Five years

Posted February 26

There are two very different styles of mountain-climbing. 

The first is expedition style: using a larger team to establish a series of base camps at increasing altitudes, with enough supplies and equipment for a safe and steady ascent. 

The second is alpine style: moving fast and light, carrying as little equipment as possible, striking out rapidly at the peak. 

An alpine-style ascent allows for rapid success with a relatively small investment of time, money, and personnel. When things go wrong, however, it can be incredibly dangerous. 

Last week marked the five-year anniversary of 'The Human, Earth Project'. 

Our work has always been done alpine-style. Over the past five years, we've achieved some stunning victories - but I've also learned how difficult this work can be without the proper support systems in place. 

We succeeded in finding my kidnapped friends in China, and supporting the first through her return home to Vietnam. 

Our story has reached millions, even before it has been released in any definitive form. 

Our feature documentary, 'Sisters For Sale', will always stand testament to how much we've been able to achieve with so little. Whatever happens now with the film, it has been a remarkable achievement, and one I'll always be thankful for. 

For me, the film will also stand testament to the price paid in the stress and frustration of not having allocated sufficient resources in advance. That's not a mistake I'm willing to make again. 

Building a base camp

'The Human, Earth Project' is no longer a brief expedition, as it was originally conceived. Whatever else I might have planned for my life, I realise now that this project is here to stay. It's time to start building and supplying a base camp, for the long haul. 

'Sisters For Sale' has been a victory against incredible odds, and we all like that kind of story - until we have to live through it. Next time, I'm going to make sure the odds are in our favour. 

I was once a talented Business Studies student, selected in the top five from an accelerated class in a selective high school. Oddly enough, I've applied none of that knowledge to 'The Human, Earth Project' - because I simply never thought of it as a real and lasting organisation. 

But that's what it now needs to become. 

Human trafficking is a monstrous issue, affecting tens of millions of people around the globe. Most of us are now aware of human trafficking - but do we know what it really means? 

Unlike the vast majority of human trafficking stories we're exposed to in the media, ours is a very personal story exposing the true complexities of this issue. I've spent the past five years immersed in human trafficking stories, and there really isn't anything else like this one. 

Ours is a unique and fascinating story which has proven itself time and again via new and traditional media. It's a story which can make a very real difference against human trafficking - if we can get the right support systems in place. 

New directions

Over the past three years, 'The Human, Earth Project' has had a singular goal: to finish the 'Sisters For Sale' documentary. 

The documentary is almost complete, yet my work is far from over - in fact, it is only becoming more complex. A series of other peaks now stands before us. 

I'll be working towards several interconnected goals over the coming years, all with the same aim: to continue raising awareness of the global human trafficking crisis. 

The sound and music are all that remain to be completed on the documentary (I'll be writing more about that soon!). 

While post-production is almost finished, the documentary's true journey is only just beginning. A great deal of our time and energy is now being spent on distribution, promotion and impact strategies for the film, which has been submitted to numerous film festivals in North America, Europe and Australia. 

You may have noticed our a new surge of activity on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts lately. I'd like to give a huge shout-out to the amazing Melissa Adams, Katie Carriero and Astrid Hofer, who have turned their marketing and promotional talents onto our social media and website. (Watch this space!)

Thanks to our amazing translation teams, 'Sisters For Sale' has been (or is being) translated into Chinese, French, German and Spanish

Besides the documentary, 'Sisters For Sale' is also to be released as a 10-part podcast by the BBC's Claire Harris, and a book which I've begun to put together already. Both of these will allow us to share more of the compelling and complex story which simply didn't fit into the film. 

There's also the later possibility of touring the film personally, to connect directly with communities around the world and spark discussions on human trafficking and women's rights. 

There are more distant peaks, too - such as a potential companion piece to 'Sisters For Sale', diving deeper into some of the fascinating issues and stories touched upon in the initial documentary. 

Then there's 'Epic', our marathon 2013-14 search for 100 strangers across 10 countries in 10 months. While overshadowed by the events of 'Sisters For Sale', the 'Epic' journey was also filmed from beginning to end, and is to be released as a series of feature documentaries. 

While all of these things may sound ambitious, ambition is one thing this project has never lacked, and we could never have come so far without it. However, all of these things demand time, energy, and money, and our resources are limited. 

Sacrifice

Over the past few months, I've been examining two distinct alternatives for the future of 'The Human, Earth Project'. 

The first is to expand and grow as a non-profit organisation, relying on grant money and donations to fund our work. 

