SET FOR LIFE premieres on public television in November 2013
Puts a Human Face on America’s Unemployment Crisis
Award-Winning Doc Premieres on Public Television in November 2013
(Boston, MA) – Although four years removed from the official end of the Great Recession, the statistics surrounding U.S. unemployment still appear grim. Almost 12 million Americans remain out of work — 4.1 million more than when recession began in 2007.
This crisis has hit the Baby Boom generation particularly hard.
Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, came of age during an era of prosperity and optimism. By and large, they grew up feeling confident and secure about their futures, believing hard work and following the rules would leave them “set for life.” Those expectations seemed justified until the economic downturn prompted massive lay-offs and government budget cutbacks. As a result, the Boomers, now in their 50s and 60s, suddenly found themselves out of a job — some for long periods of time — and trying to cope with their rapidly eroding American Dream.
In response to the ongoing unemployment crisis in the United States, American Public Television (APT) proudly announces the November 2013 (check local listings) release of Set for Life, a timely and thought-provoking one-hour documentary produced by Tree of Life Productions, LLC about three Baby Boomers struggling to recover from the Great Recession.
The Set for Life public television broadcast is funded in part by AARP Foundation, working with struggling Americans 50 plus to help them win back opportunity. In addition, hundreds of individual Kickstarter donations also helped fund the production.
Thrust into a quest they never anticipated, the film’s three main characters deal with the economic, financial and psychological impact of losing their jobs. Joe Price, a third-generation steelworker from Weirton, W. Va.; Deborah Salim, a 15-year community college employee from Conway, S.C., and George Ross, a Vietnam veteran and an information technology project manager from Livermore, Calif. suffer financial woes, self-doubt and health problems as they endure the daunting job-hunt process. Their poignant and, at times, heart-wrenching stories put a human face behind the statistics.
Prior to its national broadcast, Set for Life made the rounds on the film festival circuit, earning acclaim from both judges and critics alike. It won “Best Documentary Feature” at the Spring 2013 New Jersey Film Festival, the 2013 Northern California Film International Film Festival and the 2012 Massachusetts Independent Film Festival. It also served as an official selection of the Madrid International Film Festival.
Set for Life grew out of OverFiftyandOutofWork.com, a two-year online multimedia project. The producers traveled across the country and conducted video interviews with 100 Americans, 50 and older, who lost their jobs during the Great Recession. The online project received considerable recognition, including features in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, Smart Money.com, abcnews.com, forbes.com, The Huffington Post and NextAvenue.org.
Over 50 and Out of Work
The Over 50 and Out of Work website includes 100 video interviews with Americans 50 and older, and 18 video interviews with experts who discuss unemployment among older workers from different perspectives. The website connects to an active social-media community on Facebook, Twitter and related blog. The Over 50 and Out of Work/Set for Life network includes: AARP Foundation, AARP, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Harvard Business School, John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, Next Avenue, Northeastern University, Platform to Employment , Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College, The Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, NYU/Wagner and Urban Institute.
Tree of Life Productions, LLC
Tree of Life Productions is a full-service video production company for both commercial and independent projects.
American Public Television
American Public Television (APT) has been a leading distributor of high-quality, top-rated programming to America’s public television stations since 1961. Since 2004, APT has distributed approximately half of the top 100 highest-rated public television titles. Among its 300 new program titles per year are prominent documentaries, news and current affairs programs, dramatic series, how-to programs, children’s series and classic movies, including For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots, A Ripple of Hope, Rick Steves’ Europe, Newsline, Globe Trekker, Simply Ming, Joseph Rosendo’s Travelscope, America’s Test Kitchen From Cook’s Illustrated, Lidia’s Italy, P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home, Midsomer Murders, Moyers & Company, Doc Martin, Rosemary & Thyme, BBC World News, The Rat Pack: Live and Swingin’, Johnny Mathis: Wonderful, Wonderful! and Nightly Business Report. APT also licenses programs internationally through its APT Worldwide service. In 2006, APT launched and nationally distributed Create® – the TV channel featuring the best of public television’s lifestyle programming. APT is also a partner in the WORLD™ channel, public television’s premier news and documentary channel.
