I just joined the forum. I have spent the past year working on a
documentary about women working in survival sex in Vancouver, Canada.
Between 1986 and 2002 sixty-eight women virtually disappeared from a
tiny area in the dowtown eastside. However, for a variety of reasons,
a full-scale investigation was not launched until 2000.
My major problem is one of ethics. There are three major advocacy
groups that service women in the area. In order for them to
participate in the film and to assist us in anyway, they demand that
women working in the sex trade that agree to participate in the
documentary be paid an honorarium. This is my first film but it is my
understanding that documentary participants should not be paid. We
are about half way through filming and while several people have
participated in the film, the women that are actually still on the
street have been paid an honorarium thus far. Are honorariums ever
acceptable? If we want to find a market and have the film be
considered credible, can we use any of the footage that women were
given an honorarium for?
My concern is this: people will think that we exploited these very
poor and most often addicted women by offering them "easy" money to
be interviewed (without showing their faces or using their real
names). Yet without the support of the advocacy agencies, we really
would not have been able to get anything done; also because we have
met most of the women while they are working on the street, offering
an honorarium shows them that we respect that they are, in fact,
working and that their time is valuable. Any advice or insight would
be greatly appreciated!