While this may seem a "purer" path, I've been relying on the generosity of others now for five long, unpaid years, and it's not something I wish to do on a permanent basis. 

For five years, I've relied on your contributions. I've been deeply grateful for your support, and have wanted to maximise the impact of every dollar - to a point where I feel guilty if I'm not working, or if I take any funds to cover my own needs. 

It's a system that worked well in the short term, but simply isn't sustainable, especially with the incredibly long hours I've worked to finish the documentary. 

For years, I've taken only the most basic living expenses for myself, averaging below $25 a day for food, accommodation and all necessities. I feel as though I have very little time or money of my own, that everything I have I owe to other people. 

It's a situation, I've realised, that ultimately harms both myself and my work. 

I've been asked why I don't pay myself a reasonable wage, and the answer is simple - the money just isn't there. If I'd paid myself properly, this project would have been bled dry years ago, and the documentary would never have been completed. 

I understand now that even if our funding was to be increased dramatically, the dilemma would remain the same. I'd still be forced to balance the needs of the project with my own personal needs. 

Being the kind of person I am, I'd know I'd pour as much as possible into my work, and bleed myself dry. 

It's time to find another way. 

Self-reliance

The second option is the path of self-reliance - to find a way to generate enough income from the project that our work might continue. 

Though it may be more challenging than the first option, it now seems preferable to me. 

What does it mean? It means selling things to support our work. It doesn't mean compromising the ideals upon which our work is based, or making that work any less effective. 

At various times, since the very beginning of the project, I've offered certain rewards in exchange for contributions - desktop wallpapers, postcards, photographic prints, access to the film itself, your name in the credits. 

These things are no longer available to contributors - some haven't been for years. 

While I know that many of you have contributed from a simple desire to help, with no need of a reward, I also know that the availability of these incentives has had a marked effect on the quantity of contributions we've received. 

Many people like to have something to show, and to share with their friends. Many of you have expressed an interest in having something physical from the project - a poster, a T-shirt, a DVD copy of the film (when it is released). 

I've also been approached by numerous organisations around the world to speak about my experiences. 

In searching for a way to keep this project alive and strong, these are some of the ideas I'll be considering first. 

Each of you is an important part of this project. Some of you have been following the evolution of our work from the very beginning, five years ago. Some of you have joined more recently. 

If you'd like to have a voice in this process, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Perhaps you have an idea I haven't yet considered. You can email me directly at thehumanearthproject@gmail.com. 

I want to give a huge thank-you to Qiuda Guo, who has been an avid supporter of our work from the very beginning, and whose behind-the-scenes efforts have been unseen but vital to our work - thank you! 

- Ben

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In the light

Posted February 02

'Sisters For Sale' is a unique story, with a unique power to shine a light onto the dark realities of human trafficking. 

Most people are now aware of human trafficking - yet the trafficking stories we are told are often impersonal, inaccessible, and oversimplified. 

'Sisters For Sale', on the other hand, is a deeply personal story which exposes the true complexities of the issue, and makes it real. 

It's a story that has proven its worth time and again on television and radio, in newspapers and magazines, on social media and countless blogs. 

A marketing expert looked over 'The Human, Earth Project' in the first year of its existence, when it had just 1,000 Facebook supporters. With the right marketing, she said, we easily could have had 10,000 supporters - even then, before we'd really achieved anything. 

After five years, and having achieved incredible things, we still don't have anything approaching that number. 

It's not because I've been promoting the project in the wrong way: it's because I've barely been promoting it at all. Worse than that - I've actively resisted any serious promotion for years. 

Our Twitter and Instagram accounts haven't been active in over a year. 

(The fact that there's a Twitter account at all is thanks to the wonderful Claire Bannerman-Mott, who set it up and ran it for years before I even thought of doing so. I don't even know who set up our Instagram account. I've never touched either of them.) 

I'll blog, and post to our Facebook account, maybe once or twice a month. That's it. There are no fancy tricks on our website to help build our mailing list. 

I haven't sought any real media attention in 15 months. (Any attention we've had since then - including VICE, CNN, and Newsweek - has come to me. While it's amazing that I'm being approached by organisations of that calibre, imagine how much more effective this project could be if it was promoted proactively!)

I often shy away from opportunities to tell my story, and there have been times I've gone for months without handing out a single business card (though I've seen how powerful those personal contacts can be). 

I can hear you thinking, this is a really stupid way to run a project that's all about raising awareness - and it is. I get messages like this: 

Dear friends at The Human, Earth Project, you're not loud enough... Your work and intentions are barely seen. That is because YOU'RE NOT LOUD ENOUGH.

