Q&A with Wendy Wilkins, Director of “Death on the Border”
What inspired you to write and direct this movie?
The movie is inspired by true events from when I was a young cop and shines a light on domestic violence and trafficking of children. I wanted to make a narrative movie that would be a roller coaster ride for the audience and for them to feel hopeful at the end.
Though I was a cop in Australia the themes are universal and this is a very American story.
I have had many audience members contact me and say they enjoyed the movie and thank me for making a movie about such important subject matters. Of course I have had many also say how much they loved watching Danny Trejo and Eric Roberts interact on the screen together again.
There are some great young new talented actresses in the movie too. People love the original music and songs. Our music supervisor/composer, Jen Wilson, brought together Keaton Simons, Kyle Rothfield, Kaina and the young actress who played Anna, Aria Perry, a trafficked child, sang her original song, Girls, about empowering girls. I happened to film her singing the acapella version in between takes on set and we ended up using it in the credits. It’s a powerful song.
Our DP, Tom Colley and I found some amazing locations around the surroundings of Los Angeles which helped create some beautiful cinematic shots.
You have a few known names on board in the casting. How did you get Eric Roberts and Danny Trejo, Shannon Elizabeth involved?
They liked the script and the subject matter, all these actors are activists and involved in philanthropy. So to be able to through a narrative form get more attention on these issues was important to them too. Kiko Ellesworth , Iseluleko Ma’at El O, who plays Manny in the movie, is an emmy award winning actor with countless tv and movie credits ( over 300 episodes of the tv series Port Charles) came back to acting after many years specifically to play this role because of the subject matter. He has a business helping men with their self mastery and steering away from any violence.
Why is it important to highlight the issues of sex trafficking/human trafficking?
As mentioned it is the fastest growing crime in the world. Watching the news and documentaries can be overwhelming sometimes but through a narrative form can help to think more subconsciously sometimes. An aunt of one of the young actresses, Joan Kelley Walker, attended the opening night at the Beverly Hills Film Festival. She does a lot of work with child activism. After the screening she said it made her think more about how to look out for signs of possible traffickers. A producer on our film, Julia Verdin has a nonprofit, http://Artists4change.org , came on board to help because of the subject matter. She has made several movies shining a light on the subject matter and a woman, after watching saw a girl being dragged into a house in the Hollywood Hills and reported to the police her concerns. This helped uncover a trafficking ring.
You mention the message is empowering- can you elaborate? What do you hope people take from the film? Any specific calls to action for the audience?
The film has just had a theatrical release here in the USA and is now available on many platforms here and also Youtube Canada. I hope that people (especially women) after they watch the movie feel that they are, not alone, if they have been through any of these experiences or caught up in a bad situation. I hope it empowers people to take action to make a positive difference in the world. Not to look the other way. Create dialogue.
I hope we will be shown around the world as this is a universal movie with universal themes and keep shining a light and creating dialogue for positive change.
Any highlights (festival wins, etc.) or premieres for the film? What’s next for the film?
As mentioned we had a wonderful theatrical release after premiering opening night at the Beverly Hills Film Festival. It was wonderful to have it show on the big screen to a full house theater where they hold the Academy awards. We had a wonderful response. We already had distribution through VMI worldwide so we didn’t do the festival circuit, except for The Beverly Hills Film Fest. And now we just had our USA release so it is now available to watch on these platforms. It is also available to watch on youtube Canada, Amazon, AppleTV, VUDU, _Spectrum.
What’s next for you as a director?
I have been approached with a few projects, however currently I am concentrating on developing my own, including developing my memoir , Sex, Love & Cops about my five years as a young cop, and literally popping my cherry both my first loves and sexual awakening, my first murder arrest, my undercover work as a street prostitute etc. I see it as a modern day Sex and The City but with cops. I recently saw Sydney Sweeney in the movie Unreal and of course had seen her work in Euphoria. She has such a range. I could see her playing the young version of me, the naivete mixed with being thrown into harrowing situations. I would love to work with her.