Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
The film was inspired by the economic crisis of 2009. I saw many working class people struggling, losing their jobs and their homes, and I was struggling with my family during that period too. So I wanted to document a character who refused to give up, like so many of the people around me. I wanted to give voice to these people and remind them that they weren’t alone. I wanted to entertain an audience for a little while and show that there are other people who are struggling too. I wanted to show that you should hold on. Keep fighting. Keep moving forward. Never give up. Sometime things go bad for no reason and sometimes life gives you a break and all of a sudden things work out. But nothing happens if you give up.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
This is a film that more resembles real life instead of an idealized version of the world around you. While watching the film you’ll feel like you’ve been on the journey with Thaddeus and his daughter, that you’ve walked in their shoes. The goal is that by the end of the film the audience has the hope that the struggle we all go through can make us stronger as people and as a community.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
I always thought that the personal was political. The life you lead is your political voice. The personal themes, the questions explored in the film were both personal and universal. I’m asking the universal questions that have been asked through the ages: What lengths will we go to in order to survive? What are the responsibilities that we have to our family, our community and to ourselves?
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
I wrote the script and storyboarded scenes but I decided that I wanted to approach filming in a vérité/documentary style in order to make the film feel honest and authentic. I shot the majority of the film myself with no crew in order to ensure that I could capture the intimate moments between Thaddeus and his daughter.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The feedback has been really incredible. Sitting in the theatre with an audience, you immediately feel them respond to what they’re seeing on the screen. Feeling that response is important to understanding the impact the film has. Movies and music and books have meant so much to me in my life. They have helped me try to begin to understand the world around me and given me comfort in dark times. So the idea that I have made a movie that might do the same thing to someone else… Well, I feel like it’s a karma thing. I’m just trying to pass it on. It’s all about feeling connected to others.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
The response to the film has shown me that I really hit a nerve with the audience in how the have reacted to the film which is so encouraging to me as a filmmaker.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I love the idea of people discovering the film the same way I’m always digging through bins of records at garage sales and record stores. I hope people will have a way to discover the film for themselves and that it will resonate with them in a very personal way. I want it to have the effect that I feel when I watch a film that’s important to me: That the film made me feel good about life, that it was worth my time, that it eased my burden and made me escape for a little while. That’s the goal.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What responsibility do we have to one another? I want to recognize the people who are doing the right thing and working their tails off and they’re barely surviving. When is it okay to bail out a company and when is it okay to bail out an individual? The main character in Working Poor wasn’t looking for a hand out, he just wanted a job. He didn’t want a fancy lifestyle, he just wanted a roof over his head and a decent meal. “A man does what he has to when he’s got an empty mouth to feed,’” is a line from a favorite Bob Dylan song of mine. When you’re desperate you do what you have to do, a good man might resort to doing things he may not be proud of.
Would you like to add anything else?
I could talk for hours about movies and their connection to our lives.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I have another short film in pre-production and I’m writing my second feature film. The feature is about the transition to adulthood. It focuses on a group of twenty-somethings who think they have all the answers – about sex, relationships, politics – and then they learn they don’t have the answers. It’s a loving look at a very special part of all of our lives.