Mark Mabry talks to Mark Stott, an O.U.R. veteran, about the miraculous meetings that made the production of "The Abolitionists" possible. Because of the financial contributions of two very important donors, O.U.R. created and promoted the film without dipping into any of its regular donations reserved for funding rescue missions. They also discuss the importance of talking about trafficking and other sexual abuse in our society, as well as with children at an appropriate age.
Hello, and welcome to the Slave Stealer Podcast; I'm Mark Mabry. Tim Ballard is standing by, and with me right now we have Mark Stott who was with O.U.R. from the very beginning, served as a board member, served as an advisor, a sounding board to Tim, getting it going, and now, is working as an executive with "The Abolitionists" to get that movie out there.
There were so many interesting...we'll call them miracle stories. We're not scared of miracles on Slave Stealer Podcast because ending this is what it's going to take, is a miracle. But we've got awesome stories in bringing about this movie, "The Abolitionists," - even more awesome stories bringing about O.U.R. in general - but I want to talk about him because there needs to be a bit of recognition and a feeling of the inertia and momentum.
And so, Mark, if you would start us out, with addressing the problem. The problem was we had an idea to push this thing further via a movie - or Tim was approached with that - but we didn't have any money. So, take it from there.
Yeah. Yeah. Back in 2013, the summer of 2013, we met Gerry… We were introduced to Gerry Molen, and uh...
...the producer of Schindler's List and Jurassic Park. And he sat down with us and said, "You guys can go save kids one by one, but if you really want to make a movement, you need to make a movie. And if you'll do that, it will motivate and change the hearts and minds of people across America. To get really behind this." Any great anti-slavery movement had the people behind them. And so, with that in mind, we always knew we should create a movie. That has had, along the way, some really interesting side effects that we didn't know would happen.
The first initial problem was we had no money. Funding a movie is not cheap. You have to fund the individuals to video it, take the time to edit the movie... So, once O.U.R. was funded, we thought, "Ok, what do we need to do?"
One night, Tim got a phone call from an individual he had not met, and said, "I'd like to meet you. I heard about you on the radio, and I heard you want to do a movie. I'd be interested in possibly funding it." So Tim called me up and said, "Mark, let's go," and it was 10:00 at night, and we needed to meet this individual at a hotel, which seemed rather suspicious and strange, frankly…
But not the most suspicious or strange meeting you've ever had in this business.
Multiple times, we've met people in hotel rooms. So, we went with Chet and Fletch, myself and Tim, and met this individual. It was a rather strange moment: there's five guys sharing the story of what we plan to do and the challenge of saving millions of children. We're crying. Five guys crying in a room. And once we shared this story, this terrific individual decided to fund the movie. And it was a significant amount of money.
We're talking in the millions.
Yeah. Yeah. And so, we - Chet and Fletch and I - walk down the hall; Tim continued to speak with him. We were standing in the elevator... And Chet and Fletch have tried to raise funds for movies before, and I looked at them and said, "Has it ever happened that way before?" They started laughing and said, "Never." In the meantime, Tim is hugging the funder and he comes walking down the hall - and coming from the government, he had no experience in raising money like this - and he came and asked the same question, said, "Does this ever happen?" And we said, "Never." That was the first…one of the first significant moments we knew this was important - that frankly, God had placed this individual in our path and he offered to make this movie possible.
The significant... There were other miracles as we keep going here. What we didn't realize - even though it was part of the plan - but we didn't realize how significant the footage would be in saving these children.
Well, most of the time, when children like this are saved by police authorities, they are asked to testify and they - particularly in foreign countries - often the predators will go and begin to threaten their families. And the kids will never go take the stand. One is it's too embarrassing, but particularly if they get threats, they won't do it, and these people get off for free. And so what's happened is when all of this video is taken and these films are taken, it's taken from the beginning of the deal to the closing of the deal. All of that is used as evidence and turned over to the authorities. When a jury sees these videos, they don't need the children to testify. So, the over 500 children that have now been saved... Not one of them have had to stand to testify against their abusers.
Because of the work of "The Abolitionists."
Because of the work of "The Abolitionists" movie.
So it's so much more than a film because it…as you were saying, it was the thing that got these kids off the hook from having to testify. It was the thing that locked shut tight all these cases.
Yeah, it's used as significant evidence. It's absolutely, 100%, solid evidence.
And it's going to be... And we've seen it turned the tide of battle and change minds and hearts and introduce this horrific problem in a way that's just about palatable.
Yes. That's one of the great things that, what I also think the genius of the directors. They've been involved in this, they have been there. They are as close to all these people, as close as the team from O.U.R. is, because they have cameras and they're up close and personal. But because of that experience, I believe they did such a great job on the movie because... I've had some mothers say, "You're talking about a terrible topic, but you've done it in such a respectful way, particularly of the children, that rather than leaving feeling dark and ugly about the topic, I felt motivated to help."
So, my hat's off to the directors who put this together; they did it in such a way that we didn't have to get into the real, real ugly, because that's easily imagined. We don't need to see it.
Disclaimer, though. It's definitely not a Disney flick.
It's definitely not a Disney flick.
