When YHP invited me to write for this blog, I was given what most creators would love to have when it comes to content development: carte blanche. I could write about my experience in the business, the movies and shows I love, my thoughts on the state of the industry, absolutely anything. This seemed like a really fantastic idea at first. However, I’ve now discovered my key to consistency is found in having a subject matter on which to focus. Otherwise, I will find anything and everything else to do except for writing.
Jordan always talks about forming habits on the podcast, which usually sends me into a self-imposed guilt trip about not writing. So one night last week I said fine, Jordan, I GET IT. So my glass of wine and I got on the internet and dug through Indiegogo and Kickstarter, skimmed a few trades, and tried to figure out what it is I truly want to write about. The answer, as it often is, was quite simple.
Both professionally and personally, I’ve tried to get more involved with nonprofit organizations representing causes that are close to me. I am a huge advocate of giving back to your community, and with racism, sexism, homophobia, and hate of many kind more prevalent than ever, I’m not sure there has ever been a better time to cultivate change in this world. And although you don’t often read about it between weekend box office reports, there are numerous individuals utilizing the power of film to inform, educate, and affect change. And THAT is what I want to write about.
The film that triggered this epiphany was a project on Indiegogo by the name of She Is… Documentary. She-Is is a LA-based nonprofit focused on providing a safe, empowered, and supportive environment where young survivors of sexual abuse and sex trafficking can strengthen their true worth through the power of dance. She-Is combines the art of dance with the healing art of therapy to overcome trauma caused by sexual abuse, while giving survivors the power to control their own bodies once again.
Until a nonprofit meeting I was at recently in which the topic was discussed, I honestly had no idea the sex trafficking industry had such a large presence in my community. Dallas may be known for many things: that football team, the Ewings, the Mambo Taxi, a reasonable cost of living, and much more. But sex trafficking doesn’t come to mind, at least not for its average citizen. You think it’s contained to NYC, maybe Miami, and only fodder for another episode of Law & Order: SVU. Wrong. I was wrong about Dallas. And you are probably wrong about your city.
I discussed this with Zuzana Lova of She-Is, a professional dancer from Prague currently residing in LA. Lova said she was unaware of how significant sex trafficking was as well, until she joined the organization.
“I absolutely agree that most U.S. citizens have no idea how widespread this issue is and that it happens in such a large number here,” Lova said. “55 percent of child pornography comes from the U.S. But people do not realize that and I believe it’s mostly because it is well hidden here, and people aren’t educated about it and taught how to look for it.”
Lova said traveling to places such as Thailand, Philippines, and Laos, one can see sex trafficking on the street, but not in cities like Los Angeles.
“Brothels are hidden better and girls kept behind closed doors,” she said. “I believe there has to be way more noise about this issue here.”
She-Is decided to produce the documentary not only to raise much needed awareness, but also to showcase what the organization does, which they believe will offer viewers a unique perspective of sex trafficking.
“Pretty much all documentaries about this issue are heavily focused on the horrific things that happen to these girls. We decided we want to show a different side, the side of healing and [moving] on,” Nova said. “I do not want to show these girls as victims, which they are always portrayed as. I want people to see their beauty, their strength, their brilliance, and talent. I want them to see hope.
“I want all the viewers who went through sexual abuse or sex trafficking themselves to see that they are loved and celebrated for their strength, that we stand with them and we are here for them and we see their beauty. It is the only way they will be able to see it in themselves as well.”
The programs at She-Is are all taught by experienced instructors with backgrounds in professional dancing and/or advanced degrees in dance in education. In addition to the classes in LA, they also travel to Thailand.
“We want to do more and go to more places, but in order to do that we need more people to know about us and what we do and help us grow our organization,” Lova said. “Hopefully this campaign and documentary will do that so we can bring joy to all the survivors and put an end to this awful crime for once and for all.”
Upon completion, She-Is hopes to showcase the documentary at festivals, then find distribution at Netflix, Hulu, or a similar platform in order to reach as large of an audience as possible. The Indiegogo campaign has a flexible goal of only $35,000 (of which over $9,000 has already been raised), and runs for three more weeks.
I am strong believer in this project for multiple reasons, not only for the obvious, that sex trafficking is an issue that warrants increased exposure and awareness, but also because She-Is represents a belief that we, as filmmakers, writers, actors, and artists can relate to and often represent, the overwhelming and undeniable healing power of creativity.