2019, as news touted record low unemployment and robust economic “growth“, almost 80% of Americans lived paycheck to paycheck. 

Fast forward to spring 2020, 40+ million Americans filed for unemployment as pandemic COVID19 related lockdowns and ensuing events changed life as we know it. The wounds long buried in our collective cultural psyche and systemic dysfunctions are being exposed. In many ways, we are called to face what we feared the most, with little option to ignore. Or will we find a way to ignore it?

This character-driven documentary explores the raw and honest experiences of several hardworking middle class Americans living busily and often frantically as they urgently seek resolutions to the impact of



The stability, as we know and expect, gives way to barely surviving. We begin to see ourselves and those around marginalized, unfolding the real life struggles that so many of us feel and experience but have difficulty coming to terms with—why did this happen, we played by the rules!?


The ANXIETY of no longer being able to pay our bills; the SHAME of failing ourselves and those we love and care for; the DESPERATION and FEAR of losing grip on everything we worked so hard for; the RESIGNATION that there is nothing we can do. This HIDDEN TRAUMA collectively affects us and the American Dream ideology.

A WALKING NIGHTMARE, one paycheck away is the WORKING AND MIDDLE CLASS TIME BOMB ticking to implode STABILITY!



We have read the statistics, seen the numbers, and listened to the facts. The American “middle class” and its decline is a complicated topic that intrigues politicians, economists, and reporters alike. The topic has been exhausted by just about everyone besides those living in it.

One Paycheck Away focuses on the hardworking Americans who are living through the tumultuous transition from a stable middle class to one that is barely surviving. One Paycheck Away is not another top-down approach documentary rather, it is the true stories of individuals, families, and communities struggling to make ends meet.



Director & Producer

Duncan’s outcast lens weaves uncanny stories into filmmaking to address how humanity reconciles with our chaotic, often incomprehensible, divisive world.

A NYU graduate, he has been involved in the film industry since 2007 with film program, policies, tax incentives and film studio development. Some of his film work include: Somebody Next Door (Director/Producer), Homeless Ashes (Executive Producer), Drunktown’s Finest (Executive Producer, Sundance Selection, Robert Redford, Executive Producer). With extensive economic, natural resources and community development experience, he brings a unique, raw POV and access to invoke disparate disciplines into potential call to action that comes from within the deep spaces of characters and places.


Social Media Coordinator & Production Assistant

Amelia is a recent Emory graduate who received her B.A. in Anthropology. Her focus is on ethical, honest, and real storytelling through visual media. She finds comfort in the taboo and hopes to uncover untold stories across the globe.

Amelia interned for Slippery Rock Pictures as well as Small World Films Production Company. Her work includes creating promotional videos for the upcoming feature The Burning: The Untold Story of the African Migration Crisis (2021), the non-profit Community Advanced Practice Nurses, Inc., as well as writing her senior thesis on the culture of strip clubs in Atlanta titled Booty Hop and the Snake: Race, Gender, and Identity in an Atlanta Strip Club.

Tara Partow

Production Assistant

Tara is an educator in Gallup, NM who has spent the last three years teaching English Language Arts. She takes great pleasure in exposing students to counter-hegemonic narratives and then listening to them critically examine the social norms and institutions that most of us take for granted. Tara believes that her life’s purpose is to help others to tell their own stories, which increase our capacity for empathy and introspection. Video is her favorite storytelling medium. Her childhood-self, who dreamed of becoming a filmmaker, would be excited to know that she is involved in this project. Tara graduated from Scripps College in 2017 with a BA in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and is happy to be helping young people tell their own stories back in her home state of New Mexico.

will downs

Production Assistant

Will is an Emergency Manager by trade and graduated from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa with his Bachelor’s in Business Management, and Jacksonville State University with his Master’s in Emergency Management. He has worked as an Emergency Manager for State and Local governments across the United States and served in multiple capacities in the Emergency Management and Firefighting fields. He has helped support numerous incidents and planning and preparedness efforts at the Local and State levels, as well as private and spaceflight industries.

Will brings a direct lens from the American South where he experienced and witness the often muted challenges of folks whose struggles were buried in the very potentials they couldn’t realize from the pursuits of education and work. He is working with Duncan (Director) to dive deep into the root causes of complacency permeating so much of the socioeconomic and cultural conditions of this area.


