About the film
'Labor's Living Lessons' will document the history of the recent years of struggle against the bashing and defunding of public institutions and employees, especially schools, teachers, and the unions that collectively represent them. The path to understanding will be blazed by comparing and contrasting two recent and similar struggles: the state attack against Wisconsin public workers in 2011, and the Chicago teachers strike of 2012.
(please note our timetable change in Our Goal below. The film will not likely be complete before January or February 2013, so rewards that include the film will not disburse until then.)
Chicago has long been the laboratory in a grand national experiment: the reconstitution of public, unionized, neighborhood schools into de-unionized schools run by private charter organizations (although still publicly funded). While privatization of public resources is traditionally the realm of right-wing ideologues, the story of Chicago proves otherwise. It started under the alliance of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley, his schools chief Arne Duncan (now Obama's Secretary of Education), and free-market evangelists in the Commercial Club of Chicago. The trend of closing "failing" schools has spread to cities like New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Washington D.C., and it's gone national with Secretary Duncan's 'Race to the Top' program. However, new analyses are finally showing that many charter schools "free of union interference" use selective enrollment and cooked statistics to boost their appearance of success, stripping bare their true union-busting motives.
In February 2011, at the height of the "Arab Spring," Wisconsin teachers and public servants occupied their state capitol for three weeks in the hopes of stopping Republican governor Scott Walker from taking away a great deal of pay and rights from Wisconsin public workers. The occupations and protests were actively demobilized by union leaders and Democratic legislators.
In the summer of 2012, after a ballot recall initiative failed to unseat Walker, community activists in Chicago found their long struggles against apartheid school funding joined by a huge and very popular force: the entire unionized teaching staff of Chicago's public schools. Together with the solidarity of parents and students, they won their strike and beat back what would have been system-wide degradation of quality public education via their contract... an attack masked as reform that was orchestrated and launched by Democrats. More importantly, they now move forward having inspired themselves and millions of others to take action.
'Labor's Living Lessons' will compare, contrast, and comment on these two struggles via the best way we know how: through the voices of those everyday people who had the most to lose. Interviews with key parents, rank & file teachers, and education activists will be interspersed with our rich library of footage of the strike, and counterposed against (often expensive) media clips of the long line of teacher-bashers from Michelle Rhee to Rahm Emmanuel. Since it is a joint project of Insurgent Productions (Workers' Republic, 2010) and Chicago-based grass roots journalism group Labor Beat, we will have access to over 8 years of tape in the lead-up to this new chapter in American labor history that has the chance to inspire a new generation to win back rights long eroded. We strive to achieve nothing less than to make a film every public sector union member can show to their fellow reform activists to build a culture of fighting back against austerity. We need your help to make it happen.
As mentioned in our third update, December 1 is usually the day a new round of school closings are announced in Chicago, but the time is being pushed back. Since we hope to have this project ready to view by the time the next round of closures will be announced , this buys me some more time to edit. Sp earlier references to the film being finished by the "end of 2012" will more realistically be more like January or February 2013.
Kickstarter only provides funds if we meet our goal. With the funds we raise, we will do many things to finish the film:
- License news conference & cable news clips from the AP and others
- Pay for the full-time labor of the editor who will assemble the piece (at a greatly reduced rate)
- Mass produce DVDs of the film
- Pay for online ads (Google & Facebook) to promote the film to its target audience
- Prepare the rewards we have offered our supporters
Risks and challenges
- With more than a dozen interviews to conduct to wrap up the history and analysis, coordinating all those divergent people with different organizations & commitments in order to gather in twos and threes for slated interview times will be difficult at best. We're adjusting the crew size down to flexible people to compensate.
- With post-production, snags can come up that delay completion for technical reasons, like a crashed computer or a camera in need of service.
- This project deserves really good motion graphics to portray examples of statistics. I'm am talented in that arena, but not hip. I am acquainted with several motion graphics artists, but one challenge will be getting them to work for a reduced rate that fits in our budget.
- In very timely films like these, where a story is still unfolding like the pond ripples after a stone's impact, documentarians often need to intentionally delay the completion of the film, in order to capture new developments that complete the story. If the schools fight really heats up, meeting the end-of-the-year deadline could be hard. An "extended edition" may be necessary.
- And lastly, I enter into this film with a very difficult deadline, the end of 2012, in order to get the message out during the new round of fight backs against school closures in Chicago. This will involve full-time dedication in taping interviews and b-roll, composing graphics, arranging music rights, and most of all, editing. I will have to suspend seeking out my normal freelance work during that time, which is a financial risk unto itself. I faced a similar problem in my near-solo project Workers' Republic, but I couldn't dedicate full-time to it back then. To help, I have footage sharing agreements with my fellow Labor Beat videographers, and I am also working with two young filmmakers to round out the cinematography crew. But I have no illusions: this will take up most of my day, every day, until late December. NOT hitting my fundraising goal will jeopardize that timeline.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)