Mother & Son Filmmakers Take Aim at Human Trafficking in Run

Pastor Sun Hui East, originally of South Korea, moved from Denver to San Antonio in 2013, bringing along her church and her burgeoning film company, Strong Foundation Films. Now, she and her son, Josiah Warren, have delivered the company’s eighth film, Run, a thriller about Christians taking a stand against human trafficking. As East and Warren traveled around the country talking about the film’s impact, Christian Cinema caught up with the duo.

East explained how God spoke to her about the need to make movies to share her faith because young people simply were not coming to church. “We need to do better as independent Christian films to compete with Hollywood to help people hear stories about forgiveness and love,” East shared.

The story of Run began when East traveled to speak at a Passion conference, and heard a speaker share about the 300,000 people trafficked in the United States every year, including 70,000 in Texas alone. She returned to her church and production company, cancelled the script they were working on, and demanded that they make a film to raise awareness about the subject. “I was shocking and grieving, just shaking all over,” East admitted. “I said that we needed to raise awareness about it, that we must bring it together.”

Warren, who graduated from film school in 2011, recognized that their main goal was to “ring some bells” even if they did not know anything about human trafficking before they began crafting the story. East called an anti-human trafficking director and asked him to her house to explain; she met a praise and worship director who shared her story of being trafficked.

“Those stories in the film are all real situations that happened,” Warren interjected. “I talked to more people who had it happen to them, like mothers who sent their kids to college who went to do outreach through a campus ministry and then were trafficked.”

Drawing the cast together, Warren and East demanded excellence and passion from their team. “We’re trying to keep a strong message but aiming for winning an Oscar,” Warren said. “I have faith we’ll have everything we need in the end. Before production every morning, we’d gather and pray, and I would remind them that we’re trying to save lives and make an impact on the world. Having them look up stories of trafficking and get fired up about it was a big part of my job.”

In the film, Warren plays Levi, a man whose journalist wife (Taylor Murphy) speaks out against human trafficking, only to be kidnapped on their wedding night. Levi’s frantic search blends with the faith that Strong Foundation Films wants to promote, cumulating in a battle with a local crime lord played by Stephen Baldwin. That in itself was an act of faith for the company.

“Two or three years ago I was asking someone who a famous movie star was who was a Christian, and they told me Stephen Baldwin,” remembered East. “I didn’t know who he was and they laughed at me, but I said if he’s so famous, get his number. I called him and he got involved in Run.”

That boldness led the team forward, but the examples of those in the past drove this project and others. “When the country has a problem with awareness, we want to bring the awareness,” East said, passionately. “When Abraham Lincoln saw the problem with slavery, he got pastors together to pray, to bring freedom to slaves; when MLK saw the problem with civil rights, he gathered the people to pray, to bring freedom to others. If we the church to take action, then people will join with us, and we can stop human trafficking.”

Whatever it takes, this family and church are aimed at bringing God’s love to the situation. Run is proof that they’re dedicated, and that they’re working hard. Now, audiences just need to see the film, and take action to end modern-day slavery.