Tag Archives: documentary

Hoping to stall…

Today the Governor held a press conference on the bills before the Senate to basically put women in prison.  The press conference was at 1:30.  At the same time I was going from spa to spa to ask women who were working in them if they wanted to come and defend themselves to the accusations that were being thrown around in the media.

I went to four spas total, spoke to a bunch of women.  But it is difficult to get women to come forward and say they participate in this work.  It is especially difficult to talk to them when I don’t speak their native language.  But I was able to get five of the actual workers to come to the state house, and one former worker to testify too.

When we got there, a translator was provided by The Family Life Center.  Thank God for that.

Donna Hughes had some propaganda poster of women in 8 stages of their life in prostitution.  I think it sort of worked against her argument, because the women who came to testify did not look like any of the women in the poster.  The reason is because they do not use drugs.  Also because they have not been in prison.  Prison and putting these women in the legal system does not effect these women positively, if any thing it effects them negatively.  If the woman who is doing this work wants to get out and get different job, she will be less likely to be able to if she has a criminal record.

More people testified against the bill than for, The ACLU, NOW, DARE, Family Life Center, “Chris” from my film (who gave his real name and address on the stand) and some local residents all testified against the bill.

One man who shared a building with a spa, Donna Hughes, and 2 Christian women, testified for the bill.

When we got there to testify, the Providence Journal was there and wanted to take pictures of the women from the spa who were there to testify.  I asked them not to take pictures.  I understand she was there to do a job, but I asked to have some compassion for these women.  These women were really putting themselves out on a limb to testify, and exposing their names is one thing but putting their picture out in public is another.  I don’t think that their picture was taken but we will see what happens in the paper tomorrow.  Just the thought of having their picture taken scared away 2 of the women and they didn’t testify at all.

When one of the women did testify did a great job, she testified in English and when she was done many of the people in the audience applauded.

For those who are hoping that the bill doesn’t pass, the only thing to hope for now is that it doesn’t come out of committee.

Human Trafficking Bill to be heard today

Today the Human Trafficking bill will have a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  I will be going to show my support for the bill.

I am against Human Trafficking, and I think laws are needed to combat this horrible crime.  I hope the bill makes it through the hearing and gets on to the floor for quick passage.  I do wish they would add training for the local police into the bill.  I think that police should be trained on how to help the victims, and if they are going to go after the assets of the traffickers, it would seem to me that training is what those assets should be used for.

What is next?

I have done all I could do.  I got a bunch of publicity.  Providence Monthly wrote about the film two times in the June issue.  RI Monthly had “Happy Endings?” as one of the top events of the weekend.  If there is one thing I will say when I look back is that I could not have tried harder.

I don’t know the official numbers of people who came to the weekend showing of “Happy Endings?”.  I would guestimate that there was around 75 to 150 at each show.  We had problems with the audio in the Theatre.  It’s not easy!!! The speakers in the theatre were only working in the front, but we worked with what we had.

I had hoped that more people would show up, but the audience that was there was great.  I got to respond to questions and get audience feedback, and that is the best part of making films.  When you get to speak with the audience and see that they connect to a person in the film, or that they have had their eyes and mind opened to something, that is really the pay off.

I didn’t actually make any money, I didn’t even break even on the theatre rental, but money isn’t everything.  I hope the people who saw the film go out a talk about it.  I know the word of mouth publicity that the film will get from the showing is worth more than money.

Now we will just have to see what will happen with the law.  There is just about 3 weeks left until the deadline, and there is no date on the Senate calendar for a hearing on the bill.  What is unfortunate is that the Human Trafficking bills that are before both the Senate and House are getting completely ignored.  I am sure there isn’t much debate about passing a human trafficking law,( come on who isn’t for punishing Human Traffickers!!!), but the legislation is letting it just fall by the way side as they argue over the Prostitution bill.

Just one day until the big screen

Columbus Theatre MarqueI have had so much to blog about, but no time.  I also wanted to leave the last blog up so as many people could see it as possible.   I am a mixture of excited and nervous for tomorrow night.  It is not easy to put yourself  in front of so many people, to work on something for more than three years and put it out there for the world to see.

I did a showing at AS220 on Memorial Day weekend for about 40 people, and the response was great.  It was part of the Open Eye Film Series, and Donna Hughes was there.  We both debated our viewpoints on the situation in Providence, and then Donna Hughes sent out a letter to her listserv starting rumors about me.  “Hurley has been showing her film in sex industry venues (not human rights film festivals). ” This is just one of the many rumors that were started, and almost the funniest because Dr. Hughes saw the film as part of the Open Eye Film Series at AS220, part of a series of films that document social issues in Rhode Island.  But leave it to Dr. Hughes to make stuff up.

