We had the good fortune of connecting with Julia Verdin and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Julia, what’s the end goal, career-wise?
After I reached a certain age and felt that I had achieved a good successful career, I got to a point where I had to think about what I want to do for the rest of my career and what I want to achieve and contribute to the world. I have always been a great believer in the importance of film and the ability of a film to influence people and instigate change. I love creating stories and making films, so I decided to focus on social impact filmmaking. I feel that by doing that I will be able to create a series of films that will be able to make a difference, help educate and raise awareness on issues like child trafficking, domestic abuse and the homeless crisis.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As a writer, director and producer, I love film and have been making films for many years now. I have produced 40 films, directed 3 feature films and a documentary feature, and have written 3 produced screenplays and had a few others optioned.

I think to succeed in the film business, you have to be willing to work hard. You can’t sit around and hope someone will make things happen for you. You have to create your own luck as it were and take action in an organized and disciplined way. To get a film made, you have to have a great script, with strong roles for actors so you can attract a name cast to get investors or production companies interested. Passion is very important. If you are passionate about getting a certain story made into a film, you will find a way to make it happen. That passion will keep you going and make you willing to do the work needed. Getting a film made is never easy. It takes a lot of hard work, commitment and resilience. You have to be willing to not give up but find a way.

The biggest lesson I have learned is to only work on projects I am passionate about. Find people that are good at their jobs, have integrity and good energy and always create a good work environment for those working around you. Good energy attracts good energy.

I am inspired to write a script when people’s stories or situations touch my heart and stay in my head. I love social impact work so I will go to a lot of non-profit events, talk to people and volunteer. I have always felt very passionate about stopping abuse to children and have done a lot of volunteer work with underprivileged youth.

I am very proud and excited about the new film Maya that I wrote and directed, which will be coming out in theaters and on VOD on January 26th, 2024. Maya stars Patricia Velasquez, Rumer Willis, Rena Owen, Gian Franco Rodriguez, Anthony Montgomery, Billy Budinich and newcomer Isabella Feliciana. It highlights the dangers of minors being recruited by traffickers on social media. Social media sites have allowed traffickers a faster and more effective way to recruit young victims. Online recruitment and grooming increased as children spent more time online for virtual learning, often with little parental supervision.

Isabella Feliciana who plays Maya, the teen who is trafficked gives an amazing performance and what happens to her is heartbreaking. Patricia Velasquez’s character Camila, Maya’s mother, has a faith and willingness to change in order to help her daughter, which is incredibly moving. It’s a story of courage against adversity, good conquering evil, hope and inspiration.

The film is also a mother/daughter story, about their relationship and about the cycle of abuse. Teenager growing up with domestic abuse in their home are likely to get into abusive relationships themselves as it seems “normal” to them. Camila has to find healing and faith to get up the courage to leave her abuser to be able to help her daughter to heal and get out of her abusive situation.

Some can find hope in Camila’s story and fight to improve their situations. Others can find caution in Maya’s story and warn those they know who might be vulnerable to abuse and sex traffickers. The film’s goal is to inspire communities to look out for the vulnerable amongst them and give them the support they need. There are currently millions of sex trafficking and domestic abuse victims across the United States and globally. More vigilance and reporting is needed to see that they get help.

Research shows that when people are emotionally engaged, they self-educate about a topic and are more likely to act. At-risk teens like Maya need more support. My hope is that it will make a strong impact on audiences and provide some education and awareness for teenagers and parents on this fast growing issue.

I also create short educational documentary type videos to go with the films I make. I created a really strong one to go with Maya with interviews from experts in the field talking about the film in relation to what they have encountered whilst dealing with survivors and fighting these issues, along with cast interviews and related clips from the film.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
There are lots of amazing places to go in Los Angeles! I would take a visiting friend on a hike up Runyon Canyon, to one of the beaches in Malibu, 3rd Street Promenade, the Getty and the Academy museum. Dinner would be at one of my favorite spots like Chateau Marmount, Sunset Towers, The Little Door, Olivetta and the Ivy. I go to a lot of film screenings and Q&A’s and so would take them to one of those too. I also love entertaining at home and so would also have a party for them at my house and invite some of my favorite friends over. Then of course if they visited whilst I was filming, they might find themselves on set with me, or on a research trip down on Skid Row or volunteering to serve lunch to individuals experiencing homelessness.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I founded Artists for Change, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to create high impact film, television, and multimedia projects to inspire individuals, organizations, and communities to bring about positive social change. I would like to dedicate my shoutout to all the volunteers who spend their time working to make our non-profit a success!

We make social impact films and want them to be used to educate and raise awareness. They are available to organizations and institutions for this purpose. We also love it when individuals host screenings for their communities. They can also be used by NGOs to raise funding for the services they provide. When donors get an understanding visually of what an organization is fighting against, it can really help. We have educational presentations available to go with the films that can be used for discussions after the film and a short educational EPK that is available too.

Anyone who wants to connect with us just needs to contact us via the website or by phone. I am particularly proud of the work we have done with Artists For Change – https://www.artists4change.org/

A wonderful lady who runs another NGO, Rescue Party Give, reached out to me after seeing Angie: Lost Girls, one of our films about teen trafficking at a community and outreach screening we had put on and asked if the film could be used for a project she was doing with the University of Texas Dallas. We recently did a screening for all the students at that university and it was a big success. The students were all very engaged and interested and asked a lot of good questions.

We are also always looking for volunteers to help create more educational events, corporate sponsors to help market or support the films, and donations for silent auctions.

Website: roughdiamondproductions.net

Instagram: instagram.com/juliaverdin

Twitter: https://twitter.com/juliaverdin

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/artistsforchange

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@artistsforchange6156

Image Credits
Sasha Dylan Bell

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