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Long-term unemployment among 50+ America: a chronic problem now
In 2010, when we began the Over 50 and Out of Work documentary project that evolved into the award-winning documentary Set for Life, unemployment among 50+ Americans was an acute problem. Now, it’s chronic for millions and Washington isn’t paying attention. We wrote about this disconnect in our summer StayThirsty.com column:
Some problems are getting so old, no one in Washington seems to be paying attention anymore.
The Great Recession started in 2007 and officially ended in 2009. Yet, it continues to impact the economy and hamper its slow recovery. Almost 12 million Americans remain out of work, 4.1 million more than when the recession began, and 4.7 million of the unemployed have been out of work for six months or longer.
On the Sunlight Foundation’s website, you can input a word and see how often members of Congress have mentioned it over a period of time. A search for the word “jobs” yields a graph that shows a dramatic decline in attention to the issue since 2011.
In April, when Sen. Amy Klobucher (D – Minn.) convened a hearing of the 19-member Joint Economic Committee on the problem of long-term unemployment in the United States, she was the only legislator in attendance at the hearing’s start. Eventually, three others joined her, perhaps not coincidentally, after a journalist tweeted a photo of the empty Congressional seats at the hearing.
This poor turnout and lack of interest in the issue of unemployment shown by members of Congress is not unprecedented.
Click here to read more.
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Building a supportive Over 50 and Out of Work community
Several days ago, a comment was posted on our website:
What do we do? I am 53, been out of work for 4 years and yesterday I moved out of the small apt. that I was renting, put what few worldly possessions I have into a storage unit and now I am officially homeless! I am not a lazy or stupid man, I have started many businesses and been the CEO of a few companies….Why can’t I get a job? FUCK ! If I was a drug addict or drunk it seems the govt. would be there with some assistance. I have exactly 123.00 left in the bank, I am very good at living on 5 bucks a day for food, but how much longer can I keep up the appearance that all in normal? No $$, no home, no life or health insurance…Its all gone……Shit I cant even afford to die! Who would pay for that? My ex-wife and kids don’t need that crap………………….sorry for the foul language, figured I should vent a bit before I lose my mind.
We took it and posted it anonymously on our Over 50 and Out of Work Facebook page, where we get more replies and responses. We also notified the comment writer, asked where he or she resides and invited him or her to participate in the Facebook discussion – our usual procedure in this type of social media situation.
The writer responded and let us know that he resides in Los Angeles.
How can we help him?
How can we build a mutually supportive, encouraging community that helps others find jobs and resources?
We created this site, made a documentary about the issues surrounding unemployment among older Americans and provided a forum on our social media sites.
Now we need your ideas and suggestions. Let us hear from you.
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Reality After Boston in April StayThirsty.com
The day after the marathon bombings, I flew to Boston. I had been invited to attend a class on the impact of layoffs at Harvard Business School. The lecture topic: the full range of costs associated with layoffs and the unexpectedly limited returns that they generate for companies. The class is also deigned and intended to sensitize students, future global business leaders, to the great hardships people face after being laid off.
Sam Newman, filmmaker, and I chronicled the pain and suffering that unemployment causes in our multimedia project Over 50 and Out of Work and award-winning documentary Set for Life, so I was particularly interested in observing the students’ comments and reactions to the subject of layoffs at the elite business school. To read more, click here.
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Upcoming Set for Life screenings
We have more good news about upcoming Set for Life screenings and hope you will be able to attend one of these events:
Myrtle Beach International Film Festival
Thursday, April 25 at 3:00 p.m.
Carmike Cinema Broadway at the Beach
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Workers Unite! Film Festival
Monday, May 13 at 9:00 p.m.
22 East 12th Street @ University Place
New York, New York
Princeton Public Library
Wednesday, June 5 at 7:00 p.m.
