In "Jobs for Rent" – available in its entirety at the bottom of this page courtesy of SnagFilms – filmmaker Michelle Paster explores the issue of 20-somethings finding jobs in today's economy.
"Jobs for Rent"
Director: Michelle Paster
Producers: Michelle Paster, Mark Myers
Writers: Michelle Paster, Mark Myers
[Disclosure: SnagFilms is the parent company of indieWIRE]
The full short, "Jobs for Rent" is available free on SnagFilms (and at the end of this article). This interview with Michelle Paster is part of a new series of SnagFilm filmmaker profiles that will be featured weekly on indieWIRE.
So what's the story here?
"Jobs For Rent" follows the emotional and financial journeys of three 20-somethings in their endless pursuit for careers amid the economic recession. Enter the world of the overachieving lawyer, struggling artist, and wandering Starbucks employee, knowing you are not alone in the Gen-Y job hunt. Ride along as Heather, the lawyer, pursues her passion to compete as a runner in the Olympics, while figuring out how to maintain her law firm job to pay off $160,000 in school loan debt. Traverse with Josh, the artist, in his journey of searching for and maintaining any nine to five in lieu of painting images of hands on canvas. Find out if Katherine, the exploratory Starbucks shift supervisor will fine a more creative job where she "can use her hands and work with people." The film features Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark in relation to how young people find jobs. In a time when passion, career and the economy intertwine, Gen-Y'ers are "job renters", not owners. Do you want to borrow a job?
On making movies:
I am a journalist at heart and in the field. I am a curiosity seeker 24/7. Professionally, I have worked as a photo & video journalist, as well as a writer. My clients and published works include: American Film Institute, AOL's Patch.com, LA Weekly, Phoenix New Times (Village Voice media properties), Pepsi Cola Company, International Documentary Association's Documentary Magazine, The OC Metro, Studio Daily's Film & Video magazine; Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and Women in Film. Making movies captures what exists already, just in another form. It's a powerful way to communicate and remember. It's bottling up curiosity, branding it and then letting it out into the world like an inflated balloon about to pop.
How did this project come about?
I was freelancing as an assistant editor and then my now ex-boyfriend proposed we move to Arizona to work in real estate investing. We did that. Nine months later we moved back to LA. I did not know exactly what I wanted to do for work, nor how to get reestablished professionally in LA, even though I grew up here. The first research and development phase of the film was my documenting how people in LA survive off of minimum wage. I went out to what I thought were minimum wage jobs – the man who dresses up in a banana suit promoting a juice company; working on a construction site; painters/workers who stand outside home improvement and paint stores looking for work; and inside the Avon (makeup) packaging plant in Pasadena. I found myself through these three brave subjects opening up their lives to me and to the audience.
Financing and other issues…
My biggest challenge was being okay with using my own money for equipment and balancing income-producing jobs with wanting the flexibility to be able to film at the drop of a hat. With documentary, the challenge is to have faith in the story, in the subjects you chose, and that was hard too. The Starbucks girl stopped letting us film her halfway in, so we lost story there, but she had every right to do so – she didn't want her life revealed anymore and her boyfriend, at the time (later her fiancé) didn't like the idea of her involvement. The audience loves her though – her energy and her bubbly attitude. Knowing when to stop filming the stories was challenging; it would have been better pulling a five-year endeavor like "Hoop Dreams" did (laughing).
And who is your audience?
The story of finding a job and career is something everyone can relate to, no matter their age. The film serves the purpose to illustrate to viewers they are not alone in the journey of figuring out what they want to do for a living and how to get there. The Starbucks girl, in addition to serving lattes, has to clean the coffee shop bathroom. As she says (paraphrased), the same hands that serve you coffee, also clean your sh*t. So parts of the film are funny – you may as well laugh at your situation, if you don't like it, right? People love the ambition of the lawyer wanting to run in the Olympics, as a 10k runner, and are equally surprised by her $160k in law school debt. With the artist, who paints images of hands on canvas, other creatives can relate to his journey of trying to paint, plus make it in the real world of income-necessity. I have shown the film, as a tool, to speak to all audience demographics – from rich to poor; old to young.
Other film inspirations?
Matt Ogens' "Confessions of a Superhero," featuring those movie characters who busk outside Grauman's Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd. Now I'm working for Matt, co-producing his latest film. I met Matt when I was the Managing Editor at The American Film Institute Film Festival's Daily News publication. He is so inspirational in his patience and creative vision to get the exact style, look and lighting he wants along with his DP, Charles Gruet. David Boyle's "Big Dreams, Little Tokyo" – a fiction film about a Caucasian character, who speaks Japanese, trying to enter the Japanese business world. It helps so much to personally know the filmmakers behind the films.
I have a 2012 project where I want to go on 365 dates as a social commentary on dating. Each week would eventually be a different theme – one week: date firefighters; the next Orthodox Jews; the third week Freegarians (those who dumpster dive for food). Then at the end of the year, there would be an "un-wedding" invite, where there would be a lottery drawing for one of the 365 dates (all would be invited to attend), but a drawing for who would be the "un-groom". The "un-wedding" party would be an actual, fun party, comprised with a fundraiser for a nonprofit that helps give wedding dresses to women who can't afford them. I have the rest of December to plan this project. I need your help, so feel free to email: firstname.lastname@example.org to be my date or want to get involved in scheduling dates. I am currently a co-producer on Matt Ogens’ documentary, "Meet the Hitlers," about people who bear this infamous last name and their associated identity. I am an Associate Producer on a documentary, "My Amityville Horror," on the infamous 1970s house haunting of the same name.