EXCLUSIVE: Patricia Velasquez (The Mummy), Gian Franco Rodriguez (Halston), Rumer Willis (Sorority Row), Billy Budinich (Frank and Penelope) and newcomer Isabella Feliciana will star in the social impact film Maya from director Julia Verdin (Angie: Lost Girls), which has entered production in Los Angeles.
The film written by Verdin looks to raise awareness on key issues including child trafficking, domestic violence, alcoholism and child abuse. It’s inspired by true events and will show how predators use social media to lure vulnerable teens into their lair.
When Maya (Feliciana) is six years old, her father abandons her and her mother Camila. This, of course, has a lasting effect on them both. Camila resorts to seeking comfort in alcohol and an abusive boyfriend, with Maya suffers from feeling unlovable. No longer feeling safe in her own home, Maya searches for comfort outside of her family—finding it in Ray (Budinich), an edgy, yet charming young man who befriends her online. He positions himself as Maya’s protector and encourages her to escape her home life and move in with him. After a brief honeymoon period in Las Vegas, Maya soon finds out that tragically, Ray is not the shiny knight in armor that she believes he is. He’s actually a pimp who manipulates her into a dark world of prostitution.
Maya is being produced and funded by Verdin’s Artists for Change—a non-profit with a mission to create entertainment driving social change—in association with Robert Craig Films, Rough Diamond Productions and Fibonacci Films. Verdin, Jason Piette, Robert Craig, Sean Acosta and Morris S. Levy are producing, with John Jacobs, Lucy Lewis, Kim Robson, Victoria Hill, Greg Clark, John and Jet Lewis, John Manly, Tara Smith, Julian Lennon, Luanne Morrow and Tom Wallerstein exec producing.
“Trafficking is the second biggest criminal activity in America today,” said Verdin. “Our goal with Artists for Change is to educate through film and prevent teenagers and our youth from being trafficked.”
Verdin is a writer, director and producer with over 30 years in the business who previously wrote and directed the award-winning child trafficking film Angie: Lost Girls, which premiered on the Lifetime Channel and is available on a host of streaming platforms. She became emotionally connected to the cause of fighting for justice for helpless girls and boys trapped in an endless cycle of crime after volunteering at a runaway children’s shelter and meeting teenage survivors of trafficking. She is the owner of Rough Diamond Productions, and has also been behind such films as The Merchant Of Venice, Stander and 2 Jacks.
Velasquez is represented by Insurge-Ent; Rodriguez by APA, Elixir Entertainment and Jackoway Austen Tyerman; Willis by Untitled Entertainment and Gang, Tyre, Ramer; Budinich by Sovereign Talent Group; and Feliciana by AEFH.