The stories as they should be told

The beauty of being a filmmaker is that I’m able to work on so many projects in different genres – but I keep on being asked “why are documentaries important to me?”

As a journalist and overall filmmaker I think that telling the stories, as truthful as possible, whenever I can is a responsibility that I have to my audience. Yes, I would love to, in a near future, direct scripted material – but for now I feel there are so many stories, involving the violation of both human and environmental rights that I need to further develop these stories and start a conversation that no one is having.dr-vibe-interview-transcript

I want to talk about domestic violence for a second (or two, or three)…

There has been a lot of talk about the struggles men face while coming out as victims of domestic violence – while the issue has been surging for the past few years there’s still a long way to go when it comes to providing help for men who say they’ve been abused by their partners – an injustice if you ask me.

According to a recent Business Insider article “a report released Tuesday by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) shows that Jacob, whose story is detailed in the report, was hardly alone in his struggle to find help. Surveying 1,976 instances of LGBTQ intimate partner abuse from 2015, NCAVP found that nearly half of survivors (44 percent) had been turned away from shelters.”

Why? Because most shelters have a “no men” policy in order to keep the women they’re helping safe – and they should be kept safe, but the administrations to these shelters and clinics should also recognize that men can and often are victims of domestic violence, rape and child sexual abuse – and rarely, if at all get any help.

While, and I reiterate here, the progress in the help women have gained throughout the years has been great and should be continued in order to help those who have been victimized by their partners – I feel there is a large demographic that is being ignored here, and until we address the other victims of domestic violence, we are only doing half of the work that is required to put an end to partner abuse and/or domestic violence.

Which is why the film Forced into Silence came about and now Silent no More is a docu-series will further explore the issues presented in the film. My hope is that people will see the importance of a gender-inclusive conversation of victims of domestic violence and will begin to realize that men and those in the LGBTQ community that face the gender-restrictions that force them to continue to go through these human rights violations, when they clearly need help to get out of their abusive situation.

As of today I began making the first edits to the interviews I’ve done for the pilot of the series, once done with that, I’ll be submitting it to festivals and pitching for funding for more episodes. All with hopes that producers  and/or financiers see the need to have this conversation, if I’m not successful with that, the docu-series will be available to be seen in different online platforms such as Vimeo and/or YouTube for everyone to see, learn and interact with. The point is to keep the conversation going and to help bring awareness that domestic violence is not a gender-exclusive problem, but everyone’s problem.

 

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Making a film without any money

One of the things that surprises most people when they meet me, I’ve made two documentaries – at that it seems that I have no money. I can see their faces and hear the wheels turning in their head wondering how did I make anything when it seems as if I can’t even afford a new wardrobe?

For the most part they’re right, I can’t afford a new wardrobe…yet. But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that making a film with good content doesn’t require that much of a budget if we’re talking about documentaries, or short films, or even films shot with your smart phone. I’m far from the only person who has worked with what I call a sugar-string budget (I’ll explain this term further into the post) here is a list on Flavorwire on the 10-most iconic films that were made with very little budget and managed to become cult favorites.

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However, before you navigate away from my page to check out the list, I’d like to share my experiences with filmmaking on a $0 – $1,000 budget.

