Waynflete student’s music video tackles human trafficking
Mike Rodway shot scenes in Portland to accompany Steve Azar's 'The Sky is Falling.'
Sex trafficking is a human tragedy and its happening in Maine.
That’s a message Waynflete School senior Mike Rodway and South Portland Detective. Sgt. Steve Webster are trying to spread, with a big assist from a Nashville recording star.
Rodway has created an emotional music video to go with a new song about human trafficking, a project that victims advocates hope will raise awareness about the issue.
Rodway, 18, made the video to accompany the song “The Sky is Falling (Patti Jo’s Prayer)” by Steve Azar. The musician has had several hits on the country music charts, including “I Don’t Have To Be Me Til Monday,” which made it to No. 2 in 2002; and “Waitin’ on Joe,” which topped the country music video charts.
The project was put together by Webster, a longtime friend of Azar and a passionate advocate for victims of sex trafficking.
“People don’t understand that these women for the most part are just broken. I haven’t met one that enjoys what they do,” Webster said.
The video and song were both released Wednesday. The video appears on YouTube, and several police agencies are sharing it on social media in the hope that it will gain national exposure.
The song tells of a young person who has lost her innocence and feels forsaken because of the path she has followed in becoming a prostitute.
The video opens with a written definition of human trafficking as modern day sex slavery. It then shifts to images of a young woman’s struggle with self-esteem, drugs and ultimately prostitution. Appearing in the shots, as street signs or graffiti, are words describing her situation: “self pity,” “help me,” “vulnerable,” “victim.”
The scenes are shot in the neighborhoods and streets of Greater Portland.
“I think the message is that it’s something that happens – it’s here in Portland. It’s here in Maine. It’s in every state,” Rodway said. “The whole point is to raise awareness and educate.”
SEEKING HAPPIER ENDINGS
Rodway, who is from Hanover and has been making short films since middle school, plans to go to film school next fall, though he hasn’t decided where. He said he had no problem spending five weeks making the video because he believes in its message.
The actress in the video is Emma Walsh, 17, of Oakland, who happens to be Rodway’s girlfriend. They met while he was shooting testimonials for Funtown Splashtown USA Saco.
Rodway said Webster gave him a general theme and a group of words to work into the video, and used “The Sky is Falling” to set the mood.
Webster remembered Rodway shooting a video short at the South Portland police station a couple years ago and asked him if he’d work on the sex-trafficking project. Webster also produced the video.
Webster’s friendship with Azar dates back a decade to a Maine Association of Police function. When Azar agreed to write a song about human trafficking at the request of a woman in South Dakota, he turned to his friend, whom he knew was passionate about the issue.
Azar said it was a difficult song to write.
“Everyone out there is someone’s little girl; which is heartbreaking,” Azar said in a written release about the song. “As a society, it’s tough to even talk about, but hopefully I got it right, so a long overdue discussion can take place. We need to turn those who have been led astray back to where there is love, hope and life in their lives”.
The video ends optimistically. The woman has escaped her former lifestyle, and appears alongside the words: “I am valuable,” “Survivor,” “I’m going home.”
“We’re trying to show there is hope for these people who are involved,” Rodway said. “Not every story has a happy ending but we’re trying to make it so that there are more happy endings, and there is hope.”
HELPING THE VICTIMS
Webster hopes the video also conveys another truth: prostitutes are victims more than they are criminals.
“Some do it to support a drug habit. Some do it cause they have a pimp that ‘owns’ them,” he said.
Webster said the words that accompany the video are the sentiments of prostitutes he has encountered while working to put sex traffickers in jail.
“I was just as guilty as everybody else. For years when I thought ‘prostitute’ I thought ‘bad,’ ” he said. Then he met with a Gray couple whose daughter was being trafficked.
“These were some of the nicest people in the world, in a beautiful house. … When the father of the 23-year-old woman showed me her picture on his phone it was heartbreaking,” he said. “If this can happen to their daughter, it can happen to anyone.”
That woman is in a better place now, he said.
Besides raising awareness, “The Sky is Falling” could bring tangible help.
Anti-trafficking efforts are largely about helping women break free and stay free, Webster said. Shelters have now opened, like Saint Andre Home’s Project TLC in Bangor, specifically for human trafficking victims. They offer a broad range of counseling and other services needed to help prostitutes reclaim their lives.
Azar has donated several songs to charity and proceeds from “The Sky is Falling” are going to support anti-trafficking efforts. At the end of the video is a link to www.nothere.me, the website for the Not Here Justice in Action Network, a Maine nonprofit co-founded by Auburn Police Chief Phillip Crowell Jr.
“In order for the cycle to be broken, the person being trafficked needs to have hope,” Crowell said in a statement. “As a community, we must stand ready to knock down the barriers of oppression. We must help the trafficked person in their journey to survival.”