Ducks in a row

Posted October 23

The world premiere of our feature documentary, 'Sisters For Sale', is coming up next month in Italy, and we're busy getting all of our ducks in a row. 

I haven't yet announced the details of the premiere - I will do as soon as I receive the schedule from the film festival. 

To protect ourselves legally, with the release of the film, I'd been advised to incorporate 'The Human, Earth Project' as a limited liability company - and that's exactly what we've done this week. 

It's an exciting step in our journey, and I'd like to give a huge thank-you to my father, Keith Randall, for making it possible. 

We've just released the Italian version of the 'Sisters For Sale' trailer, thanks to the incredible Elisabetta Disa, who is hard at work translating the documentary. 

You can see the Italian trailer here. (There's still one teensy spelling error I haven't yet had a chance to correct - that was my mistake, not Elisabetta's!)

Our remaining translations - led by Astrid Hofer, Huong Ngo, Laura Rodriguez Jarillo, and Tria Vang - are all coming together beautifully. 

Meanwhile, Curtis Fritsch IV and his team at Alphadogs in Los Angeles are doing a brilliant job preparing the final audio mix for the film, which is sounding fantastic - more on that soon! 

I've begun putting together the 'Sisters For Sale' soundtrack, featuring over half an hour of gorgeous original music by Johanna N. Wilson, and my brother Will M. Randall. 

Our team of amazing volunteers - Melissa Adams, Katie Carriero, Astrid Hofer, and Liz Martel - have been busy behind the scenes with all sorts of things, including our festival and distribution strategy, media outreach, grant applications, and our new website (coming soon!). 

Over in the US, Myste Laquinta has been handling our poster distribution like a champion. There have been some unforeseen snags, with international shipping costs higher than the cost of the poster itself. I'd like to thank you - especially those of you in Europe - for your patience while we find a solution. 

The 'Sisters For Sale' book has been coming together extremely well over the past months. I'm delighted with the way the story's shaping up, and will be really excited to share it with you when it's ready. 

It's an exciting time for all of us here - stay tuned!

- Ben 

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Galvanize

Posted October 15

It's been an exciting week here, with plenty of good news to share. 

First of all, we've just confirmed screenings of 'Sisters For Sale' at not one but two great film festivals, on opposite sides of the planet.

These will be the Australian and European premieres for the documentary, and I'll be sharing the details of both festivals shortly!

Secondly, thanks to the wonderful Myste Laquinta, the first 'Sisters For Sale' posters have now begun arriving around the United States and Canada - I'm looking forward to seeing one here!

Thirdly, we now have not one but two new additions to the team here. 

Professional translator Elisabetta Disa is working on the seventh (and likely final) translation of 'Sisters For Sale', in Italian. 

She'll be assisted by Elisabeth De Sa Barbaro (who was an absolute hero last year in supervising our French translation), and possibly others. 

Elizabeth Martel is the newest addition to our team. 

(Elisabetta, Elisabeth, and Elizabeth - yes, my inbox is chaos right now...) 

It's always fantastic to see passionate, talented people coming forward to help grow the project, and I'd like to share Elizabeth's story. 

Elizabeth - or Liz - has followed and supported the project for years, and decided it was the right time to take the next step. She messaged saying she might be able to help with social media. 

After a short chat, Liz had a far better understanding of the internal workings of the project, and created a new role for herself within the project - a role which is an even better match for her own talents and passions, and an even more valuable one for us right now. 

Liz has already begun coordinating our festival schedule - and, with any luck, we'll soon have a North American premiere to match those in Europe and Australia! 

Liz's story is very typical of how this project has operated over the past few years. 

Our other current core team members - Melissa Adams, Katie Carriero and Astrid Hofer - all came onboard to help with promotion. They've since found roles within the project that fit their own passions and interest - handling web development, funding, strategy, partnerships, and much more. 

We're fortunate to have such a wonderful, tight-knit team here. They all have day jobs, give whatever they can - sometimes a little, sometimes a lot - and it's all very much appreciated. 

