By Viola Zhou
Hoping to start a better life in the United States, a 20-year-old woman from South America gives all the money she has to an immigration agent. After she is taken to the United States, she is told to pay more by working as a sex slave.
Cases like this happen thousands of times every year in the States, according to Polaris Project, a nongovernmental organization that studies human trafficking. To help end modern-day slavery, a Baylor student plans to make a film out of this story.
Bellaire sophomore Andy Sharp set up his own film company, Brave Raven Films, in November. He said his first project will be a five-minute film dedicated to raising awareness of human trafficking.
“There are women and children all over the world,” said Sharp, a film and digital media major. “They are in slavery. I never thought that existed. That just breaks my heart. I want to change that.”
Sharp said he will be the producer of the film and work with a professional screenwriter, director and cinematographer.
Joani Livingston, a film director and Baylor graduate, said she will decide whether to direct Sharp’s film after reading the script. Livingston has done several projects about human trafficking.
“The U.S. is the number one importer and exporter of children trafficking in the world,” Livingston said. “It is just staggering for people to know.”
About 100,000 children are estimated to be in the sex trade in the United States each year, according to the Polaris Project. The organization said Texas ranked second in the nation in 2013 with 2,236 incoming tips, such as texts and emails, to report human trafficking.
Sharp said he learned about this topic from his teacher Dr. Sarah-Jane Murray, associate professor in the Great Text Program in the Honors College, who has long been an advocate against human trafficking.
Murray said she decided to join the battle against modern slavery after hearing the story of a 3-year-old Cambodian girl being attacked by a tourist who intended to trade her into another country.
“This story has changed my life,” Murray said. “I never want to look back at that scene without having done everything I can to change that.”
Murray said since then, she has been engaging in anti-trafficking organizations and at the same time, trying to get the message across to her students.
Murray said telling stories through film is an effective way to make a social impact.
“Well-told stories can grab our hearts,” she said. “They have the power to lead us to the right direction.”
She said she wants Baylor students to be able to not only consume and interpret stories, but to be future storytellers who can harness the culture and society.
To succeed in producing the film, Sharp has to deal with a lot of difficulties. Sharp said making films about human trafficking is a dangerous job, and that he’s heard of a group of people who were making a documentary about the industry getting kidnapped. Their equipment and footage were burned.
Sharp said fundraising is another challenge. He said he is raising money through his website, and it’s unclear how much it takes to finish the production.
Murray said producing a professional film and telling a good story is a tough process, but she believes Baylor students have the patience and persistence to overcome the difficulties.
“The best thing is not to see my student decide to set up a company and make a professional film, but to see him do this with excellence,” Murray said. “We should not do these just to appear cool, but to really make a difference.”