  1. Plan your story
    • If you don’t have a script because it’s something you’ve just come up with, don’t worry, always plan what the scene is going to look like and grab your actors (mostly friends that are more than willing to do this for free and have fun with you) and tell them about it. They’ll enjoy the day out and get the takes as you planned them out in your head.
    • If it’s a documentary that you want to make, don’t fret. From my experience it’s hard to get backing from a production company for a documentary that’s either not made or currently in production. So, while you’re doing your research, see what equipment you have and how you can work with it. Example: I have a Canon T3 Rebel and basic recording equipment for audio (an Olympus recorder) the edition of the Rebel camera that I have cannot connect a microphone without an adapter so what I do is lay over the external audio to the camera audio (a tedious task I may add) but in the end, after the extreme attention to detail and voice echo – it comes out very well. If your documentary topic requires you to travel outside the country but you can’t because you have no money? There are many technological advances that can help you record online “conferences” and download them to your hard drive so you can later edit them into your film (i.e. Google+ Hangouts, Skype, Blab, etc.) check to see what works best for you and use it – of course you must give credit where credit is due and make sure to state that one of these applications was used in the making of your film.
  2. Free editing tutorials and low cost editing software
    • You haven’t gone to film school and don’t know squat about how to edit footage? Don’t worry! There are tons of tutorials online that can help you with that. The most affordable editing software are listed here – however, my favorite are the Sony Creative Software, because they’re user friendly and the movie studio can also be used to render both MP3 and MP4’s – so that’s pretty badass I think. The basic Movie Studio 13 runs for about $50 and it’s really good to use for introduction projects like short films, documentaries, digital poems and such.
  3. Still afraid of your lack of money?
    • There is a term for low budget in the industry “shoe string budget.” I however, have coined a new term that I like to call a “sugar string budget” the budget that is so fragile and so thin that if water falls on it – it’s gone. Still, I haven’t let that stop me before. My documentaries were made with basically no money. I spent money on travel, food, some additional equipment and even though I sought funding to be able to travel to certain countries to be able to make Forced into Silence I didn’t get it. Still, I worked out how I could make the movie happen because it was such an important message that needed to be told. My next project is also being worked as a solely independent film – that most likely will have no budget in its making either.
    • If you want to make a short film or a feature film and need some capital, reach out to your friends, loved ones and tell them about the project, show them what you’re planning on making and work with them an “Executive Producer” title (with no creative rights) on the project. It also works to give them perks like VIP status on special events (i.e. private screenings, film festival screenings, etc.) as well as copies of the movie and posters. After all, they did help you make your film and that’s a great way to thank them for helping you. It also works if you agree to pay them back if you release your film on a paid streaming platform such as Vimeo on demand, Amazon, some YouTube portals, etc. make sure to get all this on paper though – usually entertainment lawyers are understandable when it comes to one being a first time filmmaker and not knowing your 1st Director from your 2nd or your Production Assistants from your Production Associates.

To end the list, I have to say that keeping movie making local as an up and coming filmmaker is easier for me and my bank account. So check with your cities, bureaus or municipalities about permits; some places have filming fees, but most don’t unless it’s a big-budget production. While others just require a permit to ensure safety of those involved in the filming – basically a document that says they knew you were filming there and that you were aware of the risks, if any, of filming on a certain place. It’s also a way to respect the authorities and will help you later on down the line when acquiring permits for your big budget projects.

Also, Raindance has these great webinars that you can stream to learn more about making your film happen with lo-to-no-budget, which you can check out here.

Well, that’s all the advice I have for now – don’t forget to share the post and follow me on Twitter @LaShawnPagan

Silent no more

We’re starting 2016 out strong!

Happy New Year to all the readers – hope you had a great holiday season.

Getting straight to the point, I originally planned on starting production for Beneath the Waves but as life would have it that particular production will continue to be on hold – for now at least. Instead, I’ll give you the official preview for my other docu-film Forced into Silence – a documentary that pretty much has been three (3) years in the making. One that I am more than happy to bring a global audience – or at least to my collective 1000+ social media friends and followers.

If you’re not familiar with the story behind this project: I began working on this documentary in late 2012, and released a campaign video late 2013 to raised funds. Inspired and haunted by an article in The Guardian I found while doing research in 2011, I decided that I was going to explore the topic and do so at a larger scale. The research was overwhelming and sometimes deeply traumatizing. Brmain-qimg-6f0a11a2c4707f5a380099534396ab3cinging me to a dark place that I knew then most victims never leave. With every book, article and report I read determination grew and so did my relentlessness to tell these stories – in my mind people had to know about the men who are silently dealing with domestic abuse and sexual assault. Just as I had reported on the female victims of femicide in Guatemala, US and Puerto Rico, I found myself determined to help these victims who continue to battle their demons in secret.
According to a 2010 report published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) one in four men will become a victim of domestic violence. That is 1 in 4 adult men will suffer some form of mental, verbal, or physical abuse (maybe even all of these) by their spouse/partner. To reiterate, that is one man every 37.8 seconds each day, will be domestically abused. One of the challenges that these men face, is that authorities do not see women as abusers, which is a contributing factor to the increase of these numbers.