What is really surprising to me is when I started this film I had just been rejected from Grad school for Gender and Ethnic Studies.  In June of 2005 I was actually already taking classes towards the degree, I just had not applied.  I thought I wanted to be a professor, actually a woman studies professor like Dr. Hughes.  Wow, am I glad I got rejected.  Sometimes when a door closes it is in your best interest.  I know that it was in my case.

Medical Marijuana and today’s Dan Yorke show’s Indicators

Today Medical Marijuana centers became one step closer to being available in RI.  All that it awaits is the Governor’s signature.

The whole marijuana debate and history of marijuana has fasinated me.  Just like the “loophole” in the prostitution law.  I think that some of the propaganda used to keep marijuana criminal is similar to what has been used to keep prostitution illegal.  We are talking about adults doing what they want to do with their bodies right?

I put in the clip of “Reefer Madness” to show you how people with the best intentions use propaganda to try to move their adgenda forward.  We watch “Reefer Madness” now and laugh at how ridiculous it is, I wonder if people will look back at the situation going on with the link between prostitution and human trafficking with the same ridicule?

You can’t read any article in the paper about prostitution in Rhode Island.  It is always “Prostitution and Human Trafficking.”  It reminds me of how George Bush could not say 9/11 with out saying Iraq in the same sentence.  For years we were led to believe there was a connection, and then when none was found, we were told there was no connection.  Well, the same situation is going on here in RI.  The media and certain groups with agendas have decided to start a war on prostitution.  Since most people in the great state of Rhode Island don’t care what people do behind closed doors, going after prostitution would not get much traction.  If you talk about human trafficking, well that is a different story.  No one would support that.

For those of you who are new to this blog, let me give you a little background.  I am a grad school reject.  I was going to grad school for Gender and Ethnic studies, took one class before applying and getting denied.  I decided to make a film about the prostitution law in my home state of RI because it fascinated me.  I wanted to get all sides of the story.  When I got rejected from grad school I cried for a few days, but now I actually think it is great that I never got into grad school, if I did I would probably just be another student who recites stats and is beholden to a professors point of view.  I am completely independent.  All my opinions are my own, and formed over the four years it took to make “Happy Endings?”

There is a big difference between the Ivory Tower and Street Knowledge.  Donna Hughes is the “expert” that hails from the Ivory tower.  I guess you can say I am the “expert” that hails from the Street.

Today on the Dan Yorke show, Donna Hughes and Melanie Shapiro spoke on a film they have never seen.  I have sent over a dozen emails to Melanie trying to set up a showing to her and her Coalition Against Human Trafficking, but they never had time.  On the show, Dan said he had infront of him a seven page paper that attacked me in every way possible, “just short of breaking my legs.”  I am intrigued and honored that someone would write a paper about me.  I would love to see it.  It doesn’t hurt my feelings, I know she has to attack the messenger.  I remember writing seven page papers in college too, and I wanted to put in those papers anything that would give me a good grade and impress my professor.

What I want to put infront of the people of Rhode Island and anyone that reads this blog is this.   Look at the evidence. Here we have two women, myself and Ms. Shapiro.  Both of us are very interested in women studies.  Ms. Shapiro has a graduate degree, Ms. Hurley does not.  Ms. Shapiro is beholden to a professor, Ms. Hurley is beholden to no one.  Ms. Shapiro has never talked to any women in any Asian massage parlor in Rhode Island.  Ms. Hurley has spoken to numerous, 30 or more.  Ms. Shapiro uses terms like “there are indicators” that point to human trafficking”, Ms. Hurley has said there are facts that show the women I have spoken to have entered into this work of their own free will. Ms. Shapiro has watched spas from outside, Ms. Hurley has gone in and spoken to the women.

You can draw your own conclusions, you can point to the Ivory tower and use their propaganda to try and manufacture a link.  Or you can use commonsense and see that some people have an agenda.  Some people make more money than high priced prostitutes giving “expert” opinion on human trafficking and prostitution.  I have never made any money, I actually have spent over $30,000 making this film, bringing translators in to speak to women who were being arrested.  Even today on the Dan Yorke show a victim on Human Trafficking called in from California and disagreed with Donna Hughes and her viewpoint on the law.

I guess my point is this:  If there is Human Trafficking and all of these women need to be saved, why is there not one woman who has come forward to say she was a victim?  I am sure that she would have anonymity.  When Jerry Lewis does a telethon he puts his kids out there for all the world to see. It is a great way do a fund raiser and directly show the issue.  Jerry Lewis doesn’t go on the radio and say “We have indicators” he shows reality.  I wonder if the first thing you learn in grad school is how to skirt the issue with “indicators”?  Why have we not seen one victim?

