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Film Trailer: “The Long Night” Coming Soon from MediaStorm, Tim Matsui, and The Alexia Foundation

November 3rd, 2013

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View the original post at the Alexia Foundation’s blog on 9/04/2013.

The Long Night, a feature film by Tim Matsui and MediaStorm, gives voice and meaning to the crisis of minors who are forced and coerced into the American sex trade. See the project at http://mediastorm.com/publication/the-long-night

From the Alexia Foundation’s blog:

“Tim’s honesty and belief in the importance of the story allowed him access to these difficult scenes and emotions. Carey Wagner worked with Tim to provide additional footage and encouragement. The Long Night is a testimony to the lives of those who have lived, and survived, the crisis of domestic minor sex trafficking.

“This isn’t a film with an agenda,” explains Tim Matsui. “It’s a story about people facing circumstances that I cannot imagine having to deal with myself.”

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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “The Motel, Part 2″ A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

October 20th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 10/15/2013.

(Caption: Lisa in an interview room while in jail. She was arrested for prostitution and spent a week in jail, just long enough to suffer through the physical effects of heroin detox.)

I happened to drop in one evening when Lisa wanted to do a movie and dinner in Jane’s motel room. Lisa wasn’t there yet, so I accompanied Jane to the grocery store across the street.

Jane left home at 13, spent the last of her teenage years in Mexico, and has four children with an abusive husband. She has another child with a boyfriend who spends more time in jail than not. She’s got a crack habit. And she’s got a soft spot for Lisa.

This wasn’t always the case. As we walked through the produce aisles, picking avocados for fresh guacamole, Jane confessed she’d been pretty mean to Lisa. I don’t remember the details, but it seems that on the street, especially with drugs, you don’t have much more than your reputation.
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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “The Motel, Part 1″ A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

October 15th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 10/11/2013.

There’s a series of low-slung motels along Pacific Highway South. They sit side-by-side, their balcony-style hallways shouting distance apart. Every day, thousands of cars stream along the median-split thoroughfare, passing weathered signs and week-long specials.
I visited one motel regularly, looking for Lisa, the girl in the robe. Since she hung out in the area, I did too.

In August, hundreds of cops descended on the motels. They drove up with armored vehicles, wore black tactical gear, and shut the motels down. The cops said the motels were “crime dens.” The owners allowed residents to sell drugs and prostitution – the phrase needs reworking, another work to make it clearer – to sell drugs and to commit prostitution, something like that, taking a fee for each visitor, each transaction.

I’d heard complaints about the owners and their fees. But the people living there, many who were self-admitted addicts, didn’t see much choice. It was part of the lifestyle.

What follows are a series of vignettes from the place I frequented while filming “The Long Night.”
Some names have been changed.

Jane waiting at the motel, her room busy.

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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “Tom, A Father’s Search for His Daughter” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 29th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 6/27/2013.

He’s a big man, tall and broad in the shoulder, with large hands. They are no longer rough and calloused, like I imagine they were when he was a trucker. The deep huskiness of his voice, a smoker’s, lends itself to the cadence of his speech. Deliberate, thoughtful, and paced so a drag on the cigarette feels natural.

Tom, along Pacific Highway South, also known as "the track."

Except that night.

Tom was speaking fast, a fluid stream-of-consciousness monologue. The window to the rental car was cracked, drawing his smoke out into the evening air. Rap played loudly on the satellite radio.

“To be a hunter,” he said, “you need to think like your prey.”

“I hate this music,” he gestured toward the dash, “But I used to listen to it. It’s what they listen to.”

Tom was showing me what he used to do, every day, while his daughter was missing. He would start in Tacoma, amongst the seedy motels and clubs, then drive Highway 99 north until Everett. The old highway changes names along the way; Pacific Highway South, International Boulevard, Aurora. But for many it is just one thing: The Track. It’s where one goes to find prostitutes, and Tom knew his daughter was one.

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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “Lisa, the First Detox” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 20th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 6/19/2013.

Mid morning, I forget the day, and she texted. ALL CAPS. I used to have a regular work schedule, but with some of the late nights I’ve been keeping it’s been hard. First it was riding with the cops, on a 5pm to 1am shift, but recently I’ve been following Lisa, the young woman in the robe.

