Something to think about

Posted November 08

For months, the question on everyone's lips has been, When will 'Sisters For Sale' be released? 

Last week I announced the details of our premiere, which will be held on 29th November at the Human Rights Film Festival in Naples, Italy. 

Several team members and supporters from across Italy and Europe are planning to attend, which is great. 

Now the question everyone is asking me is if I'll be there. Many have simply assumed I will be. 

Of course I'd love to be there for the world premiere of the film I've spent 5.5 years of my life working on - not to mention the fact that Italy is one of my favourite countries on Earth, and I know some amazing people in Naples I haven't seen for many years. 

But the answer is no - I won't be there. 

It's not a question of money. For me, it's primarily an environmental question. 

I've been very fortunate in having spent over 11 years abroad, living and travelling around 65+ countries of the world. In all that time and travelling, you'd be amazed how little I've flown. 

The vast majority of my travels have been made overland - by public transport, shared vehicle, or touring bicycle. I've travelled overland from Morocco to Moscow, Lofoten to Cappadocia, Lombok to Ladakh, Anchorage to La Paz. 

As AirAsia loves to tell us, now everyone can fly - but should we? Alongside eating animals and having children, it's one of the biggest impacts we as individuals can make on our planet.

I have flown, and will fly again - but it's not something I do lightly. For me, a film premiere doesn't justify a return trip around the globe. I realise that's not a popular attitude - and I think that's part of the reason our planet is such a mess. 

A flight is not simply a flight. It's an expression of values which becomes part of a broader culture. 

Some will say that the actions of individuals can't or won't make a difference. 'Sisters For Sale', 'The Human, Earth Project', and my entire life stand in direct opposition to that idea. 

After all, what else is a culture made of? 

- Ben 

PS. As I was finishing this message I received the details of our Australian premiere, will take place in January. This one is much closer to home, and I do intend to be there - details soon!

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Premiere

Posted November 02

Two weeks ago, I announced that the world premiere of our feature documentary, 'Sisters For Sale', would be taking place in Italy this month.

Today I can share the details with you. 

'Sisters For Sale' will be screening in competition at the 'X Festival del Cinema dei Diritti Umani di Napoli' - that is, the 10th edition of the Human Rights Film Festival of Naples. 

The festival is an ideal premiere for our documentary, whose story revolves around human trafficking and women's rights issues. 

The festival comprises two sub-festivals - the 'Focus' festival, and the 'Spread' festival. 'Sisters For Sale' will screen at both. 

The official selection includes 18 films from five continents, which will be screened in competition during the 'Focus' festival. This will run from 27th November to 5th December in Piazza Forcella, in the heart of Naples, and will also include a series of talks by filmmakers. 

The 'Spread' festival has already begun and will run for the entire month on November, with screenings of both the official selection and out-of-competition films at various venues around Naples. 

The main screening of 'Sisters For Sale' will take place during the 'Focus' festival on 29th November. The full competition program can be found here - if you're planning to be there, let us know! 

A lesser screening will take place during the 'Spread' festival on 18th November, in the Quarto district. 

In other news... 

Thanks to Tria Vang, who has been doing an amazing job on the Hmong translation of 'Sisters For Sale, the film trailer is now available also in the Hmong language - you can see it here

Last week, Myste Laquinta sent me a package of 'Sisters For Sale' posters. 

It was amazing to see them at last in real life - the print quality is impeccable, with even better colours and paper than the test print I'd had here. They're significantly bigger, too - the perfect size for a wall feature, or to hang on a door. 

So much of what we've created with this project has been digital - even the documentary itself. Being able to hold the poster in my hands makes 'Sisters For Sale' seem more real somehow, and its a good feeling. 

If you'd like a poster, you can order one here. It's a beautiful thing to have, and a fantastic way to support our ongoing work. 

Thanks!

- Ben 


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Afterall

Posted October 29

It's been a wild few weeks here at 'The Human, Earth Project'. 

Our feature documentary, 'Sisters For Sale' - conceived in 2013, shot in 2014, scratched together in 2015, finally funded in 2016, cut and polished in 2017, with an original score added just last month - was at last completed this morning. 

Getting to this point has been a far longer journey than anticipated, and has at times been a frustrating and highly challenging one. It has taken a colossal effort involving the efforts of dozens, and the support of thousands. It's fantastic to have finally arrived. 

Recently, with the film nearing completion, we'd been looking for a suitable film festival to host our world premiere. 

