Behind Closed Doors: Dana’s Story
Human trafficking is no longer an international phenomenon. Based on a true story, Behind Closed Doors is a short film depicting the life of a little girl named Dana. At the age of 12, Dana is thrust into the world of domestic human trafficking. Incredibly, her mother brokers the deal.
About The Project
Setting–East St Louis, Illinois–late 80’s-early 90’s. The city is on the verge of economic collapse. Often referred to as the heart of America’s bottom because of its location downstream from the Mississippi River, it is also one of the most impoverished small cities in the country. In light of the widespread socioeconomic disparity, rampant crime, and poor infrastructure, third world living conditions have been described in the city for many years. For example, clean water and properly functioning sewerage systems are two things that separate first world living conditions from third world living conditions. In the 80’s and 90’s, East St. Louis was hampered by dysfunctional sewerage systems and poor sanitation. Public schools were shut down on several occasions due to raw sewerage found in the food prep area of the cafeterias. I chose East St. Louis as the setting for the story in order to explore the impact of poverty in urban America, as it relates to the issue of human trafficking and other perils of urban living.
Based on a true story, Behind Closed Doors: Dana’s Story is the riveting tale of one little girl’s struggle to overcome circumstances beyond her control.
Dana Toussaint was born into a life of privilege; thanks to her father, a Haitian-born immigrant and notorious drug lord. Dana’s mother; a materialistic southern belle from South Louisiana, is consumed by the good life as memories of her upbringing in an East New Orleans housing project become a distant memory. In spite of the similarities between the Haitian and Louisiana Creole cultures, the marriage unravels and the unthinkable occurs when Dana’s father abruptly abandons the family. At the age of 12, Dana becomes the ultimate sacrifice and her mother, a heroin addict, brokers the deal.
Dana comes of age and has to face a number of harsh realities. In lieu of the nurturing and guidance that a child should receive from their mother, Dana is systematically instilled with the fear of poverty and taught to survive by any means neccessary–to include using her body. Ultimately, Dana concedes to her fate and allows money to reconcile the differences between right and wrong as she proceeds down the path to self-destruction. Through a series of tragic events, hard lessons learned, and her grandmother’s prayers, Dana eventually overcomes her circumstances and finds redemption.
Why should I tell this story?
My first novel, Behind Closed Doors 1, provides a detailed account of the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse in women. After reading my first novel, the real “Dana” reached out to me and shared her experience as a survivor of domestic/familial human trafficking. In turn, she asked me to share her story through my writing in order to raise awareness concerning a crime that is deeply rooted in obscurity and shame. As I gathered the details of Dana’s story and began to research the topic, I realized the enormity of the problem. With over 200,000 cases reported each year, domestic human trafficking is currently one of the largest criminal enterprises in this country, second only to drug trafficking. When compared to international trafficking, the contributing factors (poverty, poor education, crime and drug abuse) are virtually the same. In light of these findings; I’m convinced, the story has to be told.
How Could a Mother Forsake Her Own Child?
As a mother and advocate for abused women and children, the answer to this question continues to elude me. It is also the driving force behind my desire to tell the Dana’s story.
My Utopian Theory
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have drug dealers and drug addicts wouldn’t exist. Women wouldn’t sell their bodies and every child would have both parents. Kids would find value in education as opposed to tennis shoes, the neighborhood kingpin would NOT be role a model; and most importantly, ghettos would become obsolete in the absence of poverty.
In a world of imperfection, the desire for wealth and the need for survival are potential precursors to self-destruction.
So how did we get here?
“The love of money is the root to all evil, but poverty and wealth are its greatest companions…” A.L. Smith
Independent Filmmaking and Crowdfunding
By taking the independent approach to filmmaking, we have opted to bypass traditional paths into the film industry. Independent filmmaking is a growing trend that promotes diversity in storytelling, particularly for stories about women and those from under-represented groups of filmmakers.
Independent filmmakers have a growing number of choices when deciding which crowdfunding platform to use. I chose Seed and Spark and here’s why:
1. Project Greenlight Digital Studios and Seed&Spark are partnering to launch a 60-day crowdfunding rally—the first of its kind. Project Greenlight Digital Studios (PGLDS) is a story-driven creative community that empowers the next generation of great filmmakers. Founded by the partners behind the Project Greenlight television series on HBO, there is an array of inherent opportunities for independent filmmakers like myself.
2. The Seed and Sparks crowdfunding platform is equipped with a built-in distribution network with the capability to reach over 100 million homes via Cable and Digital VOD to operators such as Time Warner, Comcast, and Verizon FiOS, and platforms like Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, Vudu, Amazon, and Google Play. I’m extremely confident in the direction that our team has chosen to take in bringing Dana’s story to life. With your support, we’re one step closer to making it happen.
About This Team
Huey Rawls, Director
Courtney “Huey” Rawls is a talented filmmaker based out of Dallas, TX. After years of freelance work, he graduated from KD Conservatory with a degree in Motion Picture Production in 2016. His early passion for filmmaking was fueled by the 80’s cult classics he watched as a child with his mother. From the gritty social realness of Blade Runner to the practical effects of Alien, these films and many others helped shape his early creative influence. His most recent film, Life’s Monologue, is currently on the film festival circuit.
A.L. Smith, Executive Producer
A.L. Smith is the author of the critically acclaimed, Behind Closed Doors: Dana’s Story.
Crafting a compelling story with mass appeal is the first step to becoming a best selling author. Unfortunately the road to success doesn’t end there. Success is ultimately determined by the author’s ability to implement effective marketing strategies for the target audience.
In conjunction with up and coming Dallas-based filmmaker Huey Rawls, Smith has taken an innovative approach to reaching her target audience through the dramatic appeal of the “cinematic book trailer”. The overwhelming response from her readers ultimately spawned her interest in filmmaking. By bringing her characters to life on the big-screen, Smith is determined to raise awareness concerning domestic human trafficking and to provide a voice for victims.
A’mera Frieman, Casting Director
Author of the Bestselling Victoria’s Journey series and playwrite, A’mera is also the full time CEO of Breaking the Line Books and Principle Coach & Consultant for BTLB Coaching & Consulting in Garland. Frieman created Breaking the Line Books small press to address social issues that plague our community and to give new and undiscovered writers guidance and direction in publishing.
Cast Member: Ron Clemons (Tyree)
Ron Clemons is an actor, known for The Cliff (2016), The Tale of the Voodoo Prostitute (2012) and Of Blood and Brine (2014).
Cast Member: Kevin Tilett (Mr. James)
Kevin Tillett is an actor and producer, known for Vindication (2016), Battle Line: A Mother’s Perspective (2016) and Justice (2016).