65 Witherspoon Street
Princeton, New Jersey
Madrid International Film Festival
July 1st to 6th, Madrid (details to be announced)
We were nominated for the following awards by the Madrid festival:
Best Director of a Feature Documentary: Susan Sipprelle
Best Editor of a Feature Documentary: Susan Sipprelle & Sam Newman
However, Joe Price, one of the three main characters in Set for Life, who returned to work in 2011 after a painful two-year bout of unemployment, lost his job again recently when his new employer declared bankruptcy. You can read more about his heartbreaking job loss in this Huffington Post article: The Fate of a Hardworking American Man.
We consolidated our Over 50 and Out of Work/Set for Life social media. Please continue to add your comments and thoughts to our website, Facebook and Twitter.
As we also mentioned in our last newsletter, we are expanding our scope of work. You can keep track of all our projects on our Tree of Life Productions website and Facebook page. Please take a moment and like our new Tree of Life Productions page!
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Dreaming Big Again, March Stay Thirsty column
Sam and I rode Amtrak from New York to Washington, D.C. and back last month because we had two screenings of Set for Life in the capitol city. The crowded train rumbled along this portion of the nation’s heavily populated Northeast Corridor at a middling pace, not a rapid, smooth roll. The WiFi reception onboard this time was respectable, thank goodness. It is never lightning fast, but sometimes it is nonexistent.
Along the route, we passed hundreds of abandoned buildings – former homes and businesses – crumbling, decaying, surrounded by heaps of trash and filth. The passengers concentrated on their laptops or conversations and ignored the depressing view that could be seen through the train’s windows. They seemed to have acclimated themselves to the gloomy vista of struggling cities within the context of a weak national economy. To read more, click here.
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Set for Life screenings in DC
Next week, there will be two screenings of Set for Life in Washington, DC:
Invitation to see Set for Life – free and open to the public
Wednesday, February 20
4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Economic Policy Institute
Wellstone Conference Room
1333 H Street, Suite 300
Set for Life follows three Baby Boomers who attempt to recover from the devastating impact of losing their jobs during the Great Recession. The film shows their struggle to hang onto their homes, health insurance, and hope. Over time, the three boomers learn to cope with unemployment’s drastic effects on their lives, including the loss of economic security and ultimately their loss of confidence in the American Dream.
As the U.S. economy continues to struggle, the themes and issues explored in Set for Life remain timely and topical not only for boomers, but for all Americans.
This film grew out of Over 50 and Out of Work, a two-year online multimedia project. Susan Sipprelle and Sam Newman will be on hand to discuss Set for Life in a post-screening Q&A.
This event is free, but we would appreciate your registering HERE.
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On Thursday, February 21, the AARP Foundation is hosting a private Set for Life screening at its headquarters.
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What’s a Worker to Do?
Back in 2010, few economists, if any, anticipated that the negative impact of the Great Recession would last well into 2013. Yet more than three years after the downturn officially ended in December 2009, only about half of the nine million jobs that were lost have been restored.
Recent news stories also revealed that the Federal Reserve underestimated the severity of the subprime mortgage lending crisis in 2007 and predicted the economy would not be seriously affected. However, since the end of 2006, U.S. households have lost $7 trillion in home equity. Unemployed homeowners discovered to their dismay that their fallback – selling their homes to relocate for new or better job opportunities — disappeared as the value of their houses declined, often leaving their homes underwater or worth less than the mortgages owed on them.
When the experts do not get the big picture right on the economy, how can individual workers figure out what to do in today’s job market? Click here to read the rest of my February Stay Thirsty column.
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Update on Set for Life, our documentary
We have lots of wonderful news to share about Set for Life, our documentary:
* Michael Winerip wrote Documenting a Generation’s Fall about Set for Life in the New York Times, and our film was featured at the New Jersey Film Festival on Saturday, Jan. 26.
* Set for Life is also an official selection of the NorCalFilmFest. Please give Set for Life a thumbs-up vote on the NorCalFilmFest site. Thank you!