It's true - yet I have my reasons, and they're personal. 

In 2014, I achieved some rather unusual things, and became more personally involved in this story than I'd ever intended. It brought me further into the public eye than I'd expected, or am comfortable with. 

Maybe you've seen my TEDx talk, or some of the televised interviews I've done, and you think that's who I am - someone who enjoys getting up in front of people and talking about themselves. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm normally very selective about who I share my life with. Even here, on my blog, I share only what I feel is necessary. 

It's true that I've deliberately sought a wider audience for my story at times - after all, the purpose of my work is to raise awareness of human trafficking. While I may not have initially realised exactly what "raising awareness" would involve, my story is currently the best tool I have to achieve that goal. 

I've received a very strong sense of resentment from some people, as if they want to be the guy telling the world they found their kidnapped friends in China. It's a good story, and for some people, being that guy might be amazing. For me, it's a role I've struggled with. 

Some people do seem to receive a great sense of self-worth and validation from the attention they receive, even from strangers on the Internet - and that's fine. I am not one of those people. 

I'll admit, I have enjoyed being recognised on the street by strangers, on the rare occasions it has happened. When those of you who have been following my story from a distance suddenly appear up close, in real life, it makes me feel that my work has had a real impact. 

It's good to know that you're out there in the world, listening. We have a common interest in this project, and I enjoy meeting you in person. Beyond that, what attention I've received from this project has only confirmed my desire for privacy. 

One criticism I've had of the documentary is that I'm barely present in the story, that I linger on the edge of frame. People have said they want to know more about me, and my role in the story. 

I'll share more if and when I'm ready - but I've never been the focus of this story, nor do I wish to be. 

Perhaps it's the filmmaker in me, who prefers to remain behind the lens. Perhaps it's the traveller in me, who prefers to blend in. Perhaps it's the Australian in me, with our culture of shooting down anyone who gets too big for their boots. Perhaps it's simply that I don't truly understand my own role in the story. 

Whatever it is, I'm just not the right person to promote this project. I don't need the world to know about me - but I do want them to know about 'Sisters For Sale', and the two can be very difficult to separate. 

On the rare occasions I've made efforts to promote my work, I've often bungled it. At its core, 'The Human, Earth Project' is tiny - much smaller than many people may realise. 

I don't test-market things. I don't have the luxury of researching and refining my presentation before I share it with the public. I just do whatever seems right at the time - and sometimes it's not right, but it is constantly getting better. 

I listen to people's comments - and abuse - and adjust the message accordingly. You are the test audience. This project is an eternal work-in-progress, subject to continual refinements. 

There has a been a long process of trying to understand my own role in the story, and finding the right way to tell it. It's very difficult to have an objective sense of something you're so close to. 

Seeing the attention I'd received for my work, someone once asked me (from the comfortable anonymity of the Internet): 

Was your friends getting kidnapped the best thing that ever happened to you?

I can't even begin to address the monumental ignorance behind that question, the years of unpaid work, and the personal sacrifices I've made for this project. All I can say is: 

Fuck. That. Guy. 

That's the kind of barb that sticks, long after the person who made it has forgotten all about it, and yet another reason why I shy away from promoting my work. 

But the work needs to be promoted: it's time to bring 'The Human, Earth Project' into the light. 

I'm looking for people with promotional and social media experience to help tell this story effectively and powerfully to as large an audience as possible, while giving due respect and privacy to those involved. 

You might be that person (or you might know someone who would be perfect!). 

Perhaps you have only a little time to consult on strategy, or perhaps you'd like to be more deeply involved. Either way, it's an opportunity to help share more of a unique and fascinating story which can make a very real difference against human trafficking. 

I can't say yet when I'll be able to share 'Sisters For Sale' itself - but there are plenty of other stories, images and videos we can share before then. 

Not sure what you can do? Reach out and find me at thehumanearthproject@gmail.com

Thank you :) 

- Ben 

PS. Speaking of publicity, Mireille L'Herminez recently covered our story on her Dutch-language blog 'Mirei Op Reis', and Matteo Damiani republished a previous interview in the first issue of the downloadable 'Planet China' magazine.

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Balance

Posted January 14

'Sisters For Sale' is a rather unusual documentary, following an extraordinary story through some very strange events. 

After filming the documentary, it took me a long time to begin processing the experience, and to start making sense of those events - particularly because I was so close to the story.

