Fall of 2018, some acquaintances ran into me at a local café and asked if I had done more with the hunger documentary I did a few years back. They were specifically curious about the sub topic I brought up regarding one paycheck away. At that time, I haven’t thought too much about the subject as I went on to various different projects. I brushed it off with a reply that things are probably getting better as the economy seems to be doing ok. But something intuitively within me was nagging otherwise…
Later that day, I looked online to check the state of economy for the average Joe and Jane. I always knew that many are struggling and am well aware of the growing wealth and income gap. But what I learned was very alarming. Many of the issues—not able to pay bills, afford costs of housing, having multiple jobs, lack of healthcare coverage, etc.–plaguing the marginalized and working poor have rapidly crept into the daily lives of the American middle class. I spent the next few months diving deeper to research to validate that 80% of Americans now live paycheck to paycheck.
The worsening reality that so many of us are ONE PAYCHECK AWAY , from losing what we labor so dearly to hold on to, is a daunting and sobering realization. What happens to us if this continues? It doesn’t take much to catapult someone into a downward spiral; once it occurs, it’s difficult to climb back out. It’s not only financial decline but also the path towards the fringe of imminent social instability and personal trauma that can tremendously disrupt our way of life, as we know it.
I also found that many public and private organizations studied and documented the effects of the issues. Statistics indicate the severity and myriad of social and civic programs offer safety nets, subsidies and address access. Scholars identify such factors as “poverty”, “flaws with political power” and “inequality” to be solved. But the dilemma persists. Why? How? What else is going on?
At the same time, I recalled the myriad of frustrated interactions I had in the last decade while involved with community and economic development efforts. On many levels, these top-down initiatives were inadequate in bringing solutions for the average person. I grew very jaded over time. I remember the faces telling me: “I don’t know if I’ll make it”. It’s the phrase I hear so many echo still to-date; it haunts me, reminds me they feel helpless, trapped in a state of collective NUMB, like a walking nightmare.
Naïve. Dismayed. Incensed. Naïve again. This is how I, despite my own numbing, came full circle to realize I cannot stand by to watch passively anymore at a time when divisiveness is the blindfold we all have on. As overwhelming as the subject is, I have to enable a platform to invite people to face this head on, with vigor and raw honesty, challenging the status quo. The best way I know how is through authentic storytelling, combining lessons learned from my multidisciplinary development experience.
While questioning why and how 80% of us live paycheck-to-paycheck, this film calls to action what an average person can do to bring solutions. From the lenses of our key characters–real, normal persons– something familiar can connect us in our shared daily lives and struggles. From that, we begin…
– Duncan Sill