A documentary by 371 Productions, As Goes Janesville catapults viewers to the front lines of America’s debate over the future of our middle class – a debate that has become a pitched battle over unions in the normally tranquil state of Wisconsin.
First GM shuts down Janesville’s century-old plant, causing mass layoffs and exile in search of work. Then newly elected governor Scott Walker ignites a firestorm by introducing a bill to end collective bargaining, unleashing a fury of protest and sparking a recall election.
We tell the epic tale from the inside, following 3 years in the lives of laid off workers trying to reinvent themselves; business leaders aligned with the Governor to promote a pro business agenda that they believe will woo new companies to town, and a state senator caught in the middle, trying to bring peace to his warring state and protect workers’ rights. As Goes Janesville, so goes America, a country mired in polarization and falling short of the American Dream.
As Goes Janesville is supported by The MacArthur Foundation and ITVS.
People in the Film
Angie Hodges: Angie was hoping to follow in the steps of her relatives by retiring from the Janesville GM Plant but it closed its doors 6 years short of retirement. Like 750 other GMers, Angie has to move away for work. She was offered the option of transferring to another plant. The closest one is in Fort Wayne, IN 300 miles away. In order to provide for DJ financially, she accepts the transfer living in Fort Wayne during the week and making the 5 hour drive home on the weekends. Her son, DJ, is the center of her life. Angie’s worst nightmare came true during her sixth week away. DJ nearly died in a horrible car crash. Adding horror to her nightmare, Angie was fired while taking care of DJ.
Cindy Deegan: Alcoa stopped making tire rims for GM trucks and laid Cindy off with no option to transfer to another plant. Job Center caseworker Ed Martinez recruited her for a federal stimulus program that pays to send workers back to school. There’s a new hospital under construction in Janesville — a beacon of hope in an otherwise bleak economy — so she enrolled in a medical lab technician training program at Blackhawk Technical College. Time is ticking, though, and odds are stacked against her. Cindy’s unemployment will run out before she’s out of school. She needs a job the second she graduates. Her family’s meager savings will not last more than a month or two and certainly won’t help them make good on a promise to send her oldest daughter, Christina, to college. Her husband, Doug, maintains a 2 acre garden and hunts deer to reduce food expenses, while Cindy puts in 18 hour days to keep an A average she hopes will give her an edge on winning one of the hospital jobs. Meanwhile, Cindy tries to hide their precarious balancing act from her younger daughter, Sarah, but she is unable to hide everything. Sarah, discovered that her mom is undergoing tests for a lump in her breast that could be cancerous.
Mary Willmer: Local Janesville bank president Mary Wilmer knows about all the foreclosures and closing businesses. She’s determined to save Janesville so her 3 children will come back to it. She’s united the region’s economic, political and social service leaders in an effort called “Rock County 5.0.” It’s mission: jobs. Rock County 5.0 raised a million “private” dollars to lead a cadre of “ambassadors of optimism” to pitch Janesville. They’re selling a highly skilled workforce, proximity to distribution centers, millions of cheap, vacant square feet, tax benefits, and good neighborhoods to potential businesses. Their best prospect is Shine Medical Technologies which would bring 125 jobs to the Janesville area but only if the City Council votes to give them a $9 million incentive package.
Tim Cullen: Tim was a co-chair on the task force enlisted to put together a proposal to bring GM back to town. They never had a chance. Tim fears the wage gap will increase for the next 50 years but hopes to bring some jobs back to Janesville by running for the State Senate. He may have been the lone Democrat standing in Janesville on election day, but he has friends in high places and a penchant for calling it like it is: without family-supporting wages the middle class that made Janesville great will be no more.
Gayle Listenbee: Gayle went from $28/hr to joining legions of laid-off workers queuing up to seek minimum wage jobs at the Job Center, a sprawling converted K-Mart down the road from Janesville’s shuttered 4.5 million square foot GM plant. Not wanting to leave her husband and two young daughters, Gayle made dozens of searches and calls. Hormel’s meat packing plant has no jobs. Frito Lay’s distribution center doesn’t even answer their phone. The only job she can find is a warehouse clerk position 45 minutes away that pays $7.25/hr. She finally put her name into the lottery and was among the last hires at the GM plant in Ft. Wayne, IN. Now, she bides her time away from her family until retirement in seven years, the same year her daughter will graduate from high school.
Brad Lichtenstein is an award-winning filmmaker and the president of 371 Productions. He has been working in documentary production since 1992. His latest film, As Goes Janesville, is a documentary about how a town tries to reinvent itself amid the loss of their century-old GM plant and Wisconsin’s civil war over unions. It premiered on the PBS series Independent Lens in October of 2012 and aired again on Feb. 4th, 2013. The film’s storyline about corporate transparency inspired him to create “BizVizz“, a corporate accountability app and website that gives you instant access to companies’ tax, campaign finance and government subsidy records. You can view a demo here or just download it from the app store.
Before making his own films, Brad associate produced FRONTLINE’s Peabody award-winning presidential election year special, Choice ’96, and Lumiere Production’s PBS series, With God on Our Side: The History of the Religious Right. With Lumiere, he produced and directed André’s Lives, a portrait of the “Jewish Schindler;” Safe, about domestic violence, Caught in the Crossfire, about Arab-Americans after 9/11, and the BBC/Court TV co-production of Ghosts of Attica, about the infamous 1971 prison uprising and aftermath, for which he was awarded a Dupont-Columbia Award for Excellence in Journalism. His film, Almost Home, a PBS Independent Lens documentary about people who live and work in an elder-care community, continues to be featured in workshops on aging and caregiving 5 years since its premiere broadcast. Brad’s work is supported by the Blue Mountain Center, Creative Capital, Helen Bader Foundation, the HKH Foundation, the Independent Television Service (ITVS), the International Documentary Association, the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Mary L. Nohl Fellowship, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Retirement Research Foundation, and the Tides Foundation.
