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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FiS’ First Film Festival!

forced-into-silence-official-posterI am extremely excited to announce that my passion project, Forced into Silence, is part of the Official 2016 Selection of the IndieWise Virtual Film Festival!

This is a unique sort of festival, it’s virtual, so that enables anyone can see the films from wherever they are in the world! With that said, I need your help to bring my film up to a popular status, and therefore further build an audience for it.

 

Please go to: https://getindiewise.com/xjJK36Y5ra and vote for my film – it’s easy to sign up, it’s also free and not only will you get to see the sneak peek of my film (I only included the first 1:30minute because it’s still being considered for other film festivals, and I didn’t want to get rejected for streaming on a digital platform) but, you’ll be able to see other amazing films from all these great emerging filmmakers!

Please help my film and its story make it! I thank you all for your support

Film Festivals and more!

After 5 years of production to finally be able to hit “render film” brought tears of joy and an incredible sense of accomplishment, completion and pride for my determination to complete Forced into Silence and have sent it off to festivals!

As of today, Forced into Silence has been submitted to 10 international film festivals!!!!  (festival locations are: UK, EU, US and Mexico as well as virtual/online screening) – Although it was “disqualified” for one of the fests, I’m still really excited about this and hope that it gets picked up for at least 2 festivals!!! Furthermore, I’ve written a 32 page screenplay that I’ve sent out to 2 screenplay/film fests! So that’s even more excitement! Even if the film gets picked up by just 1 of these festivals, I’m confident that it will help many people – men and women alike when it comes to victimization and learning how to deal with the aftermath. 

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With that said, I’m starting this another and even more ambitious project to further explore the topic, while setting up a platform for those who feel ready they can speak about their experiences with boys and young men. The project (a 13 episode docu-series) will feature interviews with men who have been victimized and have turned these traumatic events into a tool that can help others. Example of which, is the amazing James Landrith – rape survivor turned speaker, writer and overnight manager for RAINN.  Landrith was raped by a woman when he was a young 19 year old Marine – this event was traumatic and, as any traumatic event should, left a lasting impression on him (you can learn more about it in this Huffington Post video).  After 18 years of the event, he decided it was time to speak about his rape and let others know that this does and can happen to men – more importantly, that women are capable of rape as much as men are.

While this is a sensitive aspect of rape that many people still struggle with, and I fully understand why since women have been perceived for centuries as the “weaker sex”. Often portrayed as the victim, the defenseless person attacked by the mean man who wanted to violate her, take possession of her body and quite possibly kill her. Never, unless it’s in a Lifetime movie, is a woman seen in any other light. So speaking about men being abused, assaulted and/or raped by a woman has caused an incredible amount of backlash to me and my work. One thing I want to make clear is, I AM NOT BASHING MY OWN GENDER, I am being the feminist that is looking for equality – namely in the areas of the law that punishes perpetrators for their crimes and helps and protects victims.

With that said, my next project, Silent No More, has already begun filming!

The idea of this series is to further explore the issues presented in Forced into Silence and also serve as an outlet for victims, former victims, and their loved ones to seek help, solace and understand what’s happening.

Screenshot 2016-08-17 16.07.22Along with a great interview with James Landrith, the pilot episode will also feature a second interview with NYC tour-guide turned actor Bryant Mancebo, who appears in Forced into Silence. I wanted to bring him on the series to speak about his career, how being a survivor of partner abuse influences the choices he makes in roles and what he hopes he can do with his career as an actor to those men who are or have been abused by their partners and more. I believe this is a great choice for a pilot – once it’s completed it will be submitted to festivals for consideration and shopped around for producers, networks, financiers, etc.

For those of you who are wondering about it – I haven’t forgotten about my environmental projects! I’m working with a special group of people that are informing me on the best possible ways to film Beneath the Waves, location wise as well as another short documentary with some amazing people that are doing some incredible work. So, with all this, I have my work cut out for me.

I’ll keep you posted with the news about the festivals, and further project developments!

Documentary Q & A

Forced into Silence (Poster 1)How did Forced into Silence come about?

I have to say, that much like the general population, at one point I thought that men could not be assaulted, abused, or victimized in any way unless the perpetrator was another man. It never dawned on me that it could happen. Then, while I was doing some investigations for a series of articles on gender-based violence I stumbled on an article where a man relates his experiences with being raped during conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). His experiences were very similar to that of women who experienced the same attacks. Several years later I saw a surge of organizations and articles detailing the signs of abuse and what men could do in order to seek help. Not many at the time were taken seriously. And some were extreme about their views – and that was damaging. However, there were events that were happening closer to home that made me want to really dive into this topic and bring to light the long lasting effects of abuse towards boys and men that we, as a society, continue to dismiss.

What were the challenges while making the film?

