TAMPA — As a woman of faith, Nicole Abisinio admits she lost faith in her television series when its streaming service announced the release date.
“It was supposed to come out in January for National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, since it’s about human trafficking,” Abisinio said. “Then they said it was coming out on Christmas Eve instead. My friends in the industry said that was a death sentence, and I agreed. Why would they release it then, I thought. It’s not a holiday story at all.”
She worried no one would watch it. She didn’t need to.
Throughout January and into February, Abisinio’s “The Advocate” has been among the top five viewed productions on Pure Flix, a streaming service for family and faith-based stories. At some point, the series, which was filmed throughout Tampa Bay in 2021, was No. 1.
“It’s just the most miraculous thing,” said Abisinio, who lives in Pinellas County. “It’s exceeded anything that was supposed to happen.”
Abisinio wrote, directed, produced and starred in the five-episode series that, according to IMDB.com, is about a child protective agent who, after a near-death accident, “is left with extraordinary supernatural gifts, allowing her to protect and rescue those in most need of her help.”
She is now working on scripts for Season Two.
“I’ve been flooded with emails asking when we will make more,” Abisinio said. “It’s a difficult topic, but we approach it in an uplifting way. We focus on safety tips and how to spot human trafficking.”
She initially had little interest in producing the story. Abisinio’s friend and fellow producer Jim Coleman pitched her on the concept 17 years ago.
“I liked the idea but didn’t think anyone would ever distribute it,” she said. “For the longest time, it wasn’t a blip on my radar.”
She instead focused on producing other projects, like “Prime of Your Life,” about a slacker and rebel who partner on a series of cons and “The Investigator,” about a veteran police detective who becomes a high school teacher and baseball coach. Each won film festival awards throughout the nation.
Abisinio was also booked around the world for spirituality speaking engagements.
It was while on such a trip in South Korea, Abisinio said, that she realized the need for a cinematic story on human trafficking awareness.
“Something didn’t feel right about the hotel,” she said. “They wanted to keep my passport. None of the doors on my floor had locks. I had a sick feeling that something was wrong.”
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Out of precaution, she left and booked another hotel. As the daughter of a former private eye who investigated child abuse, Abisinio said, she was schooled on signs of potential human trafficking.
“Not everyone is,” she said. “It’s not an easy topic to discuss.”
So, she reached out to Coleman about that idea he’d pitched years back.
“As a filmmaker, I look for projects that can help people in some way and bring some sort of hope for change,” Abisinio said. “It’s amazing so many people are watching ‘The Advocate’ and receiving our message.”