She seems to live in three hour increments, which is about the longest she’ll go between getting high. She’s doing nearly three grams of black a day, often cooking the tar-like heroin with a couple crystals of meth. The clockwork of her habit supersedes all other things; daylight, food, shelter and especially me, the tag-along journalist she sometimes lets into her life.

“SORRY ABOUT LAST NIGHT MY BAD BUT HEY I NEED A HUGE FAVOR I NEED TO GET A HOLD OF SOMEONE FROM GENESIS ASAP MY PHONE IS ABOUT TO DIE AND NO CHARGER BUT I AM AT SAFEWAY ON 216 AND WANT TO CHECK INTO DETOX NOT NOW BUT RIGHT NOW BEFORE I CHANGE MY MIND AS LONG AS ITS MEDICAL THO”

Lisa grabs a last smoke before entering the detox center.

Catch as catch can. Sometimes she reaches out, only to disappear. Sometimes I find her, walking, working. This time she was making a big move. She’s got my number, because I’m persistent, but had lost the number for the Genesis Project, a drop in center started by police for people like her.

When we arrived, she was fidgeting at an outdoor table, amazingly still there. She hadn’t slept in the past couple of days and had been “around,” essentially drifting between friends’ motel rooms and different dates. With the rain, she didn’t have a lot of those. She has a few regulars, but Lisa primarily prostitutes from the street. She’s been doing that for six years, when she was turned out by a pimp at 13. He’s in jail now, for murder.
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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “The Sting and a Changing of the Guard” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 17th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 6/13/2013.

It was scheduled for two nights, and the list of players was long. FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Seattle Police, Sheriff’s Office, SeaTac police, and some others. They slip my mind.

The sting was a joint operation, run by the Sheriff’s Office, and took place in SeaTac. This is the home turf of the detectives I’ve been following, so I had an in with them, but it was tenuous. Given the number of agencies involved, the sergeant was wary of my presence.

Detective Joel Banks Interviews a Prostitute

I felt my access could change at any moment, leaving me out in the cold, but in this case I got closer. The guarded looks I first received became more relaxed; the cops I didn’t know soon became real people. But the oddness of the situation still hit me: one journalist, some 20 cops, sex workers, and a hotel room. It’s an oddness I feel with this project as a whole for, as the story increases in complexity, I am being drawn deeper into the lives of my subjects.

The operation itself was pretty simple. Find underage girls working in the commercial sex industry and, using the blunt tool that arrest provides, attempt to get them out of the life and connect them with aftercare services. If they arrested a pimp in the process, all the better, but that’s a lot more complicated.
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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “The Robe” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 17th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 2/11/2013.

There was one girl, recently, whose story hit me little harder. She was giving a guy a blow job when they walked up to the car. She was 19 and high on heroin. Although she’s a pimp-less ‘renegade,’ she was turned out by a pimp at 13. She picked up the heroin along the way. She now bounces from motel to motel, selling herself to pay for the rooms and her habit, everything she owns fitting into a pink school bag.

The Girl in the Robe

They took the guy to jail and they took her to the Genesis Project. The aftercare center is only funded enough to function part-time. They turned on the heat, the lights. Seinfeld was on the TV. Two on-call volunteers came in. She was hungry and chose a frozen chimichanga from the well-stocked kitchen, using the plastic fork and knife like an 8 year-old. They gave her a long, terry cloth robe.

“I’ve never worn a robe,” she said, a little incredulous, her voice dulled by the heroin.

“Well do me a favor and keep that one,” Brian, one of the detectives and co-founders said. “And then when you leave here, I want you to take a big old bag of clothes.”

She clasped her hands in from of her face, as if to pray, and started to cry.

“It’s ok,” he said. “This is why this is here, because we care about you.”

“I want you to feel at home here,” he continued. “I want you to feel like you can come here any time you want, go in the fridge and grab yourself something to eat, because this is yours….your family just increased by about 120 people.”

“We do this because we care about you guys.”

“Why,” she asked. “I don’t even care about myself.”

Before leaving, I knelt beside the couch. I reintroduced myself, reiterating that I was documenting the cops and the center. I reassured her she wouldn’t be identifiable, but gave her the option, if she wanted to speak with me later. She offered to sign something then, but it was too soon, and she was still high.