Oh yeah, one more thing.  Today it was said that I was starting a Union for Sex Workers in RI.  I am a filmmaker.  In my opinion I think it would be good to have a union, and if anyone wants to use my film as a rallying tool that is fine with me.  When I was growing up, I lived with my va voo (portuguese for grandfather) he told me three things to live by.  1.  Always vote Democrat, they have done the most for our people (typical Rhode Islander)  2.  Always buy American (I just bought a car and it is a Nissan, but I bought it at an American dealership so I don’t feel so bad) and 3.  You gotta have a union.  I know unions are important, especially for people who can be exploited.  With that being said, I got into this because I wanted to make a film.  I still want to make films.  Documentaries are my passion.  I think bringing up unions is another way to cloud the issue, and what does a union that protects sex workers have to do with human trafficking anyway?

Don’t kill the messenger

I have been questioned about my motives for making the film “Happy Endings?”  I have always been questioned about this.  Even when I started the film, the women would ask me why am I interested in this topic.  I am putting this clip up so you can see one of the women ask me this very question.

I have Johns attacking me because they think I am trying to close the massage parlors.  I have people in the Coalition Against Trafficking questioning my motives.  I have RI State represenatives saying that I am misrepresenting the issues.  I find this all to be very interesting seeing that none of these people or groups have seen the film.

I have reached out to the Coalition Against Human Trafficking on many occasions and tried to set up a screening for them. Here is one of the emails I sent and after sending the information, trying a few times to set up a screening, they never contacted me back.  But my story, or actually my truth, stays the same.  They asked why I made this film and how I got the interviews, this was my response.

I was going to grad school for Gender and Ethnic studies at Simmons.  I didn’t get into the program, and I was always making films.  This woman I had worked with at the time  had inherited a 3 family house in Providence.  In the house was a Korean woman and her husband, an American.  One day at work I was talking about how I wanted to do a film on the sex industry in RI because I had heard about how it was big in this state.  (I went to Providence College, a priest I had said that RI was actually a tourist destination for sex travel because it had more sex clubs than any where else in the east coast beside NY)  At the same time it came up in the news about the prostitution law, and this woman I work with said how she was renting a appt to this couple and she was friends with them.  At the time she was going to sell the house, so I helped her clean it out and met them.  “Heather and Chris” in my film.  It is funny because the woman who I worked with had grown up in the house and her father had hidden money all over the house.  I found 5,000 in the basement and brought it to her so “Heather and Chris” saw me do this and really trusted me because of this.  I would never steal anyway.  Heather didn’t speak English too fluently, I went to Brown and found students to translate for me.  That was the best thing to do, basically because when they translated for me they would give me back the translations with footnotes, cultural references and things like that.  It was very interesting to read things like that, things I would never know about Korean culture.  I am attaching one of the notes that my translators made on Heather about the spa industry.

Basically this is what I think about the film.  I put all points of views in the film so people can make up their own mind on the subject, and more likely than not everyone will hate it.  The Johns are represented in the chat rooms.  The ALCU is represented, the police are represented, the politicians are represented, and the women in the business are represented.  I never saw any women who were trafficked.  I met a ton of women, even though only 3 are on film.

I am sure there are women and children who are trafficked, but none in the spas that I was in.  Actually when women were asked to leave because their gambling problems were interfering with work they would ask me to go to Heather or Chris on their behalf to try and let them stay there.
There is one thing I learned through out this whole process, believe none of what you hear and none of what you see, and trust no one.

It will be interesting to see what is said tomorrow on the Dan Yorke Show.

Todays vote to re-criminalize prostitution

The VoteToday I returned to the state house to watch the vote.  There were a few represenatives who tried to delay the vote and have another hearing.  It seemed reasonable, the bill had changed 3 of 4 times while we were waiting to begin.  The secretary handed out the bill, then came back around and said this is the revisions, after a few times of replacing the bill with new print outs a few people were saying “Is this the ninth version?”

There were a crowd of people, some young women wearing stickers that said “vote no” who represented the Brown Coalition against Human Trafficking.  Steve Brown from the ACLU and Mimi Budnick from D.A.R.E., (both who are in Happy Endings?) were there.

After voting down hearing the bill, the vote went pretty much as expected.  4 people did vote against the bill, but it passed.  Rep. Gianinni was there watching the fruit of her 4 year labor finally make it to the floor.  I went over to speak to her, and she was not happy to see me.  I gave her a card, and invited her to the film, and she said “I don’t know, I am probably represented horribly”.  I don’t know how people always come to the conclusion before they even watch the film.

I have gotten emails from Johns, berating me for “trying to shut down the massage parlors”.  I don’t know why people jump to conclusions before even seeing the film.  I may sound opinionated on the topic now, but while I was making the film I was just trying to get the truth.  I don’t portrayed or represented anyone.  Everyone represents themselves.

