Neighbor film with Anjelah Johnson, Dove Meir, Bruce Beatty!
“I wanted to write and direct this story, for my sophomore film project, to bring light into a dark place: human trafficking. The stealing, harboring, objectifying, and horrendous abuse of human beings, (many who are young children and women), is an ugly reality.”
Could you imagine being bought, sold, smuggled and beaten? How do you think it would feel to walk a few steps in the shoes of a modern-day slave? Tony Gapastione, the director of Neighbor film, is using his talent in film-making to help spread awareness of human trafficking. Human trafficking is, in fact, a form of modern-day slavery (involving deception, force and attack of a person’s self-esteem to exploit them for labor or prostitution), and it’s happening all over the world, including in our own neighborhoods.
These victims don’t have a specific age, race, gender or nationality (many are even U.S citizens). And once they are trapped, there are hardly limitations on what they might be forced into. But how does it happen? Well, victims are often lured with empty promises (fool’s gold) or kidnapped. They are then embarrassed, abused, and beat down until they have shattered self-image and no self-esteem left. Sometimes this abuse can even go unnoticed until it’s too late and devastating damage is done.
Tony has been raising money for Neighbor film since our first interview at Sundance film festival 2016. And as of today (June 8, 2016) Neighbor film has raised 91% of the funds they planned to raise (but you can still donate to the film at Neighborfilm.com). It’s absolutely amazing how the Neighbor film team came together to help make this movie happen, especially with the direction our society is headed. More and more people seem to get pleasure out of controlling others. And that’s why this unjustified trade has become so popular. The enslavement of men and women in the 21st century shows some of our ethical challenges, which have yet to receive the attention they deserve.
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Human trafficking is despicable. It’s use of deception and abuse to exploit vulnerable men, women and children struggling in today’s society, and then forcefully stripping them of self-dignity and basic freedoms at the threat of beatings and starvation is absolutely disgusting.
Did you know that many exploiters will look for their victims in environments that seem to house low-income families?! These victims are sometimes even sold by their own parents. That’s right. Some parents who want to pay debts will sell their own children and their siblings to do so.
In fact, not only women but men are victims as well. But these boys and men who are subjected to this abuse often stay quiet because of our gender-biased stereotypes that boys can’t become victims of abuse or rape.
The team of Neighbor film has dedicated their time to fighting for this cause in the hopes of reaching a large audience and bringing greater awareness to human trafficking. And the first talent to join the cast was the one and only Anjelah Johnson. You might recognize her from her priceless comedy acts. And if you think back to the 90s, she acted in “King Burger,” as Bon Qui Qui, on MadTV. Along with her excellent acting and top-notch comedy, she’s extraordinarily humble, loving and always willing to help family, friends and fans. She’s been kicking human trafficking’s butt by raising awareness. Anjelah opened up to PCG about Neighbor film and why human trafficking means so much to her. She told us:
“I met Tony through a mutual friend. Her name is Angie Ibarra, and she connected us via e-mail and she sent me the script and said ‘you should read this and I think you should be a part of it.’ And when I found out it had the human trafficking message behind it, I was definitely on board because that’s something near and dear to my heart. And my husband and I sit on the board of an anti-human trafficking organization ourselves. It’s pretty powerful. I was like ‘yeah, of course this makes sense to be apart of this project.’”
She sits on the board for a great organization called “Unlikely Heros,” which focuses its attention on providing relief to victims and providing safe homes and restoration for child victims of modern-day sex trafficking. The way she celebrated one of her birthdays shows how passionate she is about this effort. Just check out a snippet of a post on her personal blog about her 32nd birthday:
“I’ve decided to celebrate my birthday in a different way. In a way that would make 8 year old me very happy because the attention is not on us.
This year I’m shining a light on all those trapped in sex slavery. I’m standing with an organization called Unlikely Heroes to say, “We haven’t forgotten about you! We’re coming for you!” I’m raising $5,000 to help end human trafficking. $5,000 is what it costs for 1 child to receive health care, counseling, restoration, food, education and a safe place to live for an entire year. Unlikely Heroes is an amazing organization that is truly making a difference. I’ve had people comment on social media things like, “Why don’t you just donate a show’s earnings?” and “Can’t you just give them the 5k?” Truth is yes I can, and, yes I have.
