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Is it all about the money?

When do I make the decision to get this film out there?  I wanted to have it out by January 2009.  I guess you could call that my new years resolution.  At what point do I just press the dvd and sell it?  Is it all about the money?  I got another email yesterday from a guy who said I should just approach porn distributors and get on their mailing lists.  Yesterday was Christmas, and I would never in a million years think that I would ever be making my money off of porn.  But then I think to myself, maybe it is just another way to get information out.  I know that in hotels that offer movie rentals, porn accounts for the most rentals.  (I have also read that during religious conventions the porn rentals go up substantially)  So I have to figure out why does it bother me to be lumped in with this category?  There is a sex scene that starts off the film.  I think I just don’t like being put into catagories, it is that or the catholic guilt!

Another email…

As I said on my previous post, I get emails all the time.  A few days ago I received an email from someone an ex-John.  He says he was a customer of the spas, a self labeled “addict now in recovery”.  In his last email to me he wrote:

This is a problem that, in the scope of all of America’s problems, this is one that we, collectively, are not yet willing to face as a nation.  Our collective psyches have swept it under the rug.  Alcohol?  fine.  Drugs?  Almost fashionable to face in recovery.  Sex addiction?  Shameful.  The fact that a double-digit percentage of people have engaged in it is perhaps why your piece is difficult for people to want to show.  It hits too close to home for many people.
Also, few people see the girls as addicts.  But they are.  It is a tango of addiction, danced by two addicts.  Each may be brought by different situations, but the underlying preconditions for the addictions usually reside in both the man and the woman.

When making this film, I wanted to get everyone’s perspective.  I interviewed police, politicians, the women in the spas, and Johns.  Now, here is the former John’s perspective.  I think it is valid, and I would like to hear your comments.

Emails and comments

I still don’t know what direction I want to go with the film.  I am just being totally honest here.  Should I go straight to DVD or should I keep trying for a art house distribution.  I feel like a failure because I can’t get into a festival.  I check my email all the time and get a variety of interesting emails.  People come across the web site and youtube trailer and email me all the time.  Almost daily I get email asking where they can buy the film.  Sometimes I get questions on what spas give the best “services”.  Sometimes I have people yelling at me about a film they have never even seen.  I must say that these emails I enjoy the most.

I entered into this project because I didn’t know how I felt about prostitution, but I thought doing a film might spark some discussion.  This is an email I received yesterday:

why dont you loosers get a life and mind your own business, our country is in all time shithole!!!! russians submarines are in venezuela and cuba, our new president is a dumb as from hell, dollar is dropping , and all u care about is some stupid asians whores giving hand/blowjobs to some hard working americans that wana liv eina  free country !!! get a life

I will have nothing to say about the spelling or grammatical mistakes (because I have gotten emails about that too) but I must say I do appreciate that anyone would take time to write to me.  I love every comment I receive here or on youtube, and believe me there have been some doosies, so please keep the comments and email coming.  By the way, you can get to my email by going to the website www.happyendingsdocumentary.com or just email me at happyenddoc@gmail.com  Thanks 🙂

What other people say

At this time last year I was just rejected from Sundance and Slamdance film festival.  Before I submitted to those festivals I had a lot of people telling me I would get in, make a ton of money, and live happily ever after.  I always listen.  I actually thought the film would do something positive.  I had huge plans, and then REJECTION.

I am happy that today I was blogged about on Kmareka.

I struggled with this film for the past year, cutting, re-editing, trying to make it work.  I tried to make the film “commercial”, but how can I make a documentary on something that controversial and underground commercial?

I spoke with Nick, the editor who I worked with for hundreds of hours on this film.  When he read what was written he said he was proud to have someone see the film for what it was meant to be.  As the director and editor we want the viewer to watch the film and make up their own mind about prostitution and the situation in Rhode Island.

I feel with the words written on Kmareka, I have truely accomplished what I set out to do.  Now all I have to do is find a way to distribution so people will actually be able to see the film.

Stronger than their walls…

Last night I went to a viewing of another Rhode Island documentary “Stronger than their walls, Guilty although proven Innocent.”  This documentary was produced by the Family Life Center.  (The FLC is a non profit organization whose purpose is to support the reintegration of ex-offenders into the community. )  The FLC did play a role in my film “Happy Endings?” as they testified against the prostitution law.

This film was very interesting, and sad.  Of course I am interested in social justice documentaries, but in particular the oddities of Rhode Island laws.

“Keeping the Peace.”  That is what struck me about this film.  There is one man who was sent to prison for seven years, although he was found innocent on the charge of assault, just having a charge was enough to send him to prison.  The judge said that even though he did not assault any one, as a man on parole he is mandated to “keep the peace”.  This man, who I would say is a victim of RI’s draconian laws, was just trying to get some neighborhood teens off his property.  These teens had set fires and harassed his children.  He did not push or slap the kids.  He told them to go away.  (At his violation hearing many neighbors testified on his behalf)  I think asking neighborhood bullies to leave with out violence is keeping the peace.

This film is having more local showings, and I urge everyone to see it.  After you see the film please call, email, or write your representative.  The film while bill H7495/53014 was being voted on.  As you will see in the film, the bill is passed but vetoed by the Governor.  Please urge your Senate and House Representative to over ride the Governor’s veto.

perfect balance of objectivity and heart

That is the last sentence in an email I just received.  “this was a perfect balance of objectivity and heart.”  I am finally showing the film to a few people.  This email came from one woman who is in the film because she testified in hearings before the Senate and the House Judicial Committees.  She testified for the Human Trafficking bill and against the prostitution bill.

I showed the film to her because she seemed a lot like me, an outsider looking in.  She took time to testify as a resident, and she was concerned for the women and for her city.  I value her opinion.

