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Sue Sipprelle and Sam Newman's timely documentary Set For Life to premiere at the New Jersey Film Festival on January 26, 2013 at Rutgers University!

Sue Sipprelle and Sam Newman's timely documentary Set For Life to premiere at the New Jersey Film Festival on January 26, 2013 at Rutgers University!

Sue Sipprelle and Sam Newman's timely documentary Set For Life will get its public premiere at the New Jersey Film Festival on January 26, 2013 at Rutgers University. Here is an interview I did with Sue about her eye-opening film.

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Nigrin: Your timely documentary feature Set For Life focuses on three middle-aged Americans, who believed they were set for life, but are struggling to recover from the devastating impact of losing their jobs during the Great Recession.  What were the motivations for making this film?

Sipprelle: I went back to Columbia Graduate School of Journalism when I was in my forties.  After I graduated with honors, I wanted to use the multimedia skills I had learned on a major issue.  The Great Recession had devastated the economy, and I could see its damaging and lasting impact on my peers, the Baby Boomers. I drew inspiration from Studs Terkel's masterpieces.  Sam Newman and I began the multimedia documentary project Over 50 and Out of Work in February 2010. Over the next two years, we interviewed 100 Americans, 50 and older, who had lost their jobs in the Great Recession.  We focused our interviews in the states with the highest rates of unemployment.  By the time we completed the 100 interviews, we had traveled to 14 states, as well as the Washington, D.C.  We also interviewed experts -- economists, researchers, psyschologists - who set the issues surrounding unemployment among older workers in a broader national context.  After completing this work, though, we felt that we could have a greater impact if we wove our interviews into a documentary, so we chose three of our 100 interviewees to be the main characters in Set for Life.  We finished our film last summer.

Nigrin: Tell us about the three individuals you focus on and why you decided on these three?

Sipprelle: The film's three main characters are: Joe Price, a third-generation steelworker from Weirton, West Virginia, has been laid off seven times over the course of his 25-year career in the mill, but his most recent two-year layoff, which began in 2009, appears to be permanent. Joe’s plight raises many issues: the decline in U.S. manufacturing that was accelerated by the Great Recession, the role of unions in a highly competitive global economy, as well as the relationship between educational attainment and employment. Deborah Salim, of Conway, South Carolina, worked for 15 years in the records department at a local community college until she lost her job in 2008 due to government budget cutbacks. Deborah’s saga illustrates that the recent recession affected not only private-sector employment but also employment in the public sector. It also reveals how the downturn squeezed out many low- or mid-level white-collar workers whose tasks were distributed to other employees or whose jobs were eliminated by technology, resulting in a “hollowing out” of the workforce with fewer opportunities for that stratum of workers. George Ross, a Vietnam veteran and an information technology project manager in Livermore, California, lost his job in 2008. He searched for work until he was notified that his son, Jason, a Marine, had stepped on a buried mine in Afghanistan while on patrol. George’s story portrays the timeless burden that families bear when their sons and daughters go to war and return home injured, but George’s joblessness adds immeasurably to the problems he and his family are facing during Jason’s rehabilitation.

Nigrin: Are you still in contact with those you interviewed in the film and if so how are they doing?

Sipprelle: We remain in contact with many of our interviewees, not only the film's three main characters, and they update us on changes in their employment status.  The best phone calls or emails I receive are from our interviewees who find jobs!

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Set for Life - Sam Newman and Susan Sipprelle (Englewood, New Jersey)
In this timely documentary feature, three middle-aged Americans, who believed they were set for life, struggle to recover from the devastating impact of losing their jobs during the Great Recession. Now older than 50, they strive to hang onto their homes, health insurance and hope.  Skillfully and empathetically setting their individual stories into a broader national context, Set for Life tracks the ways in which all seek a way to cope with a newly uncertain future, and with their loss of confidence in the American Dream. 2012; 66 min. With an introduction and Q+A session by directors Sam Newman and Susan Sipprelle!

Three short films will be playing prior to Set For Life. They are:

A House, A Home - Daniel Fickle and Mark Smith (Portland, Oregon)
A touching music video focusing on James C. Hawthorne, a doctor and humanist who cared for the mentally ill. 2012; 6 min.

Treeman - Claire Ying-chin Wang (Syracuse, New York) 
In this surreal short, a failed actor begins to metamorphosize into a tree. 2012; 15 min.

Retrocognition - Eric Patrick  (Evanston, Illinois)
A terrific animated film that collages together photographs and audio fragments from WWII-era radio dramas  to critique the classic depiction of the American nuclear family. 2012; 18 min.

Saturday-January 26, 2013
7PM
Voorhees Hall #105
, Rutgers University,
71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey
$10=General; $9=Students+Seniors; $8=Rutgers Film Co-op Friends

More info is available at www.njfilmfest.com or 848-932-8482!

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