One of our team members said that getting involved with this project was the best thing she'd ever done. Another said it was a great source of meaning for her during a difficult time in her life. 

With 'Sisters For Sale' coming out soon, we're going to need some new team members - if you're interested, or even curious, please don't hesitate to send me a quick message, and we can have a chat about finding you a place on the team. We'd love to have you onboard. 

You can reach me at thehumanearthproject@gmail.com. 

Last week I shared a few details about the project's finances, and mentioned a few ideas for future funding - including the possibility of a new fundraising campaign. 

I'd like to thank those of you who messaged, contributed, or ordered a 'Sisters For Sale' poster in response. Your support makes a real difference and is very much appreciated, thank you. 

One person reacted very differently, attacking the project as a "joke", and insinuating that we've been taking advantage of people's generosity. 

He pointed out that we've run three fundraising campaigns over the past 5.5 years, raising a total of $83,382. That, he seemed to believe, was already more than we deserved. 

Let's take a moment to look at that. 

The actual figure was slightly lower (at $82,596). Averaged out over the 2,063 days since I first began working intensively on this project, that's almost exactly $40 per day. 

Some people might consider that a lot of money. Here's what we've been able to achieve with that money: 

- We've funded an unusually long, two-person documentary shoot (including all necessary travel, insurance, visa, and living expenses for ten months);

- We've conducted an international investigation and successfully located two victims of human trafficking (who had not been seen by their friends or families for almost three years);

- We've offered all necessary support to those victims over a period of twelve months; 

- We've arranged an international rescue (ultimately cancelled at the victim's request); 

- We've supported a survivor of human trafficking through a seven-week period of reintegration; 

- We've organised a team of professionals to complete our feature-length documentary 'Sisters For Sale' (including all transcriptions, translations, scripting, editing, animations, colour grading, additional recording, original music, and sound design);

- We've paid for all necessary equipment (including cameras, lenses, filters, batteries, chargers, carrying cases, tripods, a shoulder mount, microphones, a microphone stand, a recording device, a digital interface, laptops, numerous storage devices, an extra monitor, and cables);

- We've paid taxes, monthly service fees (to Adobe, Facebook, Google, and Vimeo), and fees of over $8,156 to Indiegogo, Paypal, banks, and credit card companies; 

- We've paid printing costs (for hundreds of high-quality photographic prints, large posters, postcards, and bookmarks), plus all international shipping costs, as incentives for supporters; 

- We've built and maintained three separate websites; 

- We've organised seven foreign translations of 'Sisters For Sale' (Chinese, French, German, Hmong, Italian, Spanish and Vietnamese) so that it can reach the widest possible audience; 

- We've submitted 'Sisters For Sale' to 48 film festivals around the world (at costs of up to $110 per festival); 

- We've begun intensive work to expand 'Sisters For Sale' as both a book and serialised podcast; 

- We've raised awareness of the global human trafficking crisis to millions of people around the world, via television, radio, newspapers, magazines, blog and websites (including the ABC, CBC, CNN, Newsweek, TEDx, VICE, VTV, and Walk Free); 

- We've produced hundreds of blog posts, and thousands of posts on social media sites (including several posts that took the coveted top positions on the front pages of Imgur and Reddit, and were seen by huge numbers of people around the world);

- Part of our story was the core focus of 'Bargain Brides', a 47-minute documentary featured on Channel NewsAsia's 'Undercover Asia' series.

- We've inspired a fantastic book by award-winning crime novelist Belinda Bauer; 

- We've expanded from a one-person operation to a movement followed and supported by people in 70+ countries on six continents;

- And still, somehow, we've managed to have enough money left over to keep a roof over my head and food on the table, so that I can continue to dedicate myself to this work. 

None of these things happened by themselves. Behind every visible success, there has been a huge amount of hard work, mountains of adversity and months of dogged perseverence. 

I've worked incredibly long hours on this project, and have never been paid - I do this work because I believe it's important. While I could be earning hundreds of dollars a day doing the same work elsewhere, I've taken only a meagre allowance to cover my basic living expenses.