It has been tough for me lately with  the rejections from festivals.  It is hard when all you get back is a form letter, “Thank you for your submission to blah blah festival, but due to limited space your film has not been selected.”  When you get something like that you know you failed, but you don’t know why.  I know Art is subjective but I still would like to hear some reason.

I want this film to be seen.  I don’t want it to be seen for selfish reasons.   Granted, I worked harder on this film than anything I have worked on in my life.  I feel I owe it to all the people who worked on the film with me, and all the people who are in the film.

I know they have a place some type of thing to get people deprogrammed when they leave a cult, I wish they had something like that for people when they finish a documentary.  I wonder how film makers just let go of a project.  How do you know when it is time to move on?

Ahsley Dupre & Larry Flint

I watched Ashley Dupre on 20/20 on Friday.  I feel bad for her, because she made a bunch of bad choices.  It seems like she might be on the right track now.  She doesn’t seem to be capitalizing too much on this.  She has turned down photo spreads in magazines and book deals.  It seems like she just wants to be left alone.  Maybe this is her first step in doing that.  Of course I do think it is interesting to note the fact that she could not answer a few questions under advisement of her lawyer.  If Spitzer was not charged, she should not be charged either.  I know it is the norm to charge the “prostitute” and not the “john” but in a high profile case like this maybe the norm will not be the norm.

Another, more interesting thing I watched on TV this weekend was Larry Flint: The Right to Be Left Alone. I am sure if you want to see this documentary you can find it on IFC, they usually replay their films over and over, (but I would like to suggest people buy the film to support the film maker).  This documentary was interesting on many levels, but in one interview was with a woman who had posed in Hustler.  She said that she had done interviews with indie film makers in the eighties and you would never see those films because she told them that she was a willing participant in pornography.

This struck me because my film is on Asian massage parlors in RI where prostitution is legal.  Every time you hear a story on the news you hear how these women are forced into “sexual slavery” and my film does not agree with the news.  One thing that Larry Flint does say in the film is he watched the news not for what the news shows but what the news leaves out.  Well, that is basically my whole film.  It is 80 minutes of what the news has left out over the last 3 years.  I hope there are a large number of people like Mr. Flint that believe in our first amendment right and believe the news doesn’t cover the whole story.

Is Mayor Cicilline Joining Obama?

Yesterday I heard something interesting.  Rumor has it Providence Mayor David Cicilline will not be running for Governor of Rhode Island in 2010.  Mayor Cicilline is actually in talks with the Obama transition team about joining the next president’s administration.  I do not know what position the mayor has been offered.

It is interesting to note that President-elect Obama has recently banned discrimination in his transition teamfor sexual orientation and gender expression, and is expected to continue this policy into his term (hopefully terms) as president.

I overheard this yesterday, and I don’t know how this will effect me or my film.  On one hand I am happy about Obama’s policy.  I have personally faced discrimination when buying a house with my partner.  Laws and policy are a good place to start so people can’t get away with any kind of  bias or “isms”.    On the other hand, I couldn’t get the film played in few places in Rhode Island because people are afraid of retribution of the City.  Now, the Mayor is going to be in national politics.   I can’t wait to see what position he gets offered.

Sex, Sex, Sex

I think that is what people think this film is all about.  SEX.  Sex or sex work, prostitution, human trafficking, all of these loaded words.  It is sad because the film is so much more.

I am a telephone tech.  Like almost every film maker, I have a “real” job.  One that pays the bills.  There is a guy who I work with who is married to a woman who is going for her green card.  She came to this country when she was three.  Unfortunately when she was a child her parents never bothered to finish whatever paperwork they needed to do for her citizenship.  She is twenty five now, and married to this guy I work with.  She has been in the long drawn out process to become a citizen for years now.

On Friday her mother died.  Because her mother is going to be buried in Senegal, and she hasn’t finished getting her full residency, she isn’t allowed to go to the funeral.  My heart goes out to her.

This situation also came up in my film.  “Heather” married her husband “Chris” on 9-11.  (It seemed odd to me that someone would be married on a Tuesday, but they were.)  The entire time I was filming I was mostly concerned with “Heather’s” reaction with the prostitution laws.  In reality she was mostly interested with her immigration case.  In every interview all she wanted to talk about is how she wanted to go home to Korea to see her mom.  She needed to relax, replenish and then come back to the US to finish her immigration hearings.

I was talking to my college roommate about “Heather’s” immigration case.  She thought it was odd that “Heather” was in hearings for seven years, when she works with a a woman who was unmarried and only had one hearing and became a citizen.  I asked her where that woman was from and she said England.  It makes me think that if you are from a “white” country and go try to immigrate they welcome you with open arms.

Craig’s List

The Attorney Generals of 40 states united with Craigs list to “Monitor” the erotic section of craig’s list.  This should be interesting.  I watch CL all the time.  I have to admit I even reported an ad once.  There was a woman who was in soliciting herself, pictured on a bed, basically in underwear.  You could see she took the picture herself.  You could also see a 3 or 4 year old child in the background.  I send her ad in to DCYF.  I figured if she didn’t have enough sense to take that sort of picture with her or a child out of the room, she needed to be reported.  I think that children  are important, and we do need to protect them.  With that being said, I am not sure how I feel about this whole new tactic with Craigs list.  I think this could lead to entrapment.  I am sure the ALCU will have issues with this.  It will be especially interesting to see how they enforce this in Rhode Island where prostitution is legal.  I know all or most of the spas use CL for advertising.  When I would look at the ads I would think it was interesting because besides the spas the single prostitutes, some of them, actually most of them were women advertising themselves, so I thought it was good because it took the pimp out of the system.  So now we have more men regulating women?  Maybe I am not seeing this right.