HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A coming-of-age drama short film examines how trauma presents itself when unhealed through the lens of a misguided 25-year-old college student who is trying to escape the grips of human trafficking by selling truffle sauce.
"Truffle Sauce" is a short film written by Shannan E. Johnson and directed by IYO Visuals CEO Isaac Yowman.
"My goal as the director of this film was to have viewers excited to view a new dope film and by the end have their mind blown. Like, 'Wow. How can I make a difference? How can I contribute to the change?' I'm excited for everyone to see how this story unfolds," Yowman said.
In 2020, a total of 987 human trafficking cases in Texas were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the second-most of any U.S. state after California.
But this is a fraction of the actual number of cases. By definition, human trafficking is difficult to detect and difficult to measure.
Johnson says she hopes this short film will help spread the awareness, especially in Houston.
"A lot of people understand that human trafficking exists. But, it's usually not a conversation that people are having around their table," said Johnson. "We're (Houston) at the top of the list for it (human trafficking). So, it's opening that conversation for people to realize that it's happening in their own backyard."
In Texas, human trafficking is believed to be highest within the "Texas Triangle" that connects the Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas-Fort Worth metro areas, and the lower Rio Grande Valley, according to foster care and adoption non-profit UpBring.
"You see it when you are in Houston. If you're on Bissonnet. If you're on Westheimer. If you're on Richmond. If you're on Jensen. If you're on Greens Road. It's not just in one community. It's all over," Yowman said.
Researchers at the University of Texas School of Social Work estimate that, at any given time, 313,000 people are being trafficked in Texas. That includes 79,000 children and youth who are victims of sex trafficking and 234,00 adults who are victims of labor trafficking.
Johnson and Yowman said that choosing the cast, creatives and crew were very intentional. The crew is based in Houston, and the cast is from all over Texas to help spark the conversation within everyone's community.
"I wanted to uplift this story and tell it through a lens where people can see themselves within the characters," Yowman said. He said this perspective will help viewers notice that the everyday person could be dealing with trauma.
Yowman said he not only wanted to help bring the vision to light, but he also wanted to make it a collaborative effort and uplift the women involved in the creative process.
"Human trafficking does not discriminate. It does not discriminate on age. It does not discriminate on race. It does not discriminate on gender," Johnson said. "It happens to women, men, children. Everyone."
The film's debut features seven screenings open to the public in June at various locations such as MATCH Theater, The Deluxe Theater, Microsoft, VGN Bae Studios, and others to assist in bringing awareness to human trafficking. "Truffle Sauce" screened in Houston at the Studio Movie Grill CityCentre location on Wednesday night.
To report a human trafficking tip, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or visit humantraffickinghotline.org
To see more coverage on human trafficking, click here.