It's true that 'Sisters For Sale' has taken more time and money than expected. It's a long, long step from that fact to any accusation that the team and I have been doing anything less than a phenomenal job behind the scenes. 

We've achieved incredible things together - and with your continued support, we're going to achieve far more. 

If you have any doubts about our work, please feel free to reach out and speak to us. We're here. We're human beings. We encourage discourse and understanding, and will be enforcing a zero-tolerance policy on abuse.

If you know anyone with the necessary skills and equipment who would be willing and able to do the same work for less money, I sincerely hope they do. In fact, I'd be delighted to have them on the team. 

If you'd like to help support our work against human trafficking, you can donate or order a poster here

Thank you!

- Ben


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Crunch time

Posted October 11

'The Human, Earth Project' has now been running for over five and a half years. 

While many of its participants have been paid, I've never received anything from the project but the most basic living expenses - averaging less than $25 a day, and sometimes as little as $10 a day. 

Needless to say, these figures represent a tiny fraction of what I could easily be earning elsewhere. Take a moment to consider those figures in a practical sense, and the restrictions they'd place on your own lifestyle. 

Continuing with this work is a choice which doesn't merely affect how I spend my days - it affects every facet of my life. I've chosen to dedicate my time and energy fighting human trafficking because I believe it is incredibly important - for all of us. 

Over the past five years, our work has reached millions of people around the globe - but we haven't even come close to unlocking our true potential. 

A lack of funding severely restricts how much we can spend, and how much we can achieve. Most of all, it keeps us from being able to adequately reward the wonderful people whose work we rely upon. 

'The Human, Earth Project' is an organisation with expenses like any other - yet we have no reliable source of income. With the nature of our work, our expenses can be highly variable, but our income remains uniformly low. 

We accept donations via our website. Here's what we've received over the past twelve months, charted against the costs of running the project (in US dollars): 

Our expenses for the past year have been unusually low, with the most intensive post-production on 'Sisters For Sale' having finished last September. Even so, the project cost $13,053 over the past twelve months, and - at a grand total of $230 - contributions covered only 1.76% of our expenses. For five months, we received nothing at all. 

(Our most recent contribution - a full month ago - was $2.91. True to form, Paypal took 40 cents of it.) 

It's a situation that clearly is not sustainable. 

In 2016, we ran a fundraising campaign to finish the 'Sisters For Sale' documentary. While it was highly successful in terms of raising both funds and awareness, and the only reason our work has been able to continue over the past two years, it also drained a colossal amount of time and energy away from our core work. 

The funds from that campaign, and more, have now been spent, and we're now facing some major decisions. 

In 'Sisters For Sale', we have a unique and very powerful story that can make a huge difference in raising awareness of the global human trafficking crisis. We've planned a book and a serialised podcast of the same story, and there's scope for so much more (a tour to engage people personally with the issue, and the 'Epic' documentary series, for example) - but all of these things take money. 

One option is another fundraising campaign to continue our work. Another is my own personal return to paid work, which means I'll be able to dedicate dramatically less time to the project. 

Earlier this year, I spoke about our alternatives going forward - whether to rely on external support, or to become a self-supporting organisation. Since then, we've been experimenting with both alternatives. 

Katie Carriero, in consultation with Justin Patton, has begun applying for funding to continue our work. This can make a huge difference for us, and I'd like to thank them both for their efforts. 

Last month we made the 'Sisters For Sale' poster available for sale on our website. It will soon be followed by the soundtrack and, eventually, the film itself. I want to thank Myste Laquinta for the amazing job she's doing with the posters. 

The choices we make now will affect the release of the 'Sisters For Sale' documentary, and how impactful it will be - stay tuned for details. 

In the meantime, if you're able to support our work, you can make a real difference and score yourself an awesome poster here on our website. 

Thanks!

- Ben 



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Into the music

Posted September 21

Imagine you're a painter. For years, you've been labouring away on one huge canvas, pouring your heart and soul into it. 

Suddenly another artist - someone you barely know - enters the studio and starts painting all over your work. You don't know which brushes, colours, or even which style they're going to choose. You're no longer the artist, but the audience. 

