The Human Trafficking Project is a site dedicated to raising awareness of modern day slavery. One of their missions is to "blend art, information and technology to create awareness of modern day slavery and take action to stop it." As this is very much in line with our goals for Walking Merchandise, we were glad to have the opportunity to be interviewed by HTP's Lauren Hutton late last month. In the article, producer Rob Nguyen discusses the origins of the film, and some of the challenges involved in its making over the course of this past year.

To check out the full article on The Human Trafficking Project blog, click here.
Over Martin Luther King weekend, our production team traveled to Los Angeles, CA to interview attorneys Jason Pu and Julie To.

Through the organization Kids in Need of Defense, or "KIND", Jason and Julie were paired with Chinese young persons who had been smuggled into the United States by snakeheads and detained by immigration authorities. While both Jason and Julie have full-time positions, they have spent time outside of their regular work to represent these young persons on a  pro bono basis.


As noted in an excellent article by Nancy Lopez, of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, unaccompanied minors have no right to legal representation in the United States. It is largely through the work of pro bono attorneys that young people are able to understand the options available to them and navigate the immigration system.

In the course of shooting this film, we have often been asked how people can help to address this issue. Jason and Julie are great examples of at least one way in which persons with legal training can help unaccompanied immigrant minors.

For more information about KIND, visit

Juliet was brought to America to work and send money home to her family when she was 14 years old. Listen to excerpts of an interview with Juliet to hear why she left China, what it’s like working in restaurants at 14 years old, and what the living conditions are like.
We went down to D.C. to interview Patrick Radden Keefe, author of The Snakehead, and film some b-roll of the Capitol.  After a long bus ride down to D.C., we broke up into two groups and started filming parts of the Mall.  We met Patrick at his office at 2pm, and were wrapped by 5pm - just enough time to squeeze in some shots of the White House.  Much to our disappointment, we were met by an uninformed police officer at the White House who told us we could not take photos or video of the iconic back side of the White House.  After walking all the way around to the front, another Officer told us that our previous informant was indeed wrong, and that we should have been able to take photos.  With time running out, we settled for the front and then high-tailed it to the bus depot for another long bus ride back to NYC.  All in all a pretty great day and a fantastic interview!

Behind the scenes photos after the break.

The terms smuggling and trafficking are often used interchangeably. But experts and scholars often struggle to define these terms and the nuances between them. To shed light on this distinction, we spoke with Patrick Radden Keefe, author of the 2009 book The Snakehead, and Skadden Fellow and Attorney Lauren Burke. A report by the International Council on Human Rights provides a helpful overview of these issues and their implications for migrant persons; full article with comments and analysis on this after the break.


Every year, Chinese human smugglers, known as 'snakeheads', use transnational, illicit networks to transport persons from China into the United States. Migrants pay fees as high as $80,000, and are subject to exploitation and brutality in the course of their journeys, as well as retribution upon themselves and their families should they be unable to pay.  Read more after the break to find out about who's involved and how it happens.

Earlier this week I sat down with Producer Rob Nguyen and Director, Co-Producer Ethan Downing to learn about NJR's upcoming film The Snakehead. This blog will provide explanation of the content of the film-the issue of Chinese human smuggling and child trafficking, as well as sneak peeks of the film itself!

Jordanna Birnbaum: What are your backgrounds? Did you go through some experience which led you to this work?

ED:  I'm not even sure where to begin on this one, haha.  So to get the full picture we have to go back to when Rob and I met in undergrad at Fordham.  We were both English majors in the Honors Program, and we produced student theater there together.  After graduating I continued to act and Rob continued to direct and work in production on our own separate paths.  After a couple of years of working on shows that we weren't terribly impressed with, we decided to start producing our own shows (the first of which was picked up for an international re-staging in Belgium, and the second was an award winning show at the NYC International Fringe Festival last August).  About the same time as we started producing theater, I went back to school to get an M.S. in Conflict Resolution and Negotiation at Columbia (in retrospect this was probably not the best timing, but I have a knack for doing things the hard way I suppose).

Hello all, and welcome to Following the Snakeheads - a blog dedicated to exploring the various actors, structures, and dynamics of the snakeheads and the children that are trafficked from China for labor purposes.

I'm thrilled to welcome and introduce Jordanna Birnbaum as the newest member of the No Jacket Required family.  Jordanna has worked on a number of social media projects to raise awareness about women's rights and social justice issues.  Jordanna will be taking a close look at the snakhead system in featured posts in an attempt to explain who is involved and how it works.

In addition, we'll also be posting web exclusive clips from the film here and behind the scenes photos when possible (because who doesn't like videos and photos?).

Most importantly, we need your help!  We want to make sure that people know about this problem and about the film, so if you like what you see please join our facebook fanpage and either share the content with friends or suggest that they become fans of No Jacket Required.  We can't do this alone, and in my experience, individuals can make an enormous difference, so please join us in spreading the word!

We are always interested in what our fans have to say, so feel free to leave a comment below or use the contact form to send us a message and find out how you can get involved.

Thanks for your time, and happy reading/watching!
No Jacket Required