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By Hailey Barrett

Film and Media Studies major Katelyn Zamudio co-produced a ground-breaking documentary on human trafficking that premiered in March at UC Santa Barbara’s Pollock Theater. 

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The documentary looks at human trafficking through the perspectives of a pimp, a prostitute and law enforcement agents and illustrates the harmful effects of human trafficking on the city of San Diego. The UCSB student film crew collaborated with prosecutors and survivors of human trafficking, as well as activists fighting against it, to give voice to those who have experienced modern sexual slavery firsthand.

The initial idea for the film was pitched by one of Zamudio’s classmates in a film course at UCSB. With prior knowledge about the topic of human trafficking and a heavy passion for social justice, Zamudio was quick to join the film crew.

 Zamudio worked extremely hard to tell individual stories with authenticity and artistry. I had the chance to sit down with her recently and discuss the production and her career path.

Q. What made you decide to become a Film and Media Studies major?

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A. My initial plan was to major in Communication, but once I started doing videos for The Daily Nexus, I realized that I wanted to further my skills in photography and video. I have always been super passionate about film and started acting and modeling when I was nine years old. I was always fascinated by photography so I transitioned to the other side of the camera in high school. While working for the Nexus, I met several film majors who encouraged me to take production classes at UCSB. After genuinely enjoying the classes, I transitioned into the Film and Media Studies major and began taking additional film classes that following summer.

Q. What has been your greatest takeaway from the Film and Media Studies major thus far?

A. The theory courses within the major have really improved my overall production skills. In order to analyze and write about a film, you have to look at every detail and analyze the significance of every decision the filmmaker makes. Being able to watch something and see how the camera angle and lighting affect the entire story is so powerful. Within my theory courses, I have learned to identify these connections and apply them to my own work. Now, when I create content, whether it be photo or video I think about how each detail will influence the meaning of the photo.

Q. Have you always been interested in producing documentaries and how did you get involved in the production of Playdolls?

A. I always knew that I wanted to do production. I am extremely passionate about making, editing and creating a scene. After hearing one of my classmates pitch the idea for Playdolls, I immediately wanted to get on board. I am from San Diego and have been involved in various social justice projects in the area. I am familiar with the topic of human trafficking and wanted to join the crew in order to help spread the word.

Q. What is the main idea behind Playdolls and how did it originate?

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A. Playdolls is a film about looking at human trafficking through various perspectives: the pimp’s perspective, the prostitute’s perspective and the law’s perspective. Although each story is so different, they all fall under the same category of human trafficking. The way the law portrays human trafficking and the way the law interacts with prostitution and pimping is completely different. There is a really blurred line between human trafficking and we wanted to bring attention to it within the documentary.

Our original plan was to focus on human trafficking in Santa Barbara. As we started to investigate, we weren’t finding much of a story. While talking to one private investigator, he mentioned that there have been multiple cases reported in San Diego. We started traveling to San Diego on the weekends and found several people who had been involved in human trafficking. The production really came to life once we started interviewing the victims.

Q. Did you form close relationships with anyone in the documentary?

A. Basically everyone, which was really hard. We interviewed a model named Monica, who was assaulted and human trafficked by her photographers. Then we interviewed a pimp, who was accused of human trafficking and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Although they were completely different individuals, I felt so connected to both of their stories and I sympathized with them equally. When you take the time to listen to someone’s story, you can find similarities with yourself in these people, despite where they come from.

Q. Was this your first time producing a documentary?

A. Yes, this was the first time I have produced a documentary. I was so excited when I received the opportunity. The most important thing for me as a producer was to tell a story that hadn't been told before. Everyone has a preconceived notion around the idea of human trafficking, but so few people actually know what it is. I think a lot of the time there is a common narrative of everything, so I wanted to create a film that exposed a different reality or story.

As a producer I wanted to make sure we were showing different sides and different perspectives. I am never saying one side is right and one side is wrong, or holding one’s value above the other. I respect each person’s experience and see how they all work within one system. 

Q. Are you working on any other documentaries in the near future? Human trafficking is a very heavy topic. Do you have any additional projects that address such substantial issues?

A. I was recently asked to join Alex Whitt’s production crew. Whitt is an extremely talented American television news journalist and I am beyond excited to work with her. I am genuinely excited to see what we can accomplish as a team. We are currently working on a film that focuses on the Chernobyl disaster in Russia and its impact on Russian society. We are focusing on a mother and her child who navigate through paranoia. This event is such an important topic to discuss and there is so much potential for our film. I am extremely excited to see where things go and I cannot wait to share it with the world.

Hailey Barrett is a third year Sociology major. She wrote this for her Journalism for Web and Social Media class.

The student film crew for  Playdolls,  a documentary on human trafficking in San Diego produced by Film and Media Studies student Katelyn Zamudio, that premiered at UCSB’s Pollock Theater in March.

The student film crew for Playdolls, a documentary on human trafficking in San Diego produced by Film and Media Studies student Katelyn Zamudio, that premiered at UCSB’s Pollock Theater in March.