Small Business Spotlight: Dressember™ Foundation

The first feature in our Small Business Spotlight series is one close to our heart. The Dressember Foundation is a non-profit based out of Orange County, that helps raise awareness and funds for anti-human trafficking efforts around the world. Although our Founder, Blaire Wayland, has participated in the Dressember style challenge for several years, Emblem Media Productions had a chance to tell their story last year in the Dressember Documentary.  

We sat down and spoke with Blythe Hill – CEO and Founder of the Dressember Foundation. Hill told us the story of how she became involved in the anti-trafficking movement, and how wearing a dress became synonymous with the freedom and dignity of survivors of trafficking. 

Hill first came to know of the horrors of human trafficking in 2005 when reading an article that described children being bought, sold, and transported across international lines to be sexually assaulted by paying “customers”. Hill recalls, “I had never heard about human trafficking before, and I was physically sick.” Having a personal connection to the issue of Child Sexual Assault, a fire was immediately ignited. 

Hill was so determined, she says, “I thought I would have to quit my job, change careers, and move to India to have the impact that I wanted to have.” 

“My skills didn’t line up with contributing and engaging in the fight in a significant way”, says Hill. “I’m someone who’s interested in fashion, trend analysis, writing, and puns.”  As time went on, Hill became discouraged in her ability to join this fight. 

“I was getting my Master’s degree [in English] and just had, like, no free time, no social life, and needed a creative outlet,” says Hill. “I decided to create a style challenge where I would wear dresses every day for the month of December, and I called it Dressember!” 

Hill first did the style challenge by herself – after all, it was just for personal expression. However, the next year she was approached by friends who wanted to participate with her. Then the following year, even more women were interested in participating. Of this exponential growth, Hill says, “I began to realize that maybe these people weren’t just humoring me – that maybe, this was a good idea.”

A friend encouraged Hill to align the Dressember style challenge with a cause – to create an annual fundraiser. “I realized that this could totally flop, and I could look really stupid”, recalls Hill. “But I thought, If I can help even one person, then it’s worth looking like a fool to the entire world. 

So in 2009, which was year 5 of the style challenge, Dressember aligned with International Justice Mission – the number one leading anti-trafficking organization in the world. Hill set a goal of $25,000 for the first-ever Dressember fundraiser. “It was a huge, scary goal,” says Hill. To her amazement, the fundraiser met her goal – on the first day of the campaign. As of 2021, the Dressember annual fundraiser has raised over $15,000,000 to directly support victims and survivors of trafficking worldwide. 

The story of the Dressember Foundation is not only inspiring but has made a direct impact on the community. The Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force reported that even with the pandemic, human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation continued as traffickers and exploiters took advantage of the vulnerabilities of victims. The Orange County Child Abuse Registry experienced an increase in calls for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) that identified more Orange County youth compared to previous years along with information from law enforcement. It was also reported that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the work helping victims navigate the criminal justice system process was significantly slowed as investigations and the court system were unable to move at the same levels as before the pandemic. 

The Dressember Foundation focuses on prevention, intervention, and survivor empowerment. This includes identifying at-risk youth and providing early intervention and education to significantly reduce the risk of youth being targeted by traffickers. They also focus on creating safe, culturally-sensitive exit pathways for those trapped in exploitation. Perhaps most importantly, Dressember provides and funds long-term support and rehabilitation for survivors of trafficking, to ensure they do not fall back into exploitation. This means directly supporting survivors through safe housing, legal support, education, and career opportunities. The goal is always to help survivors embrace the life they deserve – one of freedom and dignity. These funds and support methods reach worldwide, fighting human trafficking not just in the US, but in the Philippines, Uganda, India, Thailand, and many other countries. Though most in-person Dressember events are in the Orange County area, there are Dressember advocates from all over the world. Emblem Media Productions is honored to support and uplift this amazing organization. 

What to Expect on Filming Day

Your filming day has finally arrived! Once you have consulted with one of our Producers and paid your deposit, you will be able to book your filming date. Here’s an idea of what to expect the day the camera starts rolling. 

The Emblem MP team will arrive on location approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour before filming commences, depending on the scale of the production. A Producer will meet with the client to discuss their vision, while our assistants and camera operators begin setting up the production. Emblem uses a variety of cameras, lights, microphones, and other equipment to create your video. We will require the use of the available electrical outlets on location. Once the equipment has been set, the Director and team will make adjustments to lighting and camera placement, to ensure a beautiful image. 