This is YOUR opportunity to get involved in saving a life. If you are reading this blog post right now you have more freedom than they have. If you only make minimum wage, hate your job and wish you lived a different life you still have more freedom than they have. Imagine when you were 6 years old. Still learning life skills like how to tie your shoes, how to read, how to communicate. Now imagine the only people you know and trust, your parents, have sold you into sex slavery for money. You have no way out and no one to turn to. That is the story of many of these children. This is your chance to help them. I have over a 100 thousand followers on Instagram. Could you imagine if every one of those followers gave 1 dollar?! We could afford to rescue so many kids! If you would like to learn more about Unlikely Heroes and how you can become a hero go to their website here www.unlikelyheroes.com and if you would like to donate to my birthday campaign and help me raise $5,000 click here!
How amazing is that? And now she’s out spreading more awareness with amazing talent like Dove Meir and Bruce Beatty, who have the same vision to put an end to this sex-trade. The character was relatable to Anjelah’s personality because of her strength and willingness to stand up for herself. She told us:
“The character… you know, she’s pregnant and excited to be a mother. And all of those are completely opposite of me. No kids and no desire to be a mom. So, that was something that I was like ‘Wow! I need to get in touch with this and I really need to think about this.’ And even as an actor, just shifting my mind-frame, just google imaging pictures of pregnant women and their joy and happiness and trying to just be in their shoes, envision it, see it and be a part of it. So, there were a lot of things that were opposite of who I am, but I think one thing that was true to me as a person was her strength, and when she comes out face-to-face with this homeless guy who had jumped over the fence, and confronts him face-to-face, I feel like that’s something I would definitely do and put myself in a situation that may not be wise, but my inner strength would come out.”
That inner strength matters in all that you do in life. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for what’s right and make the world a better place.
She also had a lot of support from the whole team. She said:
“These guys are so talented that they really put me in check… like made me make sure I was bringing my A-game just by watching them and being around them. They are such talented people. As well as the other actors that we were working with, Corinne and Paul… really talented people! I would just watch them in the scene and be like ‘yes!’ They would draw something out of me that would make me want to step it up and make sure I was bringing my A-game just being surrounded by such talented people.”
Bruce Beatty (best known for his role in the film Straight Outta Compton, but also his roles on Grey’s Anatomy, House of Lies and Glee) is beyond talented. He played the role of “Larry,” in Neighbor film. Beatty had a great time with the cast and crew. He said:
“The whole crew made it comfortable to take a chance and fall on your face, because it’s a very risky business to put something on tape that’s going to be there for life. And I NEED a comfortable environment in which to take that chance, because naturally I’m shy. And so… when I have that environment I’m like ‘Well, I’m gunna jump. I don’t know how I’m going to land.’[Dove Meir] played a part in that. He has that about him and I appreciated it. And ANJELAH just cracks me up, I didn’t realize I’ve seen her before. She made it easy for me to talk to her. She immediately had her character. She had this sass toward me (jokingly). She creates comedy immediately. It just makes the environment very very welcoming.”
And Dove Meir (best known for his fan favorite role in NCIS: Los Angeles) enjoyed spending time on set with the kids, crew and especially loved being a part of Neighbor film. He told us:
“It was amazing working with these guys. There was no ego on set. The camaraderie… the feeling of being a part of the team to get the story out was amazing. And we had nothing but laughs and good times the whole time.”
Tony Gapastione opened up about creating Neighbor film and shed some light on a dark subject. He said:
“Making movies fulfills me. For sure it’s the working with people and ALL the great moments of working together, when cameras are rolling and when they are not. AND I also love the part where I get to tell stories. I get to write and direct? Wow! I love sharing these films with whoever I can. I love asking questions through this medium and bringing real human issues, and broken systems, to life. I don’t have many answers to give, but I hope that this art surfaces questions that lead us to place of healing, depth, hope, and justice.”
We’re super excited for the release of Neighbor film in 2017. Tony, you did an amazing job on your sophomore film and we’re super proud of you for taking on such an emotional subject. The cast and crew went above and beyond expectations and it took an army to make this film happen but we’re glad to have a small part in such an important subject. Don’t forget sound off in the comments below and let us know what you’re thinking about Neighbor film, Anjelah Johnson, Dove Meir, and Bruce Beatty!