“Sex trafficking is becoming huge growing problem in the US as well as a global one. It’s an issue that I feel passionate about. It breaks my heart that girls, often as young as 12 years old have their childhood robbed from them. I really want to do what I can to try and make a difference and help raise awareness on this issue so more will be done to stop it. As a filmmaker I have the gift of being a storyteller and so want to use it to shed light on this important issue as it is a great way to engage people, provoke conversation and hopefully rally to action,” explained Julia Verdin.
Film can be a very powerful way of creating awareness and debate on important social issues. At a time when many sometimes consider topics such as race, homosexuality and war to be taboo subjects, films like Selma, American Sniper and The Imitation Game are gaining huge success behind their respective social message plotlines. All three films are enormous box office hits and have received Oscar nominations for their riveting stories, despite covering such sensitive material. These films are a widely accepted way for people to digest and form an opinion without having to voice it own their own. This demonstrates that films do have a huge impact on social awareness.
To that end, Verdin’s latest project highlights an issue about which she is passionate – the global growing problem of sex trafficking. Verdin will direct and produce a short film to be followed by a feature later in the year. “LOST GIRLS“ is written by Verdin and Janet Odogwu. Odogwu was born in Nigeria, the country where 300 girls were kidnapped by Islamist extremists, Boko Haram. The group is notorious for physical torture, rape and forced marriages of Nigerian girls. In 2014, the story sparked global outrage and inspired and online campaign, “Bring Back Our Girls.” “Lost Girls” will delve deeper and shed light on the problem globally.
Odogwu verbalizes what it is like to work with Verdin. “Julia is so inspiring and passionate, delving into research on this and reading some of the girls stories has been heart breaking, but at the same time motivating as it is so important that light is shed on this issue.” Verdin added, “We have met with some wonderful people from some of the organizations that fight against this but they desperately need more help and support.”
Saving Innocence is one of the organizations with whom Verdin is working. She added, “Kim Biddle, the Saving Innocence founder, is an amazing woman and has given me great insight to the harsh realities of the situation and what they are up against. We are also in talks with a couple of others. We hope that we can help them through our film.”
The short will be partially funded by Verdin personally with help from an Indiegogo campaign. “Teenagers and families need to be educated to be more aware of the dangers to look out for. This is a growing problem in America, England and around the world. Young children are being kidnapped and horrifically exploited. If they are lucky enough to be rescued, their lives will never be the same.” says Verdin.
Verdin has already established a track record as a producer in this area and produced several successful social message films. “The Least Among You” (2009), a film about mentorship and the importance of the choices you make in your life whatever your circumstances as they define who you are a person, was nominated for a N.A.C.C.P award and screened for many communities and churches. “We received many beautiful letters from people about the impact our film had on them which really warmed my heart as it meant we had achieved our purpose. In all the films I have made, even some of the more commercial or genre one I have always tried to lay in some type of inspiring message. I think we as filmmakers have a responsibility as to the types of films that we make. I am currently developing a lot of social message films on different subjects, they are not always the easiest to finance but I am passionate about trying to make a difference,” Verdin explained.
Filmmaker Arturo Vargas, an executive producer for “Lost Girls,” surmised, “It’s important that we know what’s happening from a perspective of the victim. Many people are completely aware of what’s happening in our own country. A film can make the audience open their eyes and really reflect about the situation that is becoming a big problem in our society today.”
There are a lot of organizations dealing with the sex trafficking, doing some amazing work in this area such as working hard to train the police to deal with trafficking victims, to understand that these young boys and girls have been exploited and are victims They should not be arrested for prostitution that they were forced into doing. Deedee Benkovich, “Lost Girls” co-producer stated, “You ask yourself, why doesn’t government do more about it? Because unless they change the legislative system that allows these predators to walk free, they can’t even arrest the buyers. There are several bills that passed the house, but since they do not have a senate version yet, it is hard to make them reality. The more public support there is, the sooner this will happen.”
Verdin added, “We are really excited and grateful to the friends who have supported us so far. This is a real passion project for me, some wonderful talent is also coming on board, Marisol Nichols who is a wonderful actress as well as being a great advocate in this area has come on board to play one of the roles which I am thrilled about. I am also in talks with a couple of other well known actors for other roles.”