In a similar way, because I've been extremely close to 'Sisters For Sale' at all stages of production, I've found it very difficult to step back and view the film objectively. 

'Sisters For Sale' is my baby - of course I think she's special. If those around me think otherwise, would they tell me honestly? Would I even listen? 

I've spent five years of my life on this film, and can't help but ask myself, Was it worth it? Is 'Sisters For Sale' any good? 

On one hand, the film hasn't yet been accepted into any of the festivals I've submitted it to. 

On the other hand, I've sat with people watching it. I've seen them ride the highs and lows of the story. I've seen them moved to tears. 

(Yes, I realise it's horrible to use "making people cry" as a metric of success, but there it is.)

Over the past months we've had not one but two amazing teams busy translating 'Sisters For Sale' (and its trailer) into both Spanish and German. 

Not only will their work make it possible for 'Sisters For Sale' to reach millions more people around the globe, they have also helped give me a better feeling for the documentary itself. 

One of our translators told me it is one of the best and most interesting documentaries she has seen in years. Another said she cried just from reading a short section of the script. 

(Again, it's horrible to have worked so hard, for so long, on something that - if effective - will only upset people. It's no fun being the bearer of bad news, believe me.) 

Last summer I had the chance to show a rough cut of the film to another of our translators, a Hmong friend from Sapa. 

It was something I was a little nervous about, as there are certain elements of Hmong culture I've examined in the film, and not always in a positive light. 

To see my friend so supportive and enthusiastic about the film really meant a lot to me. 

Gratitude

I'd like to give a huge thank-you to both of our recent translation teams, which include some good friends and some newcomers to the Project. 

Our Spanish translators were Natalia Correa Glargaard, Javier Gómez, Sela Jiménez, Estrella López, Paola Mountbatten, Paula Olmo, Maria Julia Ravera, Andrea Vela Gonzalez, and Eli Zubiria, with a special thank-you to Carol Machete Rodríguez and Ivan Villegas.

Their work is now being double-checked by the amazing Laura Rodríguez Jarillo, with her Masters in English-Spanish translation. 

Our German translators were Fabian Altenhoefer, Justine Czora, Alena Figge, Sarah Huwald, Johanna Leiner, Lisanne Pervical, Christina Raue, Sophia Rötschke, and Katrin Schmidt. 

As a journalist and a wonderfully supportive member of our team, Astrid Hofer will be using her linguistic skills to check the translation. 

I also want to give a huge shout-out to Qiuda Guo, Jiumei Hong, Charlie McRae, Jackie Ong, and Yuqing Zhang, whose recent behind-the-scenes assistance has been absolutely invaluable to completion of the film - thank you so much!

(Please let me know if I've forgotten anyone - I hope not!) 

Some of you have offered to help translate 'Sisters For Sale' into your own languages, which is amazing. I'm working to put a system in place to make that an easier process for all of us. 

If you'd like to help bring 'Sisters For Sale' to your own country, let me know, and I'll keep you in the loop! 

Balance

I believe a good work-life balance is crucial to a happy, fulfilling life. 

Working on 'The Human, Earth Project' for the past five years, it has been a real struggle to maintain that balance, and last year I lost it completely. 

Two years ago, I began monitoring my hours (as well the funds) spent on the Project, and have recently been looking at last year's figures. 

In 2017, I worked a huge 155% of 2016's already-substantial work hours. 

It was a year that took a serious toll on me, both emotionally and physically. I've never been in worse shape, and am tired in a way sleep won't fix. 

I've had a slow start to 2018, as I work to get my balance back.

For those of you who are interested, I've broken down my 2017 work hours below. 

A year in review

Not only did I spend far more time on the Project in 2017, but that time was spent much more productively than the year before. 

Following the success of our 2016 crowdfunding campaign, I was able to spend literally hundreds of hours fewer on fundraising, promotion and networking. 

I also dramatically cut back my hours on the blog and website, pouring the bulk of my work hours into our feature documentary, 'Sisters For Sale'. 

While video editing consumed *by far* the most time, a phenomenal amount of time was also taken up by other tasks - animations (156.25hr), audio editing (63.25hr), colour grading (41.75hr), organising final translations to English (13.5hr), organising translations to French, German and Spanish (60.25hr), building an impact and distribution strategy (55.5hr), legal matters (52.5hr), and recording and inserting the narration (32.5hr). 

Some of the numbers were very surprising - I spent 78hr reviewing the film, 74hr working on the script, and an incredible 19.5hr organising lists of names for the credits!

