The Anthony Cohen Project, a task force aimed at ending human trafficking, held a fund-raising gala Oct. 28 at La Jolla’s Ferrari of San Diego dealership. Project founder Anthony Cohen premiered a trailer about human trafficking to about 100 people there. It encapsulates a feature-length film he hopes to make.
Cohen is the CEO and founder of Bridgegate Films (“Face Off,” “Swordfish,” “Primary Colors”) and called on the services of Keith Holland to direct the short film. Holland would also direct the full- length film if it is made.
“We made several short films on the subject of sex trafficking and we are raising money to make a feature film with the intention of educating the beautiful young ladies in our community of the dangers of the sex trafficking industry and the scenarios that occur that lead to them being abducted into sex slavery,” he said.
Scenarios, he said, that are different from the ones that happen in other countries.
“In third world countries ... parents are actually selling their children, not knowing what’s going to happen to them, but they think they are selling (their children) into a better life,” he said. “Here, girls are grabbed off the streets, from parking lots, at parties and photo shoots. The goal is to create an awareness, and possibly save some girls that might otherwise fall prey just because they are aware that these situations exist.”
Holland took the experiences of trafficking survivors and reenacted them for the short film. For the feature film, he said they would likely implement a similar strategy, using case studies from survivors in reenactments as opposed to a fictitious storyline.
The difficulty, however, is getting the full message to the right audience.
“It’s challenging because the material is so graphic, but we don’t want to make an R-rated film because then it would preclude the audience we are trying to inform,” Holland said. “It’s teenage girls who are most vulnerable and they need to see these things. They think ‘it couldn’t happen to me’ and ‘it couldn’t happen in San Diego.’ ”
Of the short film, Cohen told the audience, “I apologize if it’s graphic, if it’s insulting to some of you, but this is what happens. This is exactly what happens when someone gets taken (into sex trafficking).” He said he wanted to produce the film because other films glamorized the subject, such as a film titled “Eden,” which depicts the U.S. Army as traffickers. He also learned there was a spike in the number of runaways after the film “Pretty Woman” was released in 1990, because girls thought, “their Richard Gere would come.” Unbeknown to Cohen, the person on whom “Eden” was based was also at the “Eden” screening. He asked her if the story was accurate, to which she replied, “absolutely not.”
Cohen proceeded to ask directors why the film was dramatized, and they said the investors threatened to back out of the project unless they were assured the film would sell. This inspired Cohen to make a realistic film that showed the graphic nature of human trafficking.
“I realized it was about dollars and cents,” he said. He made the decision to only put his name on a project that “explored the true, and often graphic, nature of the practice of human trafficking.”