If your video includes talent, they will need to be fitted with a microphone to capture their audio. This process can vary by production. Some productions may require the use of microphones that will be affixed to the actors’ clothing. Others may only use microphones standing at a distance. Our team ensures a relaxed and positive environment for the talent. We want you to be happy with your video! 

Once filming has begun, the Director and team will work all their magic. You can expect the Director to give instruction regarding talent performance, the number of takes, and lighting or audio adjustments. Our team is experienced and capable, and we pride ourselves on the thoughtful execution of our client’s vision. However, if you have a request or adjustment to be made during filming, we encourage you to speak to the Director. We will always do our best to fulfill your video needs.

That’s a wrap! After filming has ended, the Producer will speak with the Client to discuss the next steps. Depending on your production, this can be a timeline for when you will receive your video. During this time our assistants will take down the set, and make sure to leave your location tidy. 

Congratulations! This is the biggest step in your video’s production. Our editors will now sweeten your footage with seamless transitions, vibrant color, sound, and any titles or graphics you have requested. Your completed video will be on its way to you in no time. 

What Kind of Video do I Need?

So you’ve realized that your business, personal brand, or nonprofit can be brought to the next level with video marketing. You know that Emblem Media Productions has got your back. But what kind of video would your business benefit from? 

Video marketing is a wide umbrella that covers all types of videography. The possibilities are endless. Some common types of videos that our Clients request are interviews, commercials, event coverage, promotional footage, or even just beautiful product footage. 

Maybe your brand or nonprofit has an impactful, heartwarming start-up story. An interview with your team can help share your mission statement within your community, and give your audience a deeper look at who you are. 

Are you a commercial business in need of a more branded marketing video? We can assist you in commercial script writing and casting, to create a high-quality video you can share with your own clients, your social media, or business partners. 

Perhaps you have a large event or business conference you want to film for organizational use. Emblem can offer multi-camera packages to make sure every important moment and detail of your event is captured. 

As of 2021, Emblem has also expanded to include live-production videography. This is a large-scale production that requires additional crew members and multiple cameras. The type of production is intended for those who want to broadcast unedited, live event footage to the internet. This has become a popular video event option during the COVID-19, where social distancing restrictions have created a barrier for in-person events. 

If you’re still unsure of what video style would fit your vision, the best thing to do is give us a call. We can help interpret your video needs, and together we can create a plan to execute your video to its fullest potential!

TRAILER – Dressember™ Documentary

Follow the inspiring journey of Blythe Hill and the creation of Dressember™ Foundation, an advocacy campaign dedicated to raising awareness and funds to fight human trafficking around the world. Content Warning: This documentary contains real stories from survivors of trafficking and the sexual and physical abuse they faced. Although we approached these topics with sensitivity in mind, we trust you to know your limits. Therefore, viewer discretion is advised. Produced by Emblem Media Productions and Broomstick Engine Director: Jason Russell Co-Editors: Blaire Wayland and Erin White

History of Emblem Media Productions

Just like any other small business, Emblem Media Productions started as one person with an idea. The history of Emblem began in 2011 with company Founder, Blaire Wayland. Wayland is a graduate of Dodge College at Chapman University, where she studied filmmaking and producing. Post-graduation, Wayland worked on popular television shows such as Real Housewives of Orange County, and Dr. Phil. It was after this experience that she began to recognize the gap between mainstream media, and the stories of regular people and small businesses in her community. This was the beginning of Emblem Documentaries, the first rendition of Emblem Media Productions. 

Emblem Documentaries aimed to create a team of videographers who were passionate about storytelling, and that is exactly what we did. We began with who we knew – friends and family with unique small businesses, non-profits, and events. Many of our clients had thriving businesses and needed a way to showcase their own histories and cultures. Others were start-up organizations that needed help getting the word out in their communities. 

We also found passion in telling the stories of individuals who were making big impacts in their spheres. Over time, Emblem Documentaries became the go-to videography company for multiple businesses and organizations across Orange County. 

In 2019, our team was growing as fast as our business. Emblem had expanded to include video marketing, social media content, and live events. While we remained passionate about documentary making, we knew Emblem had more to offer our clients and community. By January of 2020, we rebranded our business as Emblem Media Productions. 

For the remainder of 2020, Emblem focused on uplifting voices of organizations providing relief for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that began in March. During this time we worked with food drives across Orange County, capturing the kindness of our community coming together to help each other. Presently, it remains our mission to be a production studio that can tell any story, and help you seize the tremendous benefits of video documenting, storytelling, and marketing. 

We are so thankful for each and every client we have had the pleasure of working with over the years. Because of your trust, Emblem Media Productions is here to celebrate 10 years of video making and storytelling! We look forward to the next decade of working with you.