Remember these are only my hours (not those of the dozens of other people who have worked with me on the film), and they are from only one of the five years 'Sisters For Sale' has been in production, and you'll begin to understand what a colossal undertaking this documentary has been. 

While not nearly as expensive as it could have been, 'Sisters For Sale' has of course been a very expensive production - and I haven't finished paying for it yet. 

On a project this size, otherwise insignificant tasks become major jobs in themselves - in 2017 alone, I spent 34.75hr organising and backing up files between a myriad of computers, external hard drives and online storage facilities, 18hr organising the necessary hardware, software and workstation, 22.75hr resolving technical issues, and 38hr on accounting and administration. 

As ever, messaging and communication consumed a great deal of time throughout the year, and significant amounts of time were also demanded by design work, planning, necessary travel, and the 'Sisters For Sale' podcast. 

A year to come

My work patterns will be changing again in 2018, as my focus shifts away from post-production of the documentary, and towards its distribution, promotion and impact. 

I'll also be spending more time on some exciting new elements of the Project - including the 10-part 'Sisters For Sale' podcast I'm working on with Claire Harris, and a few other surprises it is too soon to announce!

I'll be sharing more news shortly on the documentary itself, which is still awaiting music and a final sound mix... 

Stay tuned!

- Ben 

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Jellybaby



Good feeling

Posted December 15

Two months ago, I was taking a city bus through an area that had been hit hard by the economic crises of the past decade. 

There was an old man in the centre section of the bus, near the back doors. Instead of a walker, he had a little old wooden table on wheels to steady him as he walked. 

When the old man's stop came, I helped carry the table off the bus for him. He was happy, and I was happy to have helped in some small way. 

I came back into the bus, and noticed a small bag sitting where the table had been. There was nobody else near it, and I assumed it belonged to the old man. 

I picked it up and made a quick dash for the closing doors, calling after the old man. 

A stocky young man leapt out of his seat in the back of the bus and came charging towards me, furious. He thought I was trying to steal his bag, and looked about ready to murder me. 

(I later realised he was an umbrella salesman on a sunny day forecast rain, and probably wasn't in the greatest mood to begin with.)

Before I knew what was happening, the man was up in my face, yelling, fists clenched. The good feeling I'd had dissolved instantly in a spike of adrenaline. 

That was the feeling that stayed with me afterwards - that sudden confusion at finding myself under attack, of being at the centre of a senseless conflict, preparing to defend myself.

It was a moment that struck a chord with me: that feeling was only too familiar. 

'The Human, Earth Project' began with the desire to do some good in the world. I've stayed true to that goal, have worked hard towards it for almost five years - and, in doing so, have found myself the target of more hatred than I'd ever felt in my life. 

In 2014, I achieved far more with this work than I'd ever hoped for - and it felt good, to have created something, to watch it grow, to see it making a difference in the world. It really seemed like anything was possible. 

Then, in early 2015, I found my work shot down - stupidly, senselessly, by those who had mistaken my intentions, or simply didn't care. The project went into a tailspin for almost two years. Progress was slow and difficult, and I was running out of reasons to push on. 

With my life and work so closely entangled, it became a personal struggle as well as a professional one. Even the monumental success of last year's fundraising campaign was overshadowed by backstage dramas. 

It was a strange, confusing time. I've never been perfect, but I'd done my best, with the best of intentions, and I wasn't prepared for the animosity. 

There might have been a hundred compliments for every piece of abuse - but it was the abuse that stuck, and always seemed to tip the scales somehow. 

2017 is the year 'The Human, Earth Project' has begun to rise - slowly, hopefully - once more. 

I've neglected social media, and have done very little promotion - yet people have been coming forward from all over the world, to show their appreciation and lend a hand. This year, the project has brought some amazing people together, and I've been thankful for all of you. 

I had a conversation recently with someone who was surprised to have been included in the credits for 'Sisters For Sale'. 

It was natural to help out, he said, and he'd only done a small thing - but this is a small project, and sometimes those small things can make a big difference. While he found it natural to help, there are many people who might not have bothered at all. 

I want to use what voice I have to recognise those people - good people - who may not otherwise get much appreciation for the things they do in life. 

When I scan the credits list, those are the names I see - hundreds upon hundreds of you. Butterflies unaware of the tornadoes you set in motion with every beat of your wings. 

Thank you. 

I don't know where 2018 will take us, but right now, I've got a good feeling. 

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Into the labyrinth

Posted November 25

It's been 18.5 years since I first became professionally involved in filmmaking. 