That's how I felt last year, when I handed over our feature documentary, 'Sisters For Sale', to be scored. Since then, Johanna Wilson, accompanied by my brother Will Randall, have been working hard to create the music for the film. 

Like many aspects of filmmaking, scoring a film is both creative and technical, and far more complex than it seems. 

Creating a powerful piece of art on a blank canvas is already challenging enough. Creating a powerful piece of music to meld with and enhance a film whose moods and rhythms are already established cannot be easy - especially with an emotionally-nuanced film like 'Sisters For Sale'. 

(I shared a sneak preview of the music last week - you can find it here!)


Filmmaking sounds like an exciting job - most of the time, though, it's not. There are countless long, tedious hours spent on computers, as countless complex pieces come together and fit into place at glacial pace. 

Then there are times when filmmaking truly is something special, and exciting. This week has been one of those times, as I've been fitting the final version of Joh and Will's score together with the other elements of the film. 

Finally, I've had a glimpse of the finished canvas as Joh and Will have imagined it - and it's stunning. I feel privileged to have witness the creation of something so beautiful. 

Like the film itself, the score is composed of many carefully-constructed pieces. All of these pieces fit together and build towards an epic climax involving eight minutes of incredible music by Joh, Will, and Mike Taylor, stunning visuals lushly coloured by Laco Gaal and Jeppe Hildebrandt, and gorgeous artwork by Marta Farina. It's perfect.

The music is now being sent to Curtis Fritsch IV and his team in Los Angeles. Though I haven't yet introduced you properly, Curtis and his team have been working on the sound design for the film over the last twelve months. They're now getting ready for the final mix - and then we're done! 

It's an exciting time and, with the music in place, I'm more excited than ever to share the finished film - watch this space!

Last week I shared the final poster design for the film, which I'm also really excited about. If you'd like to pick up a copy and support our fight against human trafficking, it's now available for sale here on our website. 


Thanks!

- Ben 


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Preparation for launch

Posted September 12

I have two very special surprises for you today. 

It has taken more time than expected to finish our feature documentary, 'Sisters For Sale', and you've all been waiting very patiently. 

Today I want to give you a special sneak peek at what we've been working on. I'm sharing a piece of the introduction, from near the beginning of the film. 

It's not quite finished yet - the audio hasn't been properly mixed, and there are still some sound effects to be added, but it's getting very close. 

The reason I've chosen to share this particular part with you is because it includes one of the many beautiful pieces of music written and performed by Johanna N. Wilson for the film. 

Some of it will look familiar to those of you who saw the 40-minute Little Sisters version of 'Sisters For Sale' in late 2016, before the editing, colour correction, and music were finalised. 

At 86 minutes, the final version will be more than twice the length of the Little Sisters version, and include a huge amount of material never seen before. 

It's an exciting time for us. Johanna and my brother, Will M. Randall, are delivering the finished score for the documentary this week, then the film will be ready for the last stage of post-production: the final audio mix. 

With much of the work already done, the audio mix is expected to be completed in a matter of weeks. 

Here's the video (if it doesn't appear below, you can find it here) - enjoy!


I have another special surprise for you today, too. 

In April, I asked you to choose between four poster designs for our feature documentary, 'Sisters For Sale'. 

Each of the four posters had its own group of die-hard supporters, but the fourth design - the 'Sunset Glow' design - proved the most popular. 

I liked the design, but there was something that bothered me about it. It was clean, bold, and simple - but there was no real depth to it. 

I wanted to print some large-format posters. Though the 'Sunset Glow' design looked fine on a computer, I didn't feel it would translate very well to a bigger size. 

I'd hang it on my wall, yes - but I'd never really look at it, because there's not much there to see. You could take it all in at a single glance, and have no real reason to ever look at it again. 

I wanted to give people something really special - a more engaging design, with more to explore visually. Call me a perfectionist, but I'm really glad I persisted with it. 

Using the 'Sunset Glow' poster as my starting point, I began developing a new design - the 'Mountain Mist' design. 

