ONLY LIGHT

Only Light Movie Poster Courtesy of Director

According to The U.S. Department of Justice “The term “human trafficking” is used in common parlance to describe many forms of exploitation of human beings. While these words often evoke images of undocumented migrants being smuggled across international borders, the term has a different and highly specific meaning under the United States Criminal Code. Human trafficking crimes, which are defined in Title 18, Chapter 77, focus on the act of compelling or coercing a person’s labor, services, or commercial sex acts…Because these statutes are rooted in the prohibition against slavery and involuntary servitude guaranteed by the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Civil Rights Division plays a paramount role in enforcing these statutes…”

More so and more so Millennials across the spectrum are seeking  powerful mediums, for which to share their independent thoughts and projects with the world. Using the power of their perspective and pen to guide the way.

I recently saw a short film, which truly honed in on the modern day impact of human trafficking; I was so touched by the film I reached out to its Producer Zachary Skipp, to tell us more about what inspired this 2014 Film Selection ‘Only Light’, which is a USC School of Cinematic Arts Graduate Film. As we spoke Skipp, a millennial future force field in Hollywood, explained what drew him to this script, “I also engaged with the social topic of human trafficking and wanted to shed light on this horrific crime that is pervasive in our society.”

Skipp went on to explain to The Y Life, how was this script brought to light and why it had inspired him?

“Only Light was created as part of USC’s 546 Production III film class, which receives generous funding from the School of Cinematic Arts after a rigorous selection process. I was initially drawn to the script because of the director, Evita M. Castine, and the writer, Thembi L. Banks. They both had a very strong body of work, shared such passion for the project, and possessed a clear and powerful vision for the film.”

The journey of ‘Only Light’ follows a young girl kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of Congo; like many young kidnapped women and children, she is sold as a sex worker into the ‘Western world of human trading’… How vital is it to bring the headline of human trafficking on the international stage?

“The main goal of our film is to focus attention onto the issue of human trafficking. The United States is one of the top destinations for the sale of human beings and the Super Bowl remains to be on the most popular sites for the exchange of these people. We consulted with the Los Angeles Human Trafficking Task Force throughout the process to ensure the accuracy and effectiveness of our story. We want to emphasize that these crimes do not occur only in dangerous neighborhoods, but rather in anyone’s backyard.”

Personally, the sale of young women around the world and even more poignantly in our own backyards, is a treacherous side effect of the globalized world, in which we live. The young woman’s story featured in ‘Only Light‘ finds her escaping from her cruel reality of torment, by living vicariously through watching the teenage girl next door, and her freedom through a basement window..

My next question to Zac was about young people in America… Do Millennials for instance,underestimate the value of Freedom, because they have never been faced with the hopelessness of not having it?

“We would most definitely agree that many people in America — not just millennials — underestimate the value of our freedom. When speaking with Congolese populations, we discovered that cases similar to Laeticia’s occur on a regular basis and are commonplace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The research we completed for the project was eye-opening, but fortunately organizations such as CAST exist to fight to create legislation to put an end to the exploitation of young men and women around the world.”

CAST is the ‘Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking’ based in Los Angeles, California; a not-for-profit organization, established in 1998 in the wake of the El Monte sweatshop case, whose mission is “To assist persons trafficked for the purpose of forced labor and slavery-like practices and to work toward ending all instances of such human rights violations.” 

The impact Human Trafficking has had and is having on our Y Generation around the world will be felt for centuries to come. According to The National Human Trafficking Resource Center “Every year, human traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits by victimizing millions of people in the United States and around the world. Traffickers are estimated to exploit 20.9 million victims, with an estimated 1.5 million victims in North America alone… Human trafficking is a market-driven criminal industry that is based on the principles of supply and demand, like drugs or arms trafficking. Many factors make children and adults vulnerable to human trafficking. However, human trafficking does not exist solely because many people are vulnerable to exploitation. Instead, human trafficking is fueled by a demand for cheap labor, services and for commercial sex.”

What Zachary Skipp and the ‘Only Light’ ensemble, have done by sharing this story, is bringing awareness to generational sectors like Millennial’s of the impact of Human Trafficking; awareness is the only way we can pave way towards declining statistics in our future.

I was so thrilled to be catching up with this up and coming Millennial producer, that I went on to discuss his bright future. Skipp’s experiences growing up, must have played a grave impact, in inspiring his film career… So I wondered what that precise moment was, when he realized he needed to be a filmmaker?

“When I was 11 years old, a friend asked me to help him to shoot a documentary about the 2000 Presidential Election. Ever since, I have been obsessed with the art of filmmaking. I studied film at Bowdoin College in Maine and at La Fundación Universidad del Cine in Buenos Aires before coming to USC. While at Bowdoin, I managed the school’s television station and produced interstitials for ESPN on the college’s historic Zamboni and the dramatic climate crisis affecting their mascot, the polar bear. More recently, I have interned with William Morris Endeavor, Universal Pictures’ Physical Production department, and MGM’s Creative Development department.”

Where Skipp finds himself today is marked by the utmost of exciting revelry, but where he hopes to find himself in a few years is etched with thrill at the abyss of the unknown… most importantly we wondered, where does Zachary Skipp see himself making a mark in the next 5 years?

“After graduating from USC’s Film and Television Production program in August, I hope to secure a job at a top Hollywood agency in order to pursue a career as a Independent Film Finance and Distribution agent. I am fascinated by the way in which agents package groundbreaking films with innovative talent in order to secure financing, guide projects through the creative process, and acquire distribution to share a film with the widest possible audience.”

Well watch out Hollywood, Millennial’s are marking their turf.. and who knows maybe one day Zachary Skipp will be my agent!