What was the inspiration behind the story of A Dance For Bethany?
I think that inspiration comes when we are ready to do something about what is already in our heart. I was actually going to write a novel and began to think of what I wanted to say when I felt strongly that I was to write a screenplay. I guess you can say God interrupted my life that day. When I started the outline a lot of what I was dealing with personally (as far as the direction I saw our country heading) was coming to my mind. The dignity that we seem to be losing in America had been on my mind for quite some time. So, I thought about that, and then I thought of women specifically, and stripping … it just came to my mind. The sex issues in our country have been blasting us in the face for decades but more in recent years, and that was a big burden for me. Why? That was the question I asked myself. Why? So I created a character that was caught up in a world of stripping and prostitution and then I created a reporter — who is always good to have in a story — to come and rescue her, so that was the inspiration; the loss of dignity — the self-degradation — that I see in our country and what we could do about it.
Why did you decide to focus on sex trafficking?
You know, it was actually something that came to me. It was something that I had to do. I was in LA at the Screenwriters EXPO, attempting to actually sell my screenplay. When I was packing to come home and had the television on, I saw and heard Michele Gillen, a young woman who is actually a reporter on a Fox Network in Miami. She was talking about sex trafficking. And everything I heard come out of her mouth was A Dance For Bethany; it was my story. So I stopped packing and listened more intently to what she was saying and just knew that that was what I was supposed to do; convert that part of the story into sex trafficking rather than just stripping. When I arrived back home I called Terry Coonan, who is the Director for the Advancement of Human Rights at FSU and one of the people on the interview with Michele. I talked with him in depth about the issue and realized that I had created a story that was almost verbatim to what was happening in our country, so I made a few adjustments and tweaked the story and made Bethany a sex trafficked victim rather than just a stripper. And, surprisingly enough, in reality the two are intertwined. So I felt like that was what I was supposed to do with the story.
Is the entire film about Sex Trafficking?
No. The film is actually about a little girl who had a dream to be a dancer and that dream was thwarted because of our political systems’ inability to rid our society of evil, and how they actually keep it alive. And, it’s about a young woman whose ideologies became buried beneath her quest to obtain the American Dream. When the two meet, they became one another’s savior, each rising above the pain and heartache of unattained dreams and into the reality that good does ultimately overcome evil. It’s a story of redemption and of hope, of sacrifice and of courage. A Dance For Bethany is just a great story.
Don’t people usually write a novel first and them make a film out if it?
Yes. I actually did it backwards. The reason I decided to go ahead and write the novel once we were through filming was because I had to create a script for insurance purposes, so in doing that, I used my original screenplay as my template. That is when I realized just how much of the story had been left out of the filming, so I went back and took the challenge of writing the novel to get all of the elements that I wanted to relay in the story, the issues, the characters. You can be much more descriptive in a novel than you can in a screenplay. There was a lot more to Bethany’s character than what was to portrayed.
What were some of those elements?
When a young woman (or a young man) comes out of the brutality of sex trafficking, or any kind of abusive situation, into a wholesome world, that is a scary world for them and they can’t accept it readily. So there’s this on going struggle of, I can’t go back to that world — but I don’t fit in this world, so in Bethany’s character there were some scenes like that and there were some character traits that didn’t get filmed, unfortunately. For example, there is a scene in the movie where Bethany finally accepts a date with Eric, and they go to this really nice restaurant (it was actually Richmond Hill in Asheville). During that time in the restaurant she has this struggle again where she just doesn’t feel like she fits in, so when she runs out of the restaurant, she actually takes the engraved linen napkin from the restaurant with her and that is her link to goodness.
Every young woman that experiences that will have something that she holds on to, and that’s her, her link. That’s her connection, and that keeps her moving forward … and that was left out of the film. Like when Barbara Streisand moved Robert Redford’s hair out of his eyes when he was sleeping. How cool was that? Didn’t we see the depths of her heart, her hopes, and all that she was feeling at that moment in “The Way We Were”? I love those little elements of developing someone’s character to show their soul and what they’re going through. In the novel I was able to put those elements back in . . . and we learn more about Ruby as well.
What are your expectations for A Dance For Bethany?
Oh, there’s so many, but I suppose the first and foremost expectation would be that it touches all people, not just young girls, but it touches all people in a level of their heart that says, yes we need to do something different in this country. It’s a message film per say, it is an entertaining film, it’s an entertaining story, so that we can relate to the characters … but that would be my hope, that it really touches people and I believe that’s happening. Audiences are relating to the characters as normal everyday people. So that’s my greatest expectation, that it touches people’s hearts and moves some to action.
When writing the story it affected me to a large degree, but since seeing it, it has caused me, and my husband, to want to do more in the industry. Not the film industry, which we’re going to do, but in the industry of sex trafficking and it is an industry.
What is said in the screenplay in the story is 100% accurate. Girls are used sexually 30-40 times a day. So it has touched me in a level that I can’t just make a film and go onto the next one. We’re actually working with groups across the country. One such group is the New York Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (NY-CATW). We are terribly burdened to inform and educate people across this country on the realty of it.
We’ve created a campaign called, We’re Worth More. That is the heart of A Dance For Bethany. The prime targets for perpetrators of sex trafficking are the young girls (average age is 12) and boys who have very low self esteem. They don’t know their own worth as human beings, so we are selling those neat silicone bracelets as a reminder that we are worth more. We have created a workbook and a power point presentation for youth leaders to use as a guide for Sunday School lessons, or for any type of group gathering where discussions are predominant in teaching and educating. Some of the proceeds from the bracelets go directly to some of the groups we are working with.
What kind of research went in to writing this screenplay?
A lot of research. I have read over 500 pages of information from groups who have worked in the field of Sex Trafficking for ten, fifteen, twenty years so the research required a lot of time. We also have had numerous lengthy discussions with principles of those groups.