A few weeks ago, we were given an excellent opportunity to premiere next month, at a highly appropriate film festival in Italy. But there was a catch - we needed to deliver a complete Italian translation of the film within three weeks, and we didn't have one. 

Translating a feature film is a huge and time-consuming job. We'd already had 'Sisters For Sale' translated into six languages. Each time, we've had a team of people working simultaneously on different parts of the script, then a supervising translator to check the entire script. It could take months to produce a quality translation of the full documentary. 

Realistically, we had only two weeks for the Italian translation, allowing an extra week to compile, check, export and deliver the finished film. I didn't know if it would be possible to coordinate a translation in such a short period of time - but decided to give it a shot anyway. 

I put a shout-out on social media, and began to assemble a team. Our supervising Spanish translator, Laura Rodriguez Jarillo, shared my message with a community of professional translators - and Elisabetta Disa responded. 

That was 7.30pm, on the 12th October. There was no need for a team, Elisabetta assured me. She was confident to deliver the full translation of the documentary herself, in under two weeks. 

I didn't know Elisabetta, and had never seen her work. If I agreed, our world premiere would be riding on the casual assurance of a complete stranger. As with so many things on this project, it was a leap of faith, based on a gut feeling. I jumped - and Elisabetta came through. 

Elisabetta delivered the completed translation - 1,534 separate captions, all meticulously translated and perfectly in order - by 11am, on the 26th October. She apologised for having taken so long - she'd been tied up with other work. 

Over the past year, I've learned quite a bit about translation. There's an element of lateral thinking and creative problem-solving involved, and it's clearly not an easy thing to do well. Our script is a particularly tricky one, with so many people in the story speaking English as a second language. 

All of our supervising translators have been absolute rockstars. Theirs was a bigger job that I'd first realised, and they've all put a huge amount of love and care into their work. 

Elisabetta, in completing a full translation so quickly, and entirely by herself, has taken it to a new level. She's been phenomenal, and a real pleasure to work with. 

I once spent 15 months living in Italy. I can understand the language well enough to know that Elisabetta hasn't just given us a translation - she's given us an amazing translation. 

I was gobsmacked - flabbergasted, even - at what she was able to achieve in such a short period of time. Thanks to Elisabetta, we will have our world premiere in Italy next month. 

(Because Elisabetta is from the same region of Italy where the film will be screening, and because I thought it would be a fun thing to do, she's even translated a little message into the local dialect for me, to display at the beginning of the film!)

Meanwhile, however, 'Sisters For Sale' wasn't quite finished. 

After receiving the completed musical score from our composers Johanna N. Wilson and my brother Will M. Randall last month, 'Sisters For Sale' had passed into the hands of Curtis Fritsch IV and his team of sound designers at Alphadogs Inc, in Burbank, California. 

Curtis has actually been attached to this project since last June, and is way, way overdue for an introduction. For the past 16 months, he has been working quietly away behind the scenes, and waiting for the final pieces to arrive. 

I had originally intended to join Curtis and his team at Alphadogs for the final audio mix of the film. Instead, Curtis was in the studio with Yuxin Boon and Juan-Lucas Rafael Flying Eagle Benavidez, while he and I spent the year sending endless lists of notes back and forth across the Pacific. 

It's been a monumental job, involving countless hours spent trawling through files to find the right sounds to construct each scene, and blending them together with the dialogue, narration, and music. 

Vietnam and China are extremely noisy locations, and two of the biggest challenges have been avoiding the squawking chickens and roaring motorbikes which so often dominate the soundscapes there. The third biggest challenge, I suppose, was me and my occasional temptation to tweak the film's edit. 

Curtis has been an ideal co-worker - dedicated, patient, optimistic, and energetic - who has poured a huge amount of time into this project. With the festival deadline approaching, I was very impressed by Curtis' heroic efforts to draw together all the fragments of audio into one cohesive sound mix. 

This weekend, Curtis and I both spent long, sleep-deprived days and nights glued to our computers, making final adjustments. At four-thirty this morning, while I grabbed a few hours' rest, Curtis delivered the final mix - the final element to fall into place on this marathon, 5.5-year documentary project. 

I want to thank Curtis, Yuxin, Juan-Lucas, Elisabetta, and each of you for joining us on our long, fascinating journey. 

This is not an ending, but a beginning. It's really only the first step of a much longer journey, and there are already signs it's going to get a whole lot more interesting before it's finished. 

The next step is to work out how and when it will be made available, especially to those of you who have supported it, and we'll share the festival details as soon as we have the program. 

Well, no - that's not entirely true. The next step is sleep.

Stay tuned!

- Ben 

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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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