It’s been a really long year.
Whereas many of last year’s struggles were public and very dramatic, this year they have been comparatively dull battles behind closed doors.
When Sisters For Sale was crowdfunded in early 2014, it was to be a modest film about my kidnapped friends, featuring interviews with their families and friends, other survivors, and experts in the field, to help raise awareness of a human trafficking crisis.
It was to be a three-month shoot, a simple story and an relatively straightforward edit. The funds were raised successfully, and everything was going according to plan.
Then unexpected things began to happen. Against all odds, I succeeded in contacting, locating and meeting with one of my friends in China – and then the other.
Three months stretched to a full year, as I struggled to bring my friends home. Costs ballooned – cameraman, equipment, insurance, visas, living and travel expenses.
By the time that post-production began, the allocated funds had all been spent on the attempted rescues and rehabilitation of my friends.
Perhaps it seems irresponsible to take funds earmarked for a film and spend them on actually helping the people who are the reason for that film’s existence. I would make the same decision again, ten times over.
I came away from Vietnam with a phenomenal story, and some fantastic footage to back it up.
I’d been able to get the film successfully crowdfunded before it even existed, and now it was so much more than just an interesting idea. The pieces were all there, and they were beautiful – I just needed some additional funds to put them together.
I thought it would be a piece of cake; how wrong I was.
I didn’t want to turn back to the same group of people to fund the same film. So I began sending out various applications, and jumping through endless hoops – which led me nowhere.
Over the past months, I’ve worn a dozen different hats – as an accountant, manager, copywriter, designer, producer, programmer, promoter, etc. – working on every aspect of the project but the film itself.
Meanwhile, all of that incredible footage sat on the proverbial shelf, gathering proverbial dust.
It’s been 28 months since I received my last paycheck. The only payment I receive now is the occasional praise of a friend or stranger who says I’m doing a great job.
Any money I receive is spent directly on my work.
I’ve considered and rejected all kinds of tempting compromises to extricate myself from this situation. I’ve considered giving the whole project away and claiming my life back.
It’s difficult to convey the frustration of such an enormous, seemingly endless task which, rather than generating money, simply consumes it…
… And, after watching all of the available funds drain away, a whole new world of frustration working in capacities you’ve never been trained for, just so you can go on working.
But these are only small potatoes, first world problems.
When times are tough, I find a strange sort of comfort in seeing other people’s crises, and 2015 has been a really long year for many of us.
One friend lost both of his parents this year, within weeks of each other.
Another friend’s wife and mother were both teetering precariously in life-threatening situations, at the same time, on opposite sides of the globe.
A third friend didn’t make it through the year at all.
And then there are the countless millions of women and girls who have been trafficked and sold into lives of perpetual rape. They’re the reason I began this work, and they’re the reason I continue.
My problems suddenly don’t seem so terrible after all, and the pieces of my life shift into perspective.
After months lost in limbo, I’m getting back to work on Sisters For Sale.
What about the funding?
To a first world problem, I give a first world answer: Fuck it.
I have no idea how I’ll pay for it.
But it’s too late to go back now, and I’m tired of walking in circles. I’m tired of requests for further information, for footage, for exhaustive budgets. I’ll get this done somehow.
A painted phrase caught my attention in the city this morning: Por la Razón o Por la Fuerza.
By reason or by force.
I’ve done dumber things, and made less probable things happen.
I’ll find a way or make one.
And if you want to help, now is the time.
This week, renowned blogger and world traveller Niall Doherty gave his top 5 suggestions for minimalist, meaningful gifts:
“This year I’ve made a large donation to ‘The Human, Earth Project’ and will present that as a Christmas gift to my family.”
Are you stuck for gift ideas for your family and friends? Are they asking what you’d like, but there’s nothing you need?
One friend writes: “My aunt asked what I wanted for Christmas, and I sent her a link to the project.”
Make a difference here.