Q & A with Justin Dillon

Call+Response is a unique film that uncovers the brutal truth about human trafficking. Human slavery affects us all …

Call+Response is a unique film that uncovers the brutal truth about human trafficking. Human slavery affects us all—every day you wear, eat, drive or talk into something that’s been tainted by slavery. It’s on all our hands, in our stomachs or on our backs. Using music, creativity and grassroots journalism, this justice rockumentary features celebrities and artists like Natasha Bedingfield, Cold War Kids and Matisyahu.

Neue had a chance to talk with the director, Justin Dillon, about his vision for creating a movement of open-source activism in the fight against human slavery.

What’s the story behind the title “Call and Response”?

When issues of human trafficking literally came into my world, my first response was the most honest. A lot of art is the immediate response to something. The best songs are written in 5 minutes, the best scripts are written in a day, the best paintings are created because of an immediate inspiration—activism is kind of the same way. The first response is the most honest and the most pure.

The film features a unique blend of celebrities and artists like Natasha Bedingfield, Cold War Kids and Ashley Judd, was it hard to recruit these high-profile people for the project?

There were two really big challenges there—I don’t have a rolodex. There was no one to contact, none of those folks were my friends. I couldn’t just pick up the phone and call them. There was a level of wrangling, not so much with the artists themselves. Every professional artist is going to have some firewalls I can understand that, they’re there for a reason. Fair Trade Pictures is a new film company and it doesn’t have any real brand or notoriety yet so I had to make this as easy on everyone in the film as possible. I had to find them when they had a couple of hours available, which could mean packing the entire set on two weeks notice and flying to London to film Natasha Bedingfield or shipping the whole set to New York to film Moby and Cold War Kids. There is always kind of a challenge, but that’s part of the story.

We built this set to make it look like everyone’s on the same stage, but in reality there were 6 different locations and all inside recording studios as well. Not sound stages, but recording studios because I wanted this to sound as good as a record, which it does—a live sounding record that’s also a film.

What specifically do you hope people leave this film and do? What’s the take-away?

I think I’m the analog. I’m the metaphor. I’m the example. I think we need to democratize participation or democratize activism. Democratizing doesn’t always just mean fundraising or building somebody else’s brand so they can go do the work. We have to figure out a way so that everybody can have real, tactile participation in the solution. Of course we need to fund people that are doing it on the ground in those countries that we can’t get to—that is an absolutely precious need that we all need to be aware of but it doesn’t end there. I want people to walk away saying, “OK, now I know about it, I know I have a response—am I going to react or am I going to respond?” Because reacting means I just see it and say something or feel something and its over. But responding is a commitment.

This is a unique and moving film, how will you direct people to respond after they see it?

The great thing about this film is that it’s been created completely to serve as a 4-D rockumentary, meaning that the fourth dimension is the participation of everyone. When they see the film on October 10, they’re going to have an opportunity to respond directly from their seats. Literally buying a ticket and seeing this film tangibly affects the issue of slavery. At the end of the film you’re going to be given an opportunity to text-donate, either give money or join the cause, right there from your seat. You won’t leave the room without actually joining the movement.

How was the film funded?

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Through private donations and professional services donated. Not a ton of money, still a sacrifice for some people, but not a ton, not what you’d think. An incredible amount of donated services—donated film, donated lights, donated cameras, donated time, donated professional services. So I think what you’re looking at is a very collected effort and again it’s a metaphor for this kind of open-source activism.

What exactly do you mean by open-source activism?

Opening the code to changing the world. If you’re going to try and change an issue as complex as human trafficking it’s not just going to happen from governments and NGOs. They actually need our support, not just financially, they need us to actually start taking action ourselves and doing things about this.

What would you say to ministry leaders about partnering with Call+Response?

Habakkuk 2:4 says, “The just shall live by faith alone.” We need to be sober minded about justice because justice is the push against the system that seeks to corrupt and destroy. I think several faiths have some kind of system like that, the Bible certainly does. In talking about powers or principalities you’re talking about a system and systems. [Human trafficking] is a business, it’s a system and these things don’t just fall because people get really excited about the fact that these things should fall. It is pure faith. Justice is an uphill battle and many times it’s unrewarding and it’s kind of sexy, but no one should ever stop and talk about how sexy they are for doing justice. Those who are paying attention to that probably aren’t doing a lot of work. It’s purely by faith that you can accomplish these things and you realize at the end of the day the work of justice is collaborative and providential. You can’t go after justice issues without having some penchant for the miraculous.

Call+Response opens in theaters this Friday. To find out more about how you can partner in the fight against human trafficking visit www.callandresponse.com.

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