The Laughing Lesbian founder, Emily Krawczyk interviews SOLD film producer Jane Charles about the changes in advocacy in feature films and the deep personal connection she has to the film and the message it carries. SOLD is based on the novel of the same name, by Patricia McCormick, directed by Jeffery Brown, produced by Emma Thompson and Jane Charles, and stars Gillian Anderson, Seema Biswas, Susmita Mukherjee and David Arquette.
How has the process of developing, making, and producing SOLD differed from your previous projects?
We made SOLD as a tool for change and a call to action to help end child trafficking. I’ve made other films that involved social issues but this is the first time that I’ve helped create a mobilization campaign and have been involved, in a very grassroots way, with every aspect of creating impact and distributing the film.
Documentaries are made to educate people, but SOLD is taking education one-step further. You have inserted awareness and advocacy into a feature film. How has shining light on the crime of child sex trafficking through this film influenced the future of feature filmmaking and advocacy?
We made SOLD as a feature film and not a documentary so that it would be seen globally by millions of people. Having great actors like Gillian Anderson, Seema Biswas, Susmita Mukherjee and David Arquette involved helped the film get media attention. Most independent films have a very small media budget, as did we, but we were able to leverage social media and our relationships with large non-profit organizations like Save the Children, World Vision, The United Way, the Salvation Army, Walk Free and many others to announce the film and bring more awareness and funds to help prevent child trafficking through education.
SOLD revolves around a dark and horrific subject matter. You, your crew, and the cast had to immerse yourselves in these situations, including meeting survivors of human trafficking. What was that like for you on both a personal and professional level?
Making SOLD has been a difficult but very worthwhile journey. We met thousands of survivors of trafficking in India and Nepal and we carry their stories with us. Once you know about this issue, you can’t walk away. There’s a responsibility associated with the knowledge that this horrific crime occurs every day in every city in every country in the world. We all have to do something about it, along with governments, business’, non-profits and the young people all over the world. We have to stand up and say that this just can’t happen to our children any more.
Do you have any moments from your trips to India that stand out to you or that really left a mark? How did these encounters work their way into the film?
In our travels, we met so many young people in rescue facilities who were still children. They had survived a horrific experience but their spirit was not broken. They still have the rest of their lives ahead of them. We wanted to show the resilience of the human spirit and that, even in the darkest places, there is some light, some hope.
When you read Patricia McCormick’s novel of the same name did you immediately have a vision for the film or did that vision slowly evolve into what it has become?
Jeffrey Brown, the writer/director and my partner on the film, read the book and called me and told me I had to read it. I read it, called him and said, “Whatever it takes to make this film, I’m in”. That was 9 years ago. Jeffrey subsequently wrote all of the final drafts of the film, including much of our research from our trips to India and Nepal.
Advocacy has already been a large part of your life; you are a cofounder of Seattle non- profit organization Stolenyouth.org. Have these two projects intermingled at all and how have they influenced each other?
We created Stolenyouth.org four years ago, while we were making the film. It grew from a desire on the part of some of our supporters to address the US trafficking issue in Seattle, Washington, where I live. It’s totally separate from SOLD but the co-founders (including me) are involved with both the film and the Seattle non-profit. SOLD takes place in India and Nepal so our focus with the film is to support the local NGO’s that help educate, rehabilitate and vocationally train survivors in Southeast Asia. Screenings of SOLD have already raised over 100,000 to rebuild schools in Nepal that were destroyed in the earthquake and build shelters in India to help keep kids out of the red light area.
Social media is playing a huge role in both advertising the film and getting your message out there. The hashtag #taughtnottrafficked is trending all over the internet, did you foresee this movement taking off like it has?
We had hoped and planned but you never really know how a campaign will take hold. We’re very proud of the #TaughtNotTrafficked campaign and hope that it will continue to raise funds for many years to help prevent child trafficking through education.
You have some pretty amazing women working on this project with you, including Emma Thompson and Gillian Anderson, who have really stepped up to help make SOLD so successful. Was there anything in particular that drew all of you together?
The children. Both Emma and Gillian are passionate about helping women and girls. Emma teaches yoga in her home to trafficking survivors and Gillian has been very involved with our TaughtNotTrafficked campaign and has generously taken the time to attend events and support our fundraising campaign and both have done press for the film.
You and Gillian Anderson spoke at The United Nations in regards to the film and sex slavery. Was this experience something you expected to happen while making the film; to be so involved in the politics of what is happening around the world and getting the opportunities to lend your voice and film as a platform for educating people?
Many of these opportunities have come as unexpected gifts throughout this process. We have been working very hard to create impact, on every level of this issue, since 2009. We helped organize panels for the National Association of Attorneys General in 2012 and we saw that many of the AG’s went back to their states and started programs to help end trafficking. So, yes, we didn’t know what to expect but we became change agents and advocates early on and were hopeful that the film would affect policy and behavior.
This film has been a pretty personal endeavor for you and has taken years to produce. What have you learned along the way and is there anything you would change now if you could go back?
There were some difficult times but every journey worth taking has those. We could always use more funding for awareness, education and advocacy so it would have been nice to have a bigger prints and advertising budget. As far as the process, it’s so different for every film and you can’t foresee all of the bumps in the road. You just have to do the best you can with the time and money that you have. Happily, we had a very creative and talented team as well as the full support of our investors so I believe that we were very successful on many levels and continue to be. There’s always more work to be done and now, after the US educational and digital release in the fall, we have plans to make sure that the rest of the world sees the film and that the film continues to have real impact.
If you had to sum up your experience of making this film in one word what would it be and why?
Human Trafficking is a 150 billion dollar industry and the second largest illegal business, next to the drug trade. People can be sold over and over and over again. It would be easy to get discouraged or daunted by the enormity of the issue. But I feel extremely hopeful that people care enough now to create a sea change toward ending trafficking. We have to continue talking about it, finding solutions and working to raise more funds toward anti-trafficking efforts but there is hope. I feel hopeful every time I meet someone who has dedicated their life to this issue and every time I meet a survivor that got out, every time I hear about an FBI sting that saved 300 children or the new work that the tech industry is doing to track and catch predators and trafficking rings. There is hope. We just can’t stop. We have to all work together to end this and protect all of the children on our planet. No borders, no political or religious boundaries. This effects all of us and we have to work together to end it.
Check out the movie trailer to SOLD here:
Jane is multiple award-winning feature film, TV and media impact producer. She is a current board member and co-founder of Stolen Youth http://www.stolenyouth.org, a Seattle non-profit dedicated to raising funds and awareness to support the rescue and recovery of our community’s sexually exploited children and youth. She has mentored teams and volunteered as a grant advisor with WashingtonFilmWorks, a Seattle non-profit that provides incentive funds to innovative film projects that are produced in Washington State. Jane has also volunteered with The Assistance League of Seattle( Operation School Bell), Youthcare and S.A.F.E. She is dedicated to using film as a tool for change and producing media with real impact.
*All photos belong to their original owners