Producer/Line Producer

With more than twenty years of experience in both independent and studio filmmaking, Aimée has excelled as a producer and line producer in nearly all genres of filmmaking with numerous feature films, documentaries, commercials, and web content to her name. Aimee’s career spans all aspects of production from development to post production. She has always seen filmmaking as a collaborated endeavor and has traveled the globe many times over to orchestrate elaborate film productions. Aimée received her education from Emerson College and FAMU in the Czech Republic. She has worked on such films as Moulin Rouge, Killing The Colorado, Street Gang, Light Girls, Tabloid and This Is It.


Climate Advisor

Dr. Standley is an environmental chemist and author living in Walnut Creek, CA. Her research and activism focuses on protecting water resources and reducing public exposure to toxic chemicals. 

Laurel is the author of a blog and self-help book on reducing personal exposure to toxic chemicals. She also writes fiction and is currently working on a dystopian trilogy about the world after climate change. As a member of the National Academy of Science’s Science and Entertainment Exchange, Laurel advises authors and filmmakers on incorporating science into their work. 

Dr. Standley received her B.S. in Chemistry from California Polytechnic State University, a Ph.D. in Chemical Oceanography from Oregon State University, and an M.A. in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the University of Delaware.

Elmer dixon

Equity/Diversity Advisor

Elmer grew up in Seattle’s Central District. In 1968, with his older brother Aaron Dixon, he co-founded the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party. He served the Chapter as its Field Marshall as well as the Breakfast Program Coordinator. When the Seattle Chapter closed its office and some of its core members moved to Oakland in 1972, Elmer, under parole and unable to move to Oakland, stayed in Seattle and reorganized the Chapter. He worked to sustain the Party’s breakfast program and health clinic, maintaining the Panther organization until 1976 and some programs into the 1980s. Elmer Dixon now works as a diversity consultant.

Dr. George Capowich

Social Science Advisor

Dr. Capowich is a professor emeritus from Loyola University New Orleans. He was Vice Provost for Academic Affairs for five years including supervising the institutional research office, which was responsible for all ongoing data collection, analysis, and assessments of university operations. He has studied many aspects of inner-city violence, including the roles played by neighborhood condition and personal life histories in either preventing or facilitating violence. He also has participated in or led national research efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of anti-violence programs and policies. Recently, he trained about 100 officers from the New Orleans Police Department to implement problem-oriented policing.

Laura Gonzales

Technology Advisor

Laura was born and raised in Albuquerque, NM. She attended Southern Methodist University and obtained Bachelors’ degrees in Business Administration and English. During college she received scholarships to study in Spain and at Oxford University in England as well as performing volunteer work with Amigos de las Americas in Ecuador. She attended Webster University and received a Masters’ in Computer Resource and Information Management and subsequently began a career spanning over 25 years in public sector Information Technology. She was Chair of the Board for REDI Net, a project to bring a fiber backbone to Northern New Mexico. She is on the ABET certification and curriculum committee for the Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science for Northern New Mexico College. She has worked with multiple higher education institutions on grants for technology programs. Laura is a certified Project Management Professional and a Certified Government Chief Information Officer. She recently retired as CIO of Los Alamos County and is currently a consultant for the State of NM.


Graphic Novel Illustrator

Joel is a comic creator, freelance illustrator, storyboard artist and writer from San Francisco. His Xeric Grant-funded comic series, “Along The Canadian,” was self-published in 2004-5. He later collaborated with Sillywood Animation, a small independent animation house in the San Francisco Bay Area on several animation pilot concepts. He was 1/3 of the artistic team “Out For Justice” formed in 2012 in Portland, Maine, pitching television concepts and working for an international cadre of clients for several years. He has illustrated “The Girl From Hollywood”, a webcomic on the Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. He lives with his wife in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

ralph sanders

Graphic Novel Illustrator

Ralph Sanders has always admired wordless graphic narratives, editorial cartoons and illustrated characters of all ages in comic books and in classic literature. He was inspired to create a graphic novel of John Bunyan’s 1678 Christian allegorical text “The Pilgrim’s Progress”. Ralph has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Texas Tech University and a Master of Fine Arts from East Tennessee State University. His teaching experience is at the college level for many years in the South and in Appalachia – the area of the United States with the richest traditions of storytelling and folk art. These forms came with Scots Irish and Irish settlers and have had a strong influence on me. In the past few years Ralph has been creating his own way of storytelling using a graphic novel approach.