* Set for Life will be shown on Comcast channel 195 and broadcast channel 14 KAZV TV serving California’s Central Valley from south Stockton to north Merced on Feb. 2, 10 and 24. The schedule is available here. If you live in that area of the country, please take this opportunity to watch Set for Life on TV.
* We are also excited to announce that Set for Life is an official selection of the Queens World Film Festival that runs from March 5 to 10. We will post the screening times on our social media when they are made available.
* Next month, the Empire State College School for Graduate Studies spring residency will also hold private screening of Set for Life followed by panel discussion at an event for faculty and students jointly hosted by the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, the Master of Arts in Social Policy and the Master of Arts in Labor and Policy Studies.
Please email us at email@example.com with any questions or comments about Set for Life and continue to visit us at Over 50 and Out of Work, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Add your voice and thoughts to our online discussions about unemployment among Americans who are 50+.
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Happy holidays from the Over 50 and Set for Life team
Happy Holidays from the Over 50 and Out of Work and Set for Life team!
As the end of 2012 approaches, we are relieved that the majority of our 100 interviewees from our multimedia project Over 50 and Out of Work have been able to find jobs over the past year. Some of our happiest moments in 2012 occurred when we received calls and emails from our interviewees in Michigan, Oregon and California, letting us know that they had been able to return to work.
However, almost all of our successful job seekers have had to accept a substantial cut in pay and many do not receive healthcare benefits in their new positions. Although the crisis of unemployment has ended for many people, the aftereffects linger: They are still trying to rebuild savings, waiting for the value of their homes to rebound and worrying about their futures.
Nationally, the unemployment rate among older workers remains at record levels, and the average number of weeks that older workers are unemployed is still longer than one year. In sum, recovery from the Great Recession for workers over the age of 50 continues, but it is uncertain and slow.
In 2012, we also launched our documentary Set for Life. The film follows three Baby Boomers who struggle to recover from the devastating impact of losing their jobs during the Great Recession.
At its Massachusetts Independent Film Festival premier in September, Set for Life won “Best Feature Documentary.” It has also been shown at Louisville’s International Festival of Film, the Hartford Flick-Fest and the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.
Reviews and feedback on our film:
• Set for Life puts a human face on one of the most vexing problems facing American society: in a competitive global economy, how can we secure for older workers the opportunity and esteem that come with work? The film is a valuable resource for anyone who cares about the future of the American Dream.
- Professor Jan W. Rivkin, Harvard Business School
• What a compelling documentary and such a frank exploration of what people are dealing with in this economy. Thank you for producing this film and for sharing it with the public. Every legislator in the United States should see this film so that they see firsthand what the citizens of this great nation are facing.
- Audience member
• Set for Life vividly displays the plight of older workers in the aftermath of the financial crisis. We see and hear a lot about what they’ve lost – steady employment, health and health insurance, even their homes. But what comes across most powerfully is the grace with which many of the individuals who were interviewed are handling the reversal of their longstanding hopes and expectations. Set for Life is an important window into the America we are fast becoming, and it is well worth watching.
- Professor Sandra Sucher, Harvard Business School
• Maybe Set for Life resonates so strongly with me because it is largely about my generation – that group of late Boomers caught in this horrible recession during what should be their peak earning years. Their stories of hardship, desperation, and heartbreak are playing across the nation, and shame on us, if we do not take them seriously and demand that America’s employers and policy makers do the same.
- Professor David Yamada, Suffolk Law University
• I thought the film was well done, moving and eye opening. And although I am a student at Rutgers, the stories resonated with me as I have a few relatives that have been laid off and experienced similar hardships like those profiled in the film. Great documentary.
- Audience member
Set for Life will be screened on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. at the upcoming New Jersey Film Festival and at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. (date and time to be announced). We will continue to post updates about future screenings on our website and social media. Let us know if you would like to help us arrange a screening in your state or community.
Please continue to add your comments and thoughts to our website, Facebook and Twitter.
Our best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year! We hope all those who are seeking employment find good jobs in 2013.
Sue Sipprelle & Sam Newman
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