoda, had done some heart warming photographs of children in Nepal with Childreach International. He introduced us to
Angie Windell and then Tshering Lama of Childreach and we started a relationship to protect the children of Nepal. We weren’t sure what we would do
together but we started talking about the root issues of trafficking and how we could help address them in Nepal. Tshering and Childreach created the
TaughtNotTrafficked campaign to keep children in school in remote villages as a way to prevent trafficking. If you keep a child in school until the age of
16, they are 80% less likely to be trafficked. This is a campaign that can work for many countries and we’re excited to be working with Childreach to make
Another gift came last year when Jeffrey met Richard Miller of iRest therapy and took the level 1 training. iRest is based on yoga nidra and has been used
effectively to help veterans heal from PTSD. Jeffrey’s vision was that iRest could be used to help heal the trauma of trafficking survivors so that they
could go on to vocational training and better lives. Molly Birkholm, an iRest teacher became involved and the iRest Human Trafficking Relief team was born.
We’ll be raising funds for this program for Nepal and India as we release the film.
Making this film has changed my life. I thought the journey would be about how difficult this film was to make as an independent feature, to fund it,
produce it and then distribute it and make sure that it has impact on the issue of human trafficking. That has been difficult, but the real challenge has
been more personal. It’s been about how to go on with life, how to maintain relationships, friendships, be a good parent, have a home, do good work, all
while knowing that these atrocities are happening in the world. Knowing that there are very young children being held against their will, tortured and
raped every day with noone to love and protect them…it’s almost too much to bear. These children are all of ours, worldwide, and we need to protect them.
Now that the film is coming out and now that more of the world knows about these children and what’s happening to them, I feel like I can share this burden
and not feel so heavy carrying these stories around on my own. I still feel sad much of the time but I’m getting better at being present to my family,
friends and others knowing that we are making a difference. I’m feeling lighter when I meditate and I’m getting back to taking care of myself, exercising,
doing my daily practice, finding my inner peace, staying in service to whatever this journey has in store.
Knowing about this issue has changed me forever and it has cracked me open to the immense suffering in the world, not just for these children but
recognizing that there are people that need our help, our prayers, our service, everywhere and we can all do something every day to lessen someone’s
suffering. Even a smile, being present when someone needs an ear, comforting those in need, saying a few kind words and telling your friends and family
that you love them. I am more vulnerable, more patient, more compassionate and closer to tears & laughter at the same time than ever before.
I can only hope that people who see SOLD, a film that so many people have worked so hard to create and bring to the world, will act and not walk away. We
can change the world one small act at a time.
We loved working with the creative team at Tether, Inc. who produced this video for us so that we can create global awareness about this invisible crime.Posted by Sold the Movie on Wednesday, September 21, 2011