Women and Hollywood: How did you come up with the idea for the film?
Larysa Kondracki: I am a Ukrainian Canadian, and the issue of sex-trafficking was very much being discussed in my community. My mother handed me a book, and I was very much drawn to the subject. But it was when I read about Kathy’s story that I was blown away by how widespread a crime this was. The corruption and cover-up within the UN, US State Department and other international governments was stupefying. I couldn’t believe a film hadn’t already been made.
WaH: Did you always know that you would direct the film?
LK: Yes. The script was read by several agencies, and we were pitched a lot of amazing directors, but I knew this was my story. I hung on to it, and never gave it away. It just made sense to do this.
WaH: For a first time director you were able to get such an amazing cast. How did that happen?
LK: That’s true. I think at the end of the day, it was ultimately the story. Here’s a chance to play real, nuanced characters. That was what the cast was attracted to. There’s a dearth of great roles, and I think especially so for women. I was humbled, but also excited to see that actors are really just searching for great projects, not necessarily big pay-checks or sure hits. Everyone wants to challenge themselves, and this was definitely a challenge. I think that’s exciting for any artist.
WaH: It’s very hard for people to see films about tough subjects especially in the summer. Why will your film be different?
LK: Ultimately, this is a thriller. It’s a Robert Ludlum plot, really. Is she gonna get the girl. People can hear the words BOSNIA and SEX-TRAFFICKING, and that may sound tough. But this is a classic David and Goliath yarn. A woman in the center of a huge conspiracy. At the end of the day, it’s a great story about an ordinary woman who does an extraordinary thing.
WaH: There have been many documentaries on sex trafficking and very few features. How can a feature make people aware of an issue in a way a doc can’t?
LK: That’s a hard question to answer, and I don’t think there’s a straight-forward answer. It depends on a story. I don’t think MARCH OF THE PENGUINS would make a good live-action feature. But it was a great movie. This film is inspired by Kathryn Bolkovac, who did an extraordinary thing. It’s not just about a subject matter. She’s a great character.
WaH: What was the hardest part about making this film?
LK: At the end of the day, what makes a film hard to make, is probably the reason you’re making it in the first place.
WaH: What do you want people to think about when they leave the theatre?
LK: That one person can make a difference. And there’s no excuse for complacency.
WaH: What advice do you have for other female directors?
LK: Don’t think to hard about it. You aren’t a “female director”. You’re a director. Just do it.
WaH: What’s next for you?
LK: I have two projects. One is a script that Eilis Kirwan, my co-writer on THE WHISTLEBLOWER wrote. It’s an adaptation of a book called BURNING RAINBOW FARM. A kind of THELMA & LOUISE meets BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID story about two guys in Michigan who fought to live their life their way. The other is an original story called BORDERLAND, which is an epic-horror fantasy set during World War II.