Brad taught documentary production for 5 years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he founded doc|UWM, a documentary film center that provides students with professional documentary experiences. Brad’s films can be seen in theaters, at festivals, in museums, and on television all over the world.
Brian Glazer is 371′s executive producer. His career in film and television includes producing the 3rd season of the acclaimed Sundance Channel series, Iconoclasts. Additionally, he oversaw post-production for FLOW: For Love of Water which was selected for competition in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Throughout his career, he s worked on such diverse projects as Will Play Extra, a docu-series he developed for IFC about a casting agency and the commercial production industry; four shows for VOOM S Gallery HD profiling artists Barton Benes, Deborah Kass and Patricia Cronin and the art and architecture of New York s famed Woodlawn Cemetery; and Ghetto Sims, an animated sketch for the hit Comedy Central series Chappelle’s Show.
Brian has overseen development and production for a variety of shows including TLC s series Cover Shot; Too Hot Not To Handle, a documentary special about Global Warming for HBO; the highly regarded Barbara Walters Special and intimate look at adoption, Born In My Heart: A Love Story; Fat Like Me, an ABC special about childhood obesity; and The Way Home, a pilot for the Hallmark Channel about reconciliation and forgiveness. He has managed production on Three Sisters, the HBO documentary about one families battle with the ALS (Lou Gherig s disease); and he managed production and the national theatrical rollout for Gay Sex in the 70s, director Joseph Lovett s critically acclaimed feature documentary chronicling gay life in New York during the post-Stonewall and pre-AIDS era.
He was Head of Broadcast Development & Production at Lovett Productions for six years. He continues to work as a freelance producer on a variety of television commercials, industrials and independent and Hollywood features. Among the most notable projects he has worked on was the feature film Unbreakable, directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Brian holds a B.A. in Film and Media Arts from Temple University. He resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, daughter and dog.
Nicole Docta is currently the co-producer of As Goes Janesville. She co-produced and edited Chosen Towns: The Story of Jews in Wisconsin’s Small Communities, which was made with doc|UWM. She also co-produced and co-directed A King in Milwaukee, a short documentary about David Greenberger who talks to people with dementia and turns those conversations into music, which he performed with the Paul Cebar Ensemble live at the Pabst Theater. She is the associate producer for What We Got: DJ Spooky’s Journey to the Commons, a documentary-fiction hybrid to name, claim, and protect our Commons.
Leslie Simmer is Kartemquin’s Editorial Director as well as Senior Editor on staff. For over ten years Leslie has worked at Kartemquin Films in various capacities. She is currently editing As Goes Janesville, a feature film on the economic crisis. Prior, she edited with Steve James on the ESPN film No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson. Other recent experience includes editing the Emmy-nominated In the Family, for which she received the Best Editing win at the “Best of the Midwest Awards.” In 2005 Leslie was co-editor with Steve James on theaward-winning feature documentary The War Tapes and from 2001-2004 wore dual hats on the seven-part PBS series The New Americans as both Series Story Editor and Post Production Supervisor.
In 2004 she took on the role of development producer for the “Odyssey Project” segment of series-in-development The Learning Chronicles. She was a co-editor and Post Production Manager for Future/Now Films’ MC5*ATT and a Post Production Technical Advisor for the feature doc Reel Paradise. While acting as Post Production Manager on the Life Stories series, she was also a Co-Editor for the “Quitting” episode. She was Post Production Manager onStevie, Refrigerator Mothers, and 5 Girls. Leslie’s work as Assistant Editor on Vietnam Long Time Coming is what originally brought her to Kartemquin, and she also contributed additional editing to that film. Leslie got her BA in Communication/Theater Arts (Phi Beta Kappa) from Kalamazoo College in Michigan. She did graduate work in film at Columbia College, Chicago, where she began her long and passionate relationship with the Avid. When not in the edit room, she enjoys travel, good food and liquor, long naps on the beach, and helping animals.
Vernon Reid is the music composer and arranger for the movie. He’s worked with Brad on previous films, Almost Home and Ghosts of Attica. Heralded by Rolling Stone as one of the world’s top 100 guitarists, Vernon is the founder of the rock band Living Colour. He also produces with W. Kamau Bell, the quirky podcast The Field Negro Guide to Arts and Culture.
Colin Sytsma is a production associate at 371 Productions. Besides shooting some b-roll for As Goes Janesville, he’s been primarily responsible for recording sound and overseeing archival footage research for the film.
Behind the Scenes
The Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds, presents, and promotes award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television and cable, innovative new media projects on the Web, and the Emmy Award-winning weekly series, Independent Lens, on PBS. ITVS programs enrich the cultural landscape with the voices and visions of underrepresented communities, and reflect the interests and concerns of a diverse society.
In 1966, Kartemquin Films began making documentaries that examine and critique society through the stories of real people. Their documentaries, such as The Interrupters, Hoop Dreams, and The New Americans, are among the most acclaimed of all time, leaving a lasting impact on millions of viewers.
Kartemquin Films is a home for independent media makers who seek to create social change through film. With a noted tradition of nurturing emerging talent and acting as a leading voice for independent media, Kartemquin is building on more than 45 years of history as Chicago’s documentary powerhouse. Kartemquin is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.