I've spent a great deal of time working with technical aspects of filmmaking - scripting, filming, editing, etc. - but these things are behind me now. Everything beyond this point is beyond my experience as a filmmaker. 

Finishing a film is one thing, but finding an audience is quite another. I've never been involved in impact, sales, marketing, distribution, or the festival circuit. It's a labyrinthine world, and unless you enter it with a very clear sense of direction, it's only too easy to lose your way. 

I've spent the past two months trying to understand that world as best I can, and asking myself innocent little questions with incredibly complex answers. 

What do you want for your film, and why? What are your impact goals, and how will you achieve them? What kind of distribution model will work best for your film? 

What kind of audiences are you aiming for? Will you merely be preaching to the choir, or can you find a way to reach beyond them, to the people who most need to hear your message? 

Do you want awards? Recognition? Opportunities for future projects? Some cute little laurels to put on your poster? 

Film festivals are the traditional starting point when sending an independent film out into the world - but festivals are a very complex, competitive world in themselves. There are literally thousands of film festivals around the world. Some of them are huge, and some are tiny. 

Over the past two months, I've painstakingly constructed a dizzying database of film festivals, all sorted and colour-coded, with endless annotations and cutoff dates. I've identified 191 festivals which could potentially work best with 'Sisters For Sale' - and that's still far, far too many. 

Submission fees to reputable festivals average around $50, and climb to around $160. That's around $10,000 in fees alone - which, needless to say, is far beyond my festival budget. With no guarantees of acceptance, entering festivals becomes a form of educated gambling. You can't back every horse - so, which will you choose? 

I've been gradually whittling down my list of festivals to a far more realistic figure. It's an ongoing process that involves long days of research, and more tough questions. How good do you think your film is? Which festivals will it best fit with? I see 'Sisters For Sale' as a strong film - but that doesn't make it a good match for every festival. 

While I've been working on 'Sisters For Sale', countless other filmmakers around the world have been working on their own films. We all think our babies are special, and important, and adorable. Ultimately, it's the entry judges who will decide.

Sometimes the odds are long - Sundance, for example, rejects around 99% of submitted films, but acceptance can make all the difference for your film. Which risks can I afford to take, and which opportunities am I willing to cut myself out of? 

Then there's the tangle of premieres (world, international, continent, region, city) demanded by festivals. Whichever possibilities you choose will disqualify you from others - and with none of your submissions guaranteed to succeed, you need a plan B, and C, and D. 

Each of the festivals has not one but several ticking deadlines - earlybird, regular, late, final - each with its own pricing. Should you send your film in early and incomplete, before the festival program fills up? Or should you send a later, more polished version, and pay double? 

Each festival has its own terms and conditions, and many seem ideal until you read the fine print. Some have obligatory attendance, on the other side of the world. Some demand the rights to unlimited screenings, sometimes for years. 

Some of the festivals are very broad, in terms of form, content and audience. Some are incredibly specific - there are entire film festivals dedicated to cats, or horses, for example. 

There are many Asian- and female-themed festivals, which will have ideal audiences for 'Sisters For Sale' - but as a Caucasian male director, my work is excluded from almost all of them. For the few that will accept my work - will they even give serious consideration to 'Sisters For Sale', or will they merely take my entry fee? 

(I absolutely agree that communities should be given the dominant voice in conversations about their own culture - but what if the communities involved aren't even having that conversation, if they're simply denying the issue by shaming and blaming victims, or sweeping it under the rug? What if the issues involved are blatant violations of the most basic human rights - at what point are other voices permitted to speak?)

Then there's the question, should you even bother with festivals at all? There are other emerging possibilities for independent filmmakers. There are success stories of those who have sidestepped the festival scene and chosen not to be dependent on traditional distribution routes. 

While it's an idea which appeals to my rebellious side, it can demand literally years more work, in the areas which appeal to me least: fundraising, organisation, promotion. 

I've now submitted 'Sisters For Sale' to a series of film festivals, and recently received my first response - a rejection. It seems the deciding factor was that the judges simply didn't believe that the events of the film were real, or even possible. I have nothing to offer besides the video evidence. 

In the same week, I also received a regional distribution offer from a major television network - which is very encouraging, since it's not something I'd even started looking for. 

Some of you have been asking for the current status of the film, and when it will be made available. It's still waiting on music and a final sound mix, which we're now hard at work on (more details shortly!). 

The timing of the release will depend on its festival premiere dates, none of which have yet been confirmed. Sharing the film earlier will disqualify it from being shown at festivals. 

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