Gianinni being interviewed When I did the film, I got everyone from the police, legislators, johns, women working in the massage parlors.  The person who I identified with the most was Nancy, who had been involved in the human trafficking coalition and then testified against the prostitution bill.  I felt like she was a kindred spirit, I would have been her if I didn’t have a camera in my hand.  She was one of the first people who is in the film who I let watch it.  She even reviewed the film.  Today she blogged about her experience.  I think everyone who has been involved in passing this law, either on moral grounds or “human trafficking” grounds should take a few minutes to see what a Rhode Island resident and woman has to say.  Here is an excerpt.

I never wanted to be a part of a moral crusade using law as a weapon. All I cared about was legal protection for people who are trafficked, and punishment for the traffickers.

To fight immorality, I would use other weapons– reason, persuasion and example. Laws against immorality have never been very effective, and have often been cover for worse crimes. Remember the Scarlet Letter?

Morality, like patriotism, provides a convenient cover for other agendas.

Ticket price…part two

I never liked doing the business part of making films.  They do call it show-business, and not show fun, so I have to deal with the business aspect too.  Deciding the price point for tickets has been a huge pain.  I want the shows to sell out, and let the people of RI make their own decision on the “prostitution loophole”. That is the main  reason I have held the film release until June, right before the legislation will be making their decision.

It is costing me a pretty penny to put the show on, and there isn’t much room for profit.  I have been pressured by some people to change the price to $15 advance/$20 door, and I did change the price for a week.

Today I changed the price back to $10 advance/$15 at the door.  That is the price and it is staying there.  I have seen a few films premier at the Columbus and I paid $20, but I don’t want anyone to be turned away from the show because of the price. (This economy is a pain in the but)  I don’t think the films I saw at $20 were better than Happy Endings?, but they didn’t have a important social message, and the directors of those films were looking for the short term payoff.  I want to fill the seats with people who will go out and talk about “Rhode Island’s dirty little secret” and be able to make informed decisions on how our lawmakers should and should not deal with this issue.

Human Trafficking Rally/Protest

Signs and Petition

Signs and Petition

Yesterday I went to the State House where the RI Coalition Against Human Trafficking was holding a rally to support the Anti-Trafficking legislation.  They had a great turn out.  I gave out some postcards and invited some people to my film.

There were people there holding signs “Not for Sale”, and “Stop Selling Children”.  I don’t believe in the death penalty, but if I did, I would reserve the ultimate punishment for the Human Traffickers and/or child molesters.  I can respect people’s opinions, but there is no excuse for Human Trafficking, and I have never met anyone who has even tried to defend this practice.

I am in complete support of the new proposed legislation against Human Trafficking.  However, I do not believe closing the “prostitution loophole” will stop human trafficking.  (There is a difference between prostitution and human trafficking) If you look across the country, every state has prositution laws, and every state also has prostitution.  Our neighboring state Massachusetts has laws against Prostitution and when you look at the Boston Phoenix you see two to  three times the ads for “erotic massage” and “escorts” as compared to the Providence Phoenix.

The issue made the front page of the projo again today.  “A Call to End Human Trafficking” What is interesting is while I was there yesterday, most of the people who were protesting were protesting against the “prostitution loophole”, and if you read the article you will see:

“Two separate bills that would make prostitution a crime, regardless of where it occurs, have also been introduced in the General Assembly. The coalition — which is against prosecuting the prostitutes — has taken no position on those bills.”

Moore and more news

Sometimes I get the feeling that I might be like Micheal Moore.  I don’t want to be like him, I respect him, but he is not my style.  The only reason I think I am sort of like him is when he was at the Oscars and said there was no reason to be invading Iraq.  Everyone hated him.  I sort of feel like I am in the same positition.

In The Projo today they have an article called RI in the “Eye of the Storm” in sex trafficking. You can click the link, or I can tell you it is the basic rhetoric.  There are a bunch of quotes from people who think there is a link between prostitution and human trafficking, and that closing the prostitution loophole is the solution to stopping the trafficking.

Here is where I feel like Moore, every news station, radio station, and paper has joined on with this bull shit.  I am one of the few people who knows that if you close the loophole you will just be making it more difficult for the women.  Like Moore warned us not to invade Iraq, I am warning not to change the law.

Even with out a law, the Warwick police raided a spa.  In this spa was a woman I know, because she is in the film as “Danielle”.  The police went on the radio the next day, said they were helping women, and believed this was a spa where trafficking was going on.  I know for a fact there was no trafficking in that spa.  Besides that, the police took personal cell phones, laptops, drivers licenses, and all of the woman’s cash.  How can you say you are helping the women when you take everything from them and throw them onto the street?  “We didn’t arrest anyone”  they say, but being questioned for four hours and loosing everything is close enough to an arrest.

I feel like we are treating the AMPS like Iraq, lets bomb them to help them.  It makes no sence, and we are not helping anyone with the tactics that are being used.