By Becca Eis | Echo
For most Taylor students, Haakonsen Hall, affectionately referred to as the Haak, is a nondescript brick building that lies in the southeast corner of campus. Yet, for junior film major Andrew Davis, this intentional community, called the Living Tree, served as the foundation for his short film "Maya: A Sex-Trafficking Story."
The students in the Living Tree Experience Program live in the Haak to study and research orphans and vulnerable children alongside their individual majors.
Davis, the only male Living Tree community member, will present the film this Monday at 8 p.m. in the Cornwall Auditorium of the LaRita Boren Campus Center. This film will function as Davis' final project for his practicum with the Living Tree program.
Research and scriptwriting for the screenplay began in the fall, while the filming and editing took place this spring. After the screening, Davis and assistant professor of psychology Scott Moeschberger will host a Q&A to open discussion about trafficking.
Davis's initial interest in the Haak was due to the Living Tree community.
"The smaller community (of the Haak) was attractive to me and I also was looking for ways to integrate my passion for filmmaking with social justice issues, so this project ended up being a very nice conglomerate of those two objectives," Davis said.
After being accepted into the Living Tree Experience Program, Davis spent two weeks of the summer taking a class with Moeschberger, causing Davis to realize the trauma sex-trafficking victims face. This led to his topic choice a few months later.
The film, recommended for mature audiences only, tells the story of an ordinary high school girl named Maya who is tricked into the sex-trafficking industry through the offer of an office job with a cosmetics company. Sophomore Jenna VanWeelden, current resident of the Haak, plays the title character. The screenplay is driven by research and Davis's desire to portray someone who seems real.
"Art is portrayal so film and theatre can be used to portray instances of orphans and vulnerable children that we otherwise couldn't see," Davis said. "I wanted to give people an individualized experience, instead of a statistic, so that they can really step in the shoes of someone who was trafficked."
Through the process, Davis and his team experienced challenges in dealing with the heavy material, which proved to be a learning and growing experience for all involved.
"(This project) has further solidified my passion for telling untold stories and portraying those as objectively as possible, not to overdramatize them but to give these experiences to people," Davis said.