By Tehea Robie and Lydia Tuan

Four-time Academy Award winner Mark Berger and Emmy Award winning producer Layda Negrete have teamed up to create a film about sexually exploited youth in the Bay Area. Child Sex Trafficking: A Story About Love is youth advocate Sheri Shuster’s directorial debut. The creative team includes seasoned editor and USC film professor DJ Johnson, and composer James Grisom, who is also the wide receiver for the Cal Bears.

From 2008-2012, director and co-producer Sheri Shuster was the Associate Director of Covenant House California in Oakland, part of the largest nonprofit in the Americas to serve homeless and trafficked youth.

“Child sex trafficking is a crime being committed all over the world, from Nepal to Nigeria, and right here in Oakland. Sexual exploitation disproportionately impacts vulnerable communities: children who come from inter-generational poverty, domestic violence, and involvement in the foster-care system are at risk. Traffickers don’t need to go elsewhere to recruit: we have a victim-rich environment right here. Leah’s story needs to be told — for all the girls being exploited that we drive by at bus shelters and think nothing of,” explains Director and Co-producer, Sheri Shuster. She currently sits on the Board of Directors for United Roots Oakland, a nonprofit that engages at risk youth with the green economy and digital media arts.

The filmmakers launched their first crowdfunding campaign via Indiegogo. The campaign goal is to raise $10,000 to finish production.

The documentary follows the story of Leah Albright-Byrd, a child sex trafficking victim turned nationally-recognized leader who founded anti-trafficking agency, Bridget’s Dream.

The feature-length documentary is fiscally sponsored by Independent Arts and Media, a 5019(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and is slated for release to domestic and international audiences.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland.
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4 Responses

  1. JR

    PLEASE do this! There is no reason that this should be able to be going on in our city so easily. The city attorney shutting down a hotel has done nothing. Nothing! The latest so called bust has done nothing. Nothing! At lease make Oakland not such a easy place for this to go on. Make it hard on everyone. Right now it is known that Oakland is an acceptable place to do this. Please ask our city council and mayor why they let this to happen. It is truly disgusting.

  2. Sheri Shuster

    I am Sheri Shuster, the director/co-producer of the film Child Sex Trafficking: A Story About Love. Although our creative advisor and sound mixer, Mark Berger, has 4 Academy Awards, I do not. As the second line in the article reads, this is my directorial debut. I have contacted Oakland Local to amend the title of the article, and correct this inaccuracy. We are grateful to have the community support and coverage of this menaningful project.
    Sheri Shuster

  3. Sheri Shuster

    Thank you for changing the title of the article! I appreciate your time. I tried to share the article on Facebook and the old title ” Academy Award winning director…” came up =[
    Would you please change that as well? I’d love to be able to share this media coverage!
    Thank you,
    Sheri Shuster


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