Mischa Marcus Tackles Sex Trafficking in Directorial Debut – Top Female Entrepreneurs of 2016 in Hollywood

Blur movie poster, courtesy of Remote Films

Writer, director and producer Mischa Marcus is an award-winning filmmaker who began her career as a writer at USC’s prestigious School of Cinematic Arts.  Marcus’ initial screenplay was chosen to be filmed on the Warner Brothers back lot. Marcus’ directorial debut, Blur, sets a very dark tone revealing the realities of child sex trafficking in the U.S.  “After all,” she explains, “ignorance is not always bliss, it is harmful.”

 

Blur Director Mischa Marcus with actors Ciara Jiana (adult Layla) and Erika Ringor (Detective Amy Walker, photo courtesy Mischa Marcus

 

Aliyah Conley as young Layla in Blur, photo courtesy of Remote Films

Blur, produced by Remote Films, is a coming-of-age story about Layla, an African-American girl who is abducted and forced into the sex trafficking industry at the age of ten. Layla is a child who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time - in the blink of an eye, she loses her innocence, her freedom, and her future. Seven years later, Layla is discovered lying half-dead in an alley, unable to speak. Detective Amy Walker helps Layla untangle the memories of her horrific past to bring her perpetrators to justice so Layla can start life anew.  [Source: Remote Films, LLC]

 

Johnny Rey Diaz and Aliyah Conley in Blur, photo courtesy Remote Films

 

Aliyah Conley as young Layla in Blur, photo courtesy Remote Films

Blur is a story of hope and redemption told through the eyes of a seventeen-year-old girl recovering after her escape from seven years in captivity as a sex slave in the United States.  Meticulously researched, this narrative film portrays, with brutal honesty, the unimaginable circumstances of a young girl, Layla, who is torn from her family. Blur captures how her life is saved through the power of friendship, the empowerment of the female spirit, and the strength of family.  

 

Ciara Jiana and Johnny Rey Diaz in Blur, photo courtesy Remote Films

 

Erika Ringor in Blur, photo courtesy Remote Films

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime predicts that "by 2020, child sex trafficking will . . . overtake drugs and weapons as society’s most pervasive crisis."  Accordingly, Marcus’ film is not only a valiant undertaking; it is extraordinarily poignant.

 

Ciara Jiana and Erika Ringor in Blur, photo courtesy Remote Films

 

Layla and BeeBee in Blur, photo courtesy Remote Films

 Q: You were one of four women accepted to the prestigious USC SCA ProducingProgram.  What was that experience like? 

Marcus: It was an incredibly immersive and hands on experience that pushed me to write and produce shorts about the human condition and subjects people often don’t like to talk about such as suicide, alcoholism and depression. Having the opportunity to explore topics like this is what gave me the confidence to write a film like Blur.

Q: What made you decide to become a filmmaker? 

Marcus: I’ve known since a very young age I wanted to be a storyteller. The first film that made me cry was Edward Scissorhands, starring Johnny Depp. I was five years old and I remember feeling such sadness that Edward was left on that hill isolated from the rest of the world. I was very aware of how that story pulled at my emotions and told my mom that I wanted to do that when I grew up.

Q: What inspired you to write the Blur script?

Marcus: When I was in college they busted a brothel prostituting children under the age of fourteen a mere ten minutes drive from my apartment. I was horrified because I never even believed something like that could happen here in America. Most people think it is something that happens in India or Thailand and they think it couldn’t possibly happen in their own neighborhoods.

I couldn’t shake the idea that we trust our neighbors and communities and yet we do not truly know what they are capable of. It’s terrifying to think that you could be raising your children near a child sex trafficking ring and that your child may be a trafficker’s next target. It happens all over this country and its unbelievable that most people are unaware of how expansive the problem is. That is why I chose to do a narrative film versus a documentary because it was a way for me to take viewers inside this underworld without endangering anyone in the process.

Q: What else have you written? 

Marcus: I’ve written three feature films and many shorts. I also have written two other features with my co-writing partner Katherine Botts. The film short I wrote, L’Opera, was elected to be shot on the Warner Brothers lot and was later selected by Warner Brothers former President Alan Horn to close the USC SCA Ceremony.

Q: What messages do you hope people take away from Blur?

Marcus: We have a couple messages. One is: There is hope after hardship. I met with former girls who had their childhoods stolen from them and they inspired me by showing the endurance of the human spirit.

Our second message is: We can create change and action through awareness. Many people are uncomfortable by the subject matter of this film, and for many Americans it is an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality. But by sharing the ugly reality of many children’s lives we can combat this industry stealing childhood innocence and ripping families apart. Ignorance is not bliss, it is harmful 

Q: Your mother is the executive producer of Blur.  Is she also a filmmaker or passionate about this project?  How did you get her involved? 

Marcus: I’ve been very lucky to have a parent who has always supported by aspirations. My mom had recently retired and felt very strongly about the story I wanted to tell. When I told her that the project got the green light and funding to bring this story to the screen her immediate response was “how can I help.” I know getting this story out there means as much to her as it does to me.

Q: What were some of the challenges in making the film?

Marcus: We had resistance from people because of the subject matter. A lot of people felt uncomfortable that we were telling this story from the perspective of a child. They wanted us to make the girls older or to loosely touch on the subject. I also had people say I couldn’t understand what these victims go through because I am a white female and yet traffickers do not discriminate based on age, race or sex; in fact, many times they put a premium on them.

But our core crew, the actors, and the parents of the child actors were all so incredibly supportive because they saw what we hoped to achieve with this film. They loved the script and said this was a film that would help affect change on this horrific industry. I knew we were on the right track with the team brought together by my producer Stephanie Bell 

Q: Talk about what it was like to research for Blur.

Marcus: Researching, speaking with and reading survivor accounts was difficult. It is hard to walk away from your work and not let certain aspects of their stories seep into your thoughts after you leave the interview or computer. But I knew if they were brave enough to share their stories with me I had to share their stories and courage to help educate others.

Q: What do you find most rewarding about filmmaking, especially as a female director?

Marcus: Specifically with directing Blur, telling a story that would otherwise be swept under the rug. Sometimes we have to get our hands dirty and make people uncomfortable to get a dialogue going and that is what Blur aims to achieve. In general, directing allows me to still be a storyteller and to share my vision with others.

Q: How did you cast Blur?  Did you have to explain up front the nature of content when casting the minors?  Was it a difficult process?  Were you happy with how the cast performed?

Marcus: Casting for Blur was an experience in itself. We saw hundreds of actors over the course of a few days. I made sure we sent the full scripts to the parents so they knew exactly what was happening and when in the story. I left it up to the parents to tell their children how much they wanted them to know about the script. One of our child actors had no idea she was portraying a sex trafficking victim, she thought she was only a kidnapped child. All of our actors felt passionately about bringing awareness to this serious issue as much as I did and you can see that passion in their performances.

Q: Anything else you would like to add? 

Marcus: There are not many films out there with a strong female presence in story, cast and crew. This film had many women in key positions, which was great for this specific project due to the sensitive subject matter. The men in our cast and crew were also so respectful while shooting our dark and complex scenes. It was always my goal to have everyone on set comfortable and feeling respected even in the difficult scenes and especially with the children and parents. Having the privilege to see this film go from script to feature film with my talented cast and crew is an amazing feeling. This film was a collaborative labor of love and I am so thankful to each of them for their hard work and dedication to this project.

 

The cast and crew of Blur, photo courtesy Mischa Marcus

For more information, please visit the Blur Movie Official Website.

 

Watch the Blur movietrailer below.

 

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