I’d say that besides finding the proper funding – the biggest challenge was getting people involved.  As a filmmaker you think that because you believe in a project, that it will translate to others and that you’ll miraculously get some sort of funding for your film. But that’s not always the case. This documentary is a good example of that. After researching for several years and making a few videos for The Good Men Project and for fundraising purposes – I still failed to get people interested enough in the film for them to make an investment. Although I did get some donors via GoFundMe and KickStarter (a total of $200.00 from both sites combined) it still wasn’t enough to make the film happen like I wanted it to. And even as KickStarter didn’t release the funds that were pledged to the campaign because it missed the mark by the due date – I still credited these people for their donation, why? Because they believed in it and did whatever they could to see it happen. When it came to getting people involved, it was another monster in itself. I’d reach out to people – both specialists and ordinary and they’d agree to be a part of the film. But when the day to record came they couldn’t be found or they’d cancel the day before. It was quite frustrating. All of this let me know that people didn’t want to speak about the abuse of men. The victimization of what society deems as the stronger gender – instead of deterring me from getting the film done, what this did was further motivate me. To me, there was this huge demographic of victims that were being ignored and forced into silence (redundancy intended) that it enraged me. So, I made this film with what I had – footage I had from a visit to New York and put it together with some interviews recorded via Google Hangouts and hoped for the best. It’s raw, it’s harsh, but that’s the nature of the subject matter and it fits perfectly.

Screenshot 2016-01-18 13.27.19
Google Hangout w/Christopher Anderson of Male Survivor

What is the basis of the film?

The film features interviews with medical professionals (e.g. physiologist, counselors) and speakers who have specialized in the area of healthy development of young boys and men when it comes to their sexuality and relationships. They also specialize in counseling those young boys and men who have experienced some type of abuse during their life. It also features an interview with speaker and abuse survivor Christopher Anderson, CEO of Male Survivor, along with other abuse survivors with the purpose of providing a platform for those men who have or continue to experience abuse to seek help by realizing that they are not alone, they do not have to conform to the antiquated (and very damaging) views of what a man should be.

But, doesn’t this go against feminism?

No. I believe that, much of the accomplishments done by the empowerment of women around the globe, we have to create a movement where we defy what ‘real men’ are supposed to be and create a conscious platform that includes emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing for men and women around the world. As a feminist, I believe that we should be equal in all aspects and have the right to be emotional in our own way. Just as we should have equal pay, we should have equal protection under the law and not be shamed or have our claims doubted when we accuse someone of rape because of our genitalia. Furthermore, Misandry should not be confused with Feminism.

What can we expect of this documentary?

Bryant Mancebo - FiS
BTS: Bryant Mancebo in Harlem, NYC sharing his experiences

Plenty of things. Those who participated in the making of the film share so much information about treatment as well as their personal experiences that it would be a disservice to summarize it in a few words. I’m eager to have people see the interviews with both Levi [Louis] and Bryant [Mancebo] who experienced different levels abuse by their former partners. Both men had the courage to open up about their experiences to me that I can’t wait the audience to hear what they have to say.

When will the film be released?

Right now, the documentary is making the festival rounds – having been submitted to the Warsaw Film Festival already, with a few more to come during the next few months. I’m hoping that it gets selected for at least one. But, the film will be available to the public by next year. I’m also trying to organize a private screening party for it – so right after that happens it will be available for streaming.  

What’s next for you as a writer, director?

At the moment I’m working on the next documentary while simultaneously working on the promotion of Forced into Silence – principal photography for Beneath the Waves will be happening sometime this week, as well as working some grant proposals for submittal (for financing). At some point I’ll start working on another short documentary that will also be focused on the environmental theme. In the near future I hope to start filming a docu-series further exploring the theme presented in Forced into Silence, as well as a scripted short film that can be tied to it all to put some more perspective as to why this particular theme is so universal and important for us to continue discussing.

That’s a full plate if I’ve ever seen one! You mentioned a scripted short film, are you working with writers? Is that something you’re interested in doing in the future, directing scripted films?

Hahaha! I guess it is! Right now I’m working on developing my own screenplays. The short film is an intense film based on real events and I think would make a good addition to what I’m doing right now. When it comes to doing scripted work, I mean if the goal is to be a visual storyteller, you cannot limit yourself to any one genre – as a director you’d have to be able to not only successfully tell stories that are scripted, but also non-scripted work like documentaries. My point is to tell compelling stories that people can identify with. Stories that will make people think, and want to do something about it. To tell stories that will change at least one persons mind.

The preview for Forced into Silence can be seen on YouTube here: Forced into Silence Official Preview

 

 

 

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.

Wanna Blab?

2015-12-09 20.45.01.jpgYesterday, December 9, I was due to guest appear in the award-winning podcast The Dr. Vibe show, but due to some serious technical difficulties we had to reschedule for Monday December 14, 2015 at 8pm EST.

What is it going to be about? It’s going to be about my life as a beyond-indie filmmaker and full time caretaker of a parent. I’ll be discussing how I balance both, stay motivated and face the challenges both aspects of my life (career/personal) throw at me — I’ll also be discussing in depth my decision to start a Patreon page! I’ll also be discussing my next three film projects.

The podcast will be through the Blab application that can be easily accessed through twitter — you can interact by asking questions or by making comments throughout the live stream podcast.

To stay up to date on all things LSP (that’s me btw), follow me on twitter @LaShawnPagan where I’ll be sharing the link to the podcast as soon as I have it.

See you on twitter!