She’d come in wearing a short tube dress. To warm up, they’d given her a long sleeve t-shirt and pajama bottoms to go with her robe. She lay on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, eating peanut M&M’s, and watching Family Guy.

She turned back to me.

“Do I look normal?” she asked.

I nodded.

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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “Endless Loops” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 17th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 2/05/2013.

Access aside, I don’t think I could be out there every night.

It’s eight hours of endless loops around a short stretch of Pacific Highway South, looking for prostitutes. It’s chatter on the push-to-talk Nextels, against a background of radio calls with Dispatch; an aural web of bad things happening in SeaTac. And it’s waiting, watching traffic, seated in an Andy’s overheated passenger compartment, a shotgun strapped to the ceiling.

Deputy Andy Conner

It’ll go something like this:

“I’ve got one,” Brian might say over the Nextel. “Walking north past the Casino. She’ll be by you soon, Rich.”

“Does she look young?” Joel might ask.

“Yeah,” Brian might respond. “She’s got a hooker jacket. She’s looking back at traffic…she’s definitely trying to make contact.”

Time passes. She’ll keep walking, leisurely, her short-cropped jacket with its faux fur-lined hood one of the markers the detectives look for.

“I think we know her,” Rich, the Sergeant, might say from his vantage point.

“Remember that one from…” and he’ll cite a previous arrest, trying to dredge up the name.

They will follow her for a bit, leapfrogging, pulling into parking lots, watching. They’ve ID’d her; she’s not a minor, maybe 20, and she’s already got a SOAP order (stay out of area of prostitution). They could arrest her now, but the focus of their work is to find underaged girls being prostituted by pimps, with the goal of helping the girls get out of the life, arrest the johns and get the pimps, if they can.

But maybe it’s not her night; no one is picking her up. Just as they decide to contact her, either to check in with her or to cite her for violating her SOAP order, Donyelle might come over the Nextel.

“I’ve got a young one,” he’ll say.
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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “Natalie” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 17th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 12/27/2012.

When I felt the first sweat, I was sitting on the floor, in thick brown carpet, with my back to the wood stove. My mouth started to water, filling with that metallic taste accompanying….there it was. Stomach cramp. I knew I was going to puke.

The Hot Seat for the Interview

I put my camera down, still listening to what Natalie (not her real name) was saying, her parents weighing in on occasion. I was there, for her and her family, to tell their story. I’d spent the past three days with them. I’d walked them through an intensely emotional series of interviews; they showed me their life, opening up ever more, a trust of proportion for which I have no scale.

And now I was in their living room, sure I was going to be sick.

I put on my jacket, thinking of an excuse to go out to the car, so I could heave out of earshot; they’d surely hear me in their bathroom. I felt like I had food poisoning, which I’ve experienced often enough. Natalie had cooked that evening and I didn’t want to embarrass her. In fact, they’d been so welcoming I’d eaten nearly every meal with them.
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ALEXIA FOUNDATION: “Graddon” A Women’s Initiative Grant Update

June 17th, 2013

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This was originally posted to the: Alexia Foundation’s blog on 12/21/2012.

The meeting was set up, but not in an “are you available” fashion. The communications officer simply said when it would be.

I arrived at SeaTac City Hall on time, then sat outside a locked door observing a receptionist behind thick glass. Waiting. It was December 4. A mini-summit was happening behind closed doors.

Prior to my request to report on their department’s work on domestic minor sex trafficking, a commercial video production team had worked with them on the same subject. And it got messy. If I were to over-simplify, I would say the film crew got too involved. So when I asked about documenting the work of the department, I felt the need to underscore that I am a journalist, not a participant. I observe.

Major James Graddon

That was in September, and I was growing nervous about being able to tell the story I had proposed for the grant. There was an internal investigation and media policies were being revised; I might not have the access I thought.

My proposal is based on the story of a cop who creates a shelter for prostitutes. He was exasperated by prison’s revolving door. Because some were asking for it, he wanted to find a way to help get the women and young girls he was arresting out of “the life.” He started talking to them, listening to their stories, and came to realize for many they didn’t have a choice; they were living in fear, being run by pimps.
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SOCIAL MEDIA: INTERACT

TIM MATSUI CONTACT INFO

VIEW PROFILE
US mobile: 1.206.409.3069
skype: timmatsui
e: tim(at)timmatsui.com

PO Box 17941
Seattle, WA 98127 USA

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