Setting the record straight

Let me be clear, I am not dismissing the serious problem that is gender-based violence, nor am I saying that female victims of rape, domestic violence, discrimination should be ignored. No, that is not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying is that anyone can be a victim and that one of the biggest problems faced in the recognition of male victims is the antiquated views of the male image paired with the lack of recognizing the likelihood of a woman being an aggressor and/or attacker. Especially if this man is in an authoritative position, say, in the military, or anything like that. Men often have to provide video evidence of the abuse they experience by their spouses, especially if this is a female. Why? Because men can fight back, and women are the weaker gender…right?

Our society is conditioned to recognize, and help women who have long suffered from traumatic events like these, while that is the correct thing to do, and we should continue doing so – we should also recognize that men have been, and continue to be victims of not only domestic violence, but sexual abuse, rape and harassment, and none of it is a joke.

Male rape in film

Male rape in film has been looked at in a comedic way. Movies such as Horrible Bosses where the “Man Eater” character played by Jennifer Aniston is in reality a sexual predator who eventually rapes Charlie Day’s character in the movies sequel after continuously and aggressively harassing him through the course of the first film – making this an excellent example of how assault of men is viewed in today’s society. Moreover, a film that I keep coming back to, is 40 days and 40 nights, when Josh Hartnett’s character, Matt Sullivan, is blatantly raped by his ex girlfriend (Vinessa Shaw’s Nicole) who ties him up to a bed and proceeds to rape him. Not shocking is the fact that later on in the film, Matt is accused of cheating on his new girlfriend (Shannyn Sossamon’s Erica), lying, and breaking his promise to remain celibate, despite the fact that he was obviously raped.

Then there is the groundbreaking Swedish film that brought things into perspective way before its time; Manrape, the 1978 film based on the book Män kan inte våldtas by Märta Tikkanen published in 1976. Although the book’s title translates to “man can’t be raped” the female protagonist Eva Randers, who has been sexually assaulted, plots a revenge on her rapist. She begins to follow him and study him and subsequently rapes him as pay back for what he’d done to her. In the film, Randers confesses her act of revenge, the response in 1978 is what many people still respond today.

Pettersson: What’s your crime?
Eva Randers: I have raped a man
Pettersson: You can’t rape a man

Today, we have cases like that of Shia LaBeouf’s of our times, who during a performing art installation was raped by a female fan. Despite the mixed reactions, LaBeouf bravely spoke about the rape – and the stigmas that many men faced were splattered across the media.  Stigmas that include the belief that in order to rape a man one must: 1. Be a man (or penetrate the male victim in some way or form), 2. Have a weapon of some sort 3. The event itself must be a violent one; and the question that many asked was 4. Why didn’t he fight her off?  Questions that wouldn’t have come to mind should LaBeouf have been a woman.

There is however, a growing population that knows that rape and domestic abuse is blind to gender and/or physical strength or abilities. Still, while some films continue to pollute the population with the stigma of men always want sex, and that having an erection means consent – there are shows like Law & Order: SVU whose latest episodes address the male rape epidemic head on. By presenting both female and male predators in their shows, they are educating their audience on the vulnerability and frailty of the human body and the susceptibility of anyone becoming a victim.  That is where Forced into Silence fits – the education of the public on the male victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Forced into Silence will feature compelling interviews with men who have been abused as children by family members, as well as their experience with abuse as adults. In addition, the documentary will also feature interviews with Executive Director of Male Survivor, author, speaker and survivor of multiple sexual traumas Christopher Anderson; therapist, author, and speaker Andrew Smiler, Ph.D.; as well as relationship coach, human rights and gender equity advocate Jasmin Newman. The film is meant to continue to open the door on the abuse of men, and how we, as a society, can eradicate the cycle of violence.