Mischa Marcus was born to be a storyteller. As a child, there was nothing she enjoyed more than going to the movies and absorbing the emotion behind the stories like a sponge. Growing up, Mischa Marcus was lucky to turn her passion into a career. Having attended both Chapman University and USC's SCA program, she was able to take what she learned and apply it to telling important stories that are often swept under the rug.
I Am Still Here, now available to stream on Amazon, was a breakthrough for her as a filmmaker, garnering over forty-five festival awards and attending over fifty festivals around the globe.
Mischa is always looking for her next project or collaboration, so if you have an idea and would like to work together, please get in touch.
Shining A Light On Sex Trafficking
May 3, 2018
All over the United States, and the world, the threat of child sex trafficking looms.
The signs aren’t often easy to spot, and there is no typical profile for a perpetrator or a victim. Yet if one remains on the lookout for the subtle signs, such as a tendency for an adult to remain physically close to the accompanying children and an insistence on speaking for them, and informs law enforcement, they could help that child escape a shortened life of abuse.
That was a message Los Angeles screenwriter and director Mischa Marcus sought to emphasize in her debut and award-winning feature film, “I Am Still Here,” which was shown to the public Wednesday night at Lake Area Technical Institute. The movie’s screening was sponsored by the Watertown Initiative to Prevent Sex Trafficking (WIPST).
“That’s the thing about sex trafficking. It doesn’t discriminate based on age, race or gender,” Marcus told the Public Opinion Wednesday afternoon. Inspired to create the film after reading about the police raid of a brothel trafficking victims as young as nine years old near where she went to college in Orange County, Calif., in 2010, Marcus created a composite character, Layla, out of 20 real victim stories.
Set over a period of seven years, the movie follows Layla from the age of 10, when she is first abducted at a park, to 17, when she is rescued. According to Marcus, the timeline adheres closely to the lifespan of the average sex trafficking victim.
“They say if a girl doesn’t get out within eight years, she’ll usually be killed. They have to be rescued before that,” Marcus said. “The idea (of this movie) was to make it so it emphasized that it could happen to anyone in an American family because it can.”
While no violence and sexual assault involving children is explicitly shown, only implied, Marcus sought to make the movie an uncomfortable experience for the viewer so they at least had an idea of what the world of sex trafficking is like.
“You really can’t sugarcoat this kind of subject matter.
It’s a very visceral and immersive experience. The whole thing feels claustrophobic, almost like you’re being trafficked with the girls,” Marcus said. “I have gotten people to come up to me after they’ve seen it and tell me it’s disturbing. My reaction is always, ‘Good. If it disturbs you, then maybe it will make you want to do something about it.’ People live in this world. It’s not a movie they get to walk away from.”
For as disturbing as the final product came out to be, Marcus and other adults involved in the production made sure the set atmosphere was anything but for the children. When not filming, Johnny Rey Diaz, who plays the trafficker Ricky, played games and told jokes to the kids. Parents also read the script before allowing their children to become involved in the production.
“The children didn’t know what we were depicting when we filmed. We were very careful to protect them,” Marcus said.
Based on the accolades, Marcus and everyone involved successfully walked the fine line of creating an impactful and disturbing movie without falling into bad taste. Having been shown in 50 film festivals, “I Am Still Here” garnered a Best Picture award at the Nice International Film Festival in France and Best Drama Feature at the I Will Tell Human Rights Film Festival. Best actor awards were also part of the film’s 35-award haul.
“I didn’t know how people were going to respond to this,” Marcus said. “I knew it was going to be a film that could potentially anger a lot of people. But I’ve always been under the impression that being angry kind of lights a fire in my belly so it makes me want to do something. My goal was to always make people want to do something too.”
ELLE Speaks To The Film Director Putting A Spotlight On Sex Trafficking
Mischa Marcus on her first-time feature I Am Still Here
June 15, 2017
You won't enjoy I Am Still Here. Don't get us wrong: it's a good film. Great, even (the feature recently won Best Feature at the Nice Film Festival). But it's a tough watch. An utterly heartbreaking and highly uncomfortable 104 minutes that will linger long after you've left the cinema, in fact.
But, as first-time director Mischa Marcus rightly says, 'this film is not for your comfort.' She actively wants you to feel uneasy. Unnerved. A little queasy. Why? It details the gruesome realities of sex trafficking - an offense which, according to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, is set to overtake drugs and weapons as society's most pervasive crime. More here...
Deadline: ‘I Am Still Here’ Uncovers America’s Harrowing Sex Trafficking Underworld
May 28, 2017
Last week amid the noise of the Cannes Film Festival, a brave independent film about the atrocities of child sex trafficking, I Am Still Here, took Best Feature at the Nice International Film Festival, one town over on the French Riviera. Directed and written by Mischa Marcus and produced by Stephanie Bell, I Am Still Here, follows 10-year old Layla (Aliyah Conley) during the first 48 hours of her abduction in her neighborhood, and how she battles to escape the underground.
“During my freshman year of college, a brothel housing child sex slaves was busted in a neighborhood close to mine. Hearing this shook me to my core. I was raised to believe I live in our ‘Land of the Free,’ but that day, I discovered slavery, even of children, is still a very real problem,” says Marcus who based I Am Still Here on her exhaustive research of real sex trafficking cases. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, sex trafficking will overtake drugs and weapons as society’s most pervasive crime. Between 2012 to 2016, reported child sex trafficking cases increased close to two-fold. Many go unreported, hence that stat is just the tip of the iceberg. Eighty-one percent are abducted by their “controller” versus abductions over the internet (14%) and by phone (5%). More here...
Awards & Recognition
Beaufort International Film Festival,
Julien Dubuque International Film Festival
The Visionary Award
Pasadena International Film Festival
Best Feature Film
Nice International Film Festival
Platinum Remi Award Docu-Drama
Best Director Award and The Jury Award
Riverside International Film Festival
Jury Prize for Feature
San Antonio Film Festival
Best Drama Feature
I Will Tell Film Festival
Best Narrative Feature Film
Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival
Great Lakes Film Festival
Best Picture Award
Best Narrative Feature
Roxbury International Film Festival
Abbot Award for Most Excellent Feature
Other Venice Film Festival
Singer / Songwriter
Mischa Marcus is a skilled music songwriter and singer. If you are in need of an original song for your film, commercial, or product please reach out for more information.
Click the link below to be taken to Mischa's SoundCloud with original music.