Help American Winter make an impact in communities and legislatures nationwide
Posted by Joe and Harry Gantz, Directors/Producers of American Winter
American Winter, which is now playing on HBO, follows the stories of families struggling to keep their heads above water in the wake of the Great Recession, and highlights the human impact of rising poverty, cuts to social safety net programs, and the fracturing of the American Dream. It is a moving film that shows our nation’s economic challenges from the very personal point of view of eight families (watch the trailer https://kck.st/14YO6pG).
We found the families for this documentary by listening to calls coming into 211 Info in Portland, a crisis line for people needing help. We listened to hundreds of calls everyday —calls coming from desperate American families in need of help to pay the rent, keep their heat on, or even to eat. We then followed the stories of dozens of these callers over several months, and included the stories of eight families in the final film.
Making American Winter, we saw firsthand how stressed and scared so many parents are feeling as they face the prospect of losing their homes, and by the daily struggle to pay their bills. However, the most overwhelming part was seeing the kids who have lost hope for their future. These kids see their parents work extremely hard, and the kids say to themselves, “we’re barely getting by everyday, how am I going to make it when I grow up?” And losing that sense of optimism and hope does not bode well for a child’s future.
American Winter seems to be striking a powerful chord at this critical moment when poverty and economic inequality are increasing at the same time that budgets for critical social and human services and safety net programs are shrinking. Our goal is to create awareness about the importance of funding the social safety net by bringing American Winter to communities nationwide. We have received hundreds of requests to hold screenings across the country since the film premiered on HBO a few weeks ago. Inquiries have come in from schools, churches, union halls, government agencies, advocacy groups, and politicians. We plan to screen the film all over the country in co-operation with partners in the local community who are addressing these problems, and foundations and advocacy groups who have developed some practical solutions (like the Whole Planet Foundation’s microfinance programs).
To this end, we created a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to raise $25,000 for our American Winter outreach and action campaign https://kck.st/14YO6pG. The deadline for this 30-day campaign is April 12th (less than a week away) and, to date, we have 166 backers, however we still need to raise $18,000 before Friday April 12th to reach our goal, or else we get none of the funds donated so far.
When we premiered at the Portland International Film Festival, where we won the Best Documentary Award, the audience was made up of politicians, including U.S. Senator Merkley (who spoke after the film), the former governor, the mayor and the ex mayor, the Speaker of the Oregon House, and the families from the film were all there and received an emotional standing ovation after the film ended. The film received a standing ovation, in large part because American Winter shows that those who need a helping hand are hard working families who simply want some assistance to get back on their feet and become contributing members of society again.
With the sequestration and all the talk about cutting social programs all across the country, we think that this film can be a tipping point in the battle to open people’s minds to change. We are committed to using the message of American Winter to create a more just policy towards the working poor, and to try to secure the American Dream for the next generation of kids growing up.
Please support the film and our outreach efforts by watching our trailer, and by donating to our Kickstarter campaign: https://kck.st/14YO6pG.
If people across the country donate today, we will be able to continue our efforts to use American Winter to change minds and change policy, and work towards creating a more just future for everyone in America. For more information, and to get involved, visit: www.americanwinterfilm.com.