Don't bring your kids right off the bat. See it first.
Right. Right. Right. I've had my 10-year-old son see it, my 13-year-old daughter see it.
They liked the show. They like it. We had a couple kids the other night that the mothers said, "I want my sons to grow up with a purpose in life, and I want them to be the kind of people that these men are." And so she had them watch it.
We asked them how they liked it, and there's enough cops and exciting things going on that the boys liked it. So, it was interesting, but certainly, parental guidance is suggested. You need to have your...
Parental preview, even, maybe.
There you go. Yeah.
I agree. Because I've been wondering: do I take my 11-year-old, turning 12, son? You may have just helped me with the decision. There was another miracle: so, movie made, evidence secured, and it's expensive - I mean, there's tons of equipment, like little hidden spy gear. There is finding filmmakers gutsy enough to get arrested in third-world countries over and over and over...
And a lot of travel. Tons of editing, I mean... You're shooting these things from 12 different angles...
Sometimes up to 25 cameras in one room, yeah.
Yes! It's insane! And so, someone has to sift through this footage, and that's not cheap. So that's... A film budget can be gobbled up very quickly.
As this was. And I think, man...talk about holy dollars in terms of the film world, because it was evidence.
But we ran out of money and how do you promote the film? Enter guy number two, miracle number two...
That's right. Yeah, Tim called me about five months ago and said, "Mark, you know, Gerry Molen had this vision of what this would do... The movie is now shot; it's done, it's been edited, it's ready to go, but we're down to nothing." And again, this was privately funded so it didn't take from donor dollars because we felt it was very sacred if people donated to...
Very important point.
...if people needed to donate to O.U.R., that money was set aside to make sure we're saving children. So the movie was privately funded so it was very clear that it was for the movie. So we sat here and Tim called me up and said, "Mark, we need some funds to promote this and get this across the world, and across the United States particularly." So we, again... The second miracle, financially, is we were on a plane - and we have a friend of ours that does pretty well. We told him of the problem, and he basically said, "If you'll gather a team of individuals to promote this and present a plan to me, I feel it's important enough that, frankly, if I don't get my money back, if we can show the world what's going on, I'll give you the money." And again, it was over...it was a seven figure number to promote the movie, and he handed them over full well knowing he may or may not ever get that back.
And the promotion of this film... To make the film was one thing. Promoting it is so important because that was the point of the thing, is to get the word out in a way that people could understand it.
And wrap their hearts around it.
Yeah. And we've seen significant... As we've shown previews, as we've done pre-screenings and had audiences come in... One is the motivation to get involved, and all of a sudden there's people that are a little nervous to come, particularly mothers, and we've seen that with the audience. And after we've encouraged them to come - because, again, it's a heavy topic - but we've seen people come in the door and once they're done, we always ask them at the end, "Are you now an abolitionist? Are you willing to join this fight with us?"
Audiences of hundreds of people now have raised their hand and are joining the fight because of this movie. They now see the problem. They realize there is a solution. They realize that when people join together that we can solve these significant problems. People are raising their hand, they're getting involved, they are doing different actions, they are donating, they're gathering their friends and families to come to this movie. And it's really amazing to see what's happening to people. They feel like they have a purpose.
And of course the end goal is "save kids": save two million kids.
And our highest and holiest is that people walk away and say, what can I do? Well, at the very least, and probably the very most important, is to become an abolitionist in the donation sense. And I can plug the donation thing easily without Tim on the mic. If you go to Operation Underground Railroad's website, ourrescue.org, it says, "Become an Abolitionist." There are high school and junior high kids that donate five bucks a month. There are adults - five bucks a month. There are amazing people that send $1000 a month. Whatever.
But there's a price tag on every single kid's head. There are economics to the rescue, and it's... Depending on how many kids you get, or how many bad guys you get, it always takes money.
Because you've got to find the best law enforcement people to come on board full time, leave their comfy job, often being paid less when they come here - most of the time being paid less with worse benefits - but the benefit is that they are kicking butt in a really fast way.
And making a difference.
And making a difference.
The amazing thing... As this movie is going out, we're getting more and more demand for O.U.R.'s help. We've had multiple countries now opening their doors and inviting us, whereas before we were asking to go in. They are now pulling us in. We have, probably, over five to ten countries now that have basically said, "Come and do what you need to do." We have state attorneys, district attorneys, asking us to come into their districts, and that takes resources. But the team is very effective in their training. It's really quite amazing.
The other...and I'll mention one more thing that's been miraculous, is that, as people come and watch the movie, multiple times we've had individuals that have never shared their story of abuse and they share it with us. It's interesting because this movie has made it an acceptable thing to talk about and has given courage to people that have been abused, and now we've started, actually, several investigations as well of people that have seen this, realized they weren't the only ones, and they said, "I'm no longer hiding what happened to me in the past, and I want people to be held accountable for what he did to me or to somebody that I love." And that's a fantastic thing happening that people no longer... This is not acceptable behavior any longer. This is not something we need to hide. It's something we need to stand up and fight against.
Fantastic. Mark Stott, thank you very much. I'm Mark Mabry for Slave Stealer - I'll see you next time.