"There has never been a film like this before. It is really in a category of its own."
- Carole Dean, President at Roy W. Dean Film Grants
Hi, my name is Niclas Gillis and I am the writer and director of Hold Me Down. Based on the experiences of Unique Adams, the film tells the moving story of an 18-year-old single mother in The Bronx who turns to prostitution as a means of survival. This film is very important to me because it addresses issues that currently affect some of my dearest friends and collaborators on this project.
All the parts in the film will be played by real women from the Bronx. Whether they've had to engage in the activities depicted, still do, or have merely been around it, they've all experienced the conditions that push so many young girls into that scenario.
Our goal is to give them the opportunity to raise awareness about the issues that they face and to show the countless other young women who live in similar circumstances that they're not alone and their story matters.
We've already raised 80% of the total budget, and now we just need the last bit to bring this important story to the world. With your help we can make that happen, so please take a moment to get to know the women who star in the film by viewing the video portraits below and join us on this journey.
Thank you for your time.
HOW IT STARTED
I first became aware of the issues that the film addresses when I moved to America from my native Sweden six years ago. I was nineteen years old and I came to attend SUNY College at Old Westbury, way out in the sticks of Long Island.
As far as I can recall, I was the only white male student living in the college campus dorms, and being Swedish, I stuck out pretty painfully. I only remained there for a semester, but it was the most eye-opening five months of my life up until that point.
One night, my classmates invited me to what I thought would be a regular house party in Harlem, but that turned out to be something entirely different. A big man patted us down before entering the run-down residential building. Once inside, we were encouraged to exchange our larger bills for singles. When I discovered the reason, it proved to be an encounter that would change the course of my life.
The women inside were either naked or clad in fishnets and thongs, selling lap dances for singles, and sexual services for little more.
AN UNFORGETTABLE ENCOUNTER
My heart burst when I witnessed an 18-year-old girl have sex with a man on the floor of a crowded room for single dollar bills. I asked her if she was ok. She shook her head. She told me that she and her two-year-old daughter were homeless, and that this was what she had to do to support the two of them.
In the six years that followed, I couldn’t get that encounter out of my mind. It prompted me to seriously begin to study the conditions that she and millions of other young women still have to battle in their everyday lives.
The more I learned, the more important it became for me to do something about it. I felt that the reality that I had come to understand stood in stark contrast to that which I saw presented in media, and which people seemed to be talking about.
These women have an important story to tell, and it became my mission to provide them with a platform on which to tell it. This was the beginning of Hold Me Down.
TANISHA ON THE MESSAGE OF THE FILM
TIANNA ON THE MESSAGE OF THE FILM
To begin the process, I tracked down the guy who had invited me to the party five years earlier. We hadn’t stayed in touch, but I wanted him to give me contact information to some of the women so that I could talk to them. Instead, he told me to go back to a similar event and ask them myself.
In fact, these parties happen every night of the week in both Brooklyn, Queens, Harlem, and the Bronx. This one was at a barbershop and it was there that I met Unique. She told me about her experiences growing up with an abusive mother and absent father, about being sentenced to a juvenile detention center at fifteen for beating a girl up in school who bullied her for her bruises, and of the life that followed.
With no home to return to after her teenage years behind bars, no money, a criminal record, and no working experience, Unique turned to prostitution as a last resort to survive. Now a single mother, her child will have to face the same conditions that she did.
Unique's story is not uncommon. It just hasn’t been told before. Unless people become aware of the reality that so many young women face, nothing can ever be expected to change. It starts with awareness, and that is why Unique and I decided to write a screenplay.
FILM FOR THOUGHT
Productions like Blackfish and Food, Inc. have proven that the medium of film can ignite real progress. Like them, we will direct affected viewers to organizations with the infrastructure to implement change.
Our goal is not just to get women out of prostitution. We want to give the next generation a fair shot at attaining the type of life that they wish to lead. It’s about breaking the cycle.
To do that, it is paramount that all children, regardless of their parents’ financial situation gain access to housing, nutrition, medical care, and education. In New York alone, there are currently 24,000 homeless children. Already at age three, their mental functions may be crippled due to their lack of access to these basic human rights (as per the UN’s definition). Consequently, the majority of them will never make it out of poverty.
This needs to change and that is why we are partnering with organizations such as LIFT Communities. Find out how they help give parents in underserved communities access to the tools they need to improve the lives of their families by visiting their website.
One of the biggest problems in aiding women in these situations is that they may not be aware of the help that is available. Some of our actresses don't even have access to a computer. Already, we have been able to connect several of them with services that they need. Unique and her child were homeless. Now they're on a path to recovery. This is what we want to do on a wider scale.
The film will be shot on an Arri Alexa over a seven-day period on location in the Bronx with the participation of local crew this summer. Following the festival premiers, the film will be used for educational purposes by the organizations that we work with to continue to raise awareness where it is needed the most.
Hopefully, Hold Me Down will ultimately find a home on an online platform like Netflix or Hulu, where it will be available to millions of viewers around the world.
Writer & Director: Niclas Gillis, www.niclasgillis.com
Producer: Stephen Buchanan, founder & CEO of More Media
Co-Producer: Anette Brantin, producer at Bob Film Sweden
Line Producer: Rachel Diamond, producer at Atlantic Pictures
Associate Producer: Prince Combs
Executive Producer: Michael Huffington, founder of Huffington Pictures
Executive Producer: Lucy Bidwell, development at Show of Force
About the Director
Niclas Gillis started studying film production in night classes at Stockholm University at age fifteen and enrolled in a full time media high school a year later. He soon directed commercials for a variety of Swedish companies, including X2 Technology and Beta Sport Marketing, and spent his summer break in 2007 working as a trailer producer for European television at Viasat in London, England. He had his first starring role as an actor in The Ape, directed by Jesper Ganslandt (official selection of the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals) the following year.
Since moving to New York at nineteen, Gillis continued his studies in night classes at New York University and Michael Howard Studios. He directed video content for companies like the New York Times, The Line Hotel, and Native Son, the last of which was compared to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Teorema by New York Magazine. He is a contributing writer on film for The Last Magazine, and a story analyst for the Swedish Film Institute and Universal Pictures International.
Gillis is represented by Untitled Entertainment.
Risks and challenges
There are many risks involved in making a film in this environment and I can't help but worry each time I don't hear back from the women I'm working with. This year alone, several of them have experienced severe assault. But that is precisely why this film is important. That is why I've worked 80-hour weeks for the past several months, and that is why I will not rest until this story gets told, and these women get to where they deserve to be.
But I can't do it alone. Making a film is expensive, especially if you want to make it well. That is why I turn to you.
Thank you for your time.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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