Independent Lens sat down with As Goes Janesville filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein in the midst of a whirlwind media tour ahead of the premiere of his film on Monday, October 8, 2012 at 10 PM (check local listings).
What impact do you hope As Goes Janesville will have?
The film is about the most vexing of questions: how do you reinvent an economy and sustain the middle class? It’s complicated by political unrest and polarization. I hope the film serves as both an instructive and cautionary tale about how to try to reinvent our economy in a fair way that includes the middle class, and how to overcome political polarization and work together toward a common purpose. I want to use the film to bring business, labor, community and civic groups together across political and other boundaries and find ways to unite them in their communities.
What led you to make this film?
I wanted to tell a story about our economic crisis, not so much the fall but the very difficult process of reinvention. And I knew about the closing of the GM plant in Janesville because my wife grew up there. What they faced — massive unemployment and, ultimately, political upheaval as Wisconsin erupted into a firestorm over unions — is a microcosm for all of America.
What were some of the challenges you faced in making this film?
Scope and access. Though the film is about a small city, it covers three years, the closure of a GM plant, the battle over unions, a recall election. It’s epic, so our editor, Leslie Simmer of Kartemquin Films, and I struggled just as epically to tell the story through the experiences of our five main subjects. Access was always a challenge, not so much with the laid-off workers but with the business community. They put a premium on confidentiality and were skeptical of our effort to tell and candid, behind-the-scenes story. Continue reading