This was by far the most involved poster design to date. It became a team effort spanning several months, and I'd like to thank Melissa Adams, Katie Carriero, Claire Harris, Geoffrey Hindmarsh, Astrid Hofer, Myste Laquinta, Susan Randall, and Karina Thomson for all their assistance. 

The result is both striking and subtle, combining the most powerful elements of the four previous designs: the instant engagement of the 'Cinematic' design, the sense of sisterhood of the 'Classic' design, the naked humanity of the 'Mother's Love' design, and the powerful visual imagery of the 'Sunset Glow' design. 

The 'Mountain Mist' design looks good on a computer, and looks fantastic when printed on a larger scale. I really enjoyed making it, and consider it one of the best designs I've ever worked on. 


I love the atmosphere of the design, and feel it captures the essence of the film far better than any of the previous designs. There are sympathetic women (some strong, some vulnerable), menacing-looking men, and plenty of unanswered questions. 

Framed by a dark, classically-shaped archway, the elements fit together in unexpected ways to form an intricate world of light and shadow for you to explore. I have a large test print on my wall at home, and still find myself captivated by its detail and textures. 

Everyone who has seen the poster in person has loved it. Though it's not the same on a computer, I'll give you a quick tour, so you can see what makes this poster so special. 

'Sisters For Sale' follows my (unexpectedly successful) investigation into the disappearance of my friend May. May was kidnapped from her home in Sapa, a mountain town in northern Vietnam. 

Sapa's pervasive mist has been used throughout the documentary as a visual metaphor for the mysterious and unknown. 

Two of the key figures from the investigation - May's father, and one of her closest friends - can be seen above the title as ghostly figures in the mist. 

In the foreground, the three women from the 'Sunset Glow' poster walk down a long road which disappears into dense fog. 

This is one of my favourite images from the documentary. Here, it becomes a metaphor for the uncertainty of life, and particularly for the life of women in Sapa. 

Each of the women is at a very different stage of her life: there is an older woman, a teenager, and a younger girl who looks to the others for support. 

Beyond them, a Hmong man aggressively pursues a teenaged girl in traditional costume. Here, as in many places, the image is enhanced by subtle details - such as the vague shadows the running figures cast on the mist which swallows their feet. 

Two men emerge from the mist on Cầu Mây street. One of the principal streets of Sapa, this is where May and her friends once spent their days selling handicrafts to tourists, before May and four of her friends were kidnapped in separate incidents. 

Cầu Mây is also the street that appears at the beginning of the video you've just seen. (Cầu Mây means "cloud bridge" in Vietnamese, which I love.)

The eyes at the top are my own and, while I had mixed feelings about including them in the design, I ultimately felt it was somewhat misleading not to represent my own role in the investigation. 

The faces and figures from the central part of the design are all reflected in the pupils, echoing the idea that the story is shown through these eyes. 

The photograph was taken after riding through the mists of Sapa - you can actually see drops of water clinging to the eyelashes, which looks great on the full-sized poster. 

At the bottom of the poster, I've included some of the key figures who made the documentary possible: Marta Farina, Curtis Fritsch IV and Alphadogs Inc. (I'll introduce you soon!), Laco Gaal, Jeppe Hildebrandt, Myste Laquinta, Moreno, Will M. Randall, Rami Shaafi, Michael Taylor, Johanna Wilson, and myself. 

This is the final design, and will be the official poster for 'Sisters For Sale'. 

We've just had them printed as large (61 x 91cm, or 24 x 36in) high-quality offset prints on 150gsm gloss paper stock, and they look gorgeous. If you'd like your very own print, you can order one here. 

Every order supports our work against human trafficking. 

For the next five days only - until Sunday 16th September - we're giving discounted postage and handling on every order. 

Delivery is currently only available to the US, Canada, and Australia (we're still working out the postage to other areas!)

Thank you! 

I'd like to thank Myste Laquinta, who will be handling North American orders, and Leonie Brok, who has been helping with my European enquiries. 

- Ben 

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