IMDb > Waging a Living (2005)

Waging a Living (2005) More at IMDbPro »


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The term "working poor" should be an oxymoron. If you work full time, you should not be poor, but more than 30 million Americans... See more » | Add synopsis »
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A necessary humanization See more (4 total) »

Directed by
Roger Weisberg 
Pamela Harris (co-director)
Frances Reid (co-director)
Edward Rosenstein (co-director)
 
Produced by
Pamela Harris .... co-producer
Deborah Clancy Porfido .... associate producer (as Deborah Clancy)
Frances Reid .... co-producer
Edward Rosenstein .... co-producer
Roger Weisberg .... producer
 
Original Music by
Richard Fiocca 
 
Cinematography by
Jim Arnold 
Rick Butler 
Brian Danitz 
Vicente Franco 
Slawomir Grunberg 
John Hazard 
Hilary Morgan 
Peter Nelson 
Mark Stoddard 
Fawn Yacker 
 
Film Editing by
Sandra Christie 
Lewis Erskine 
Christopher White 
 
Production Management
Tammy Arnstein .... production manager
Alexis Jallad .... production manager
Corrie Kaufman .... production manager
Jessie Pepper .... production manager
 
Sound Department
Tom Bergin .... sound
Ray Day .... sound
William Doll .... sound
Richard Fleming .... sound
Francisco La Torre .... sound
Lawrence Loewinger .... sound
Jason Longo .... sound
Dow McKeever .... sound editor
Dow McKeever .... sound re-recording mixer
Marsha McKeever .... sound editor
Gabriel Miller .... sound
Lauretta Molitor .... sound
York Phelps .... sound
Juan Rodriguez .... sound
Bernard Russo .... sound
John Steadwell .... sound
 
Visual Effects by
Rob Roth .... title designer
 
Editorial Department
Josh Braslow .... assistant editor
 
Other crew
Aspen Baker .... production assistant
Chris Borgia .... production intern
Kaity Cheng .... production intern
Lea Cho .... production intern
Heather Clayton .... production intern
Emily Dimiero .... production intern
Alexander Emerson .... production intern
Solange Jorge .... production intern
Andrew Levine .... production intern
Beth Levine .... production intern
Mei Chun Lin .... production intern
Sonal Mahida .... production intern
Colette Mercier .... production assistant
Dee Ouellette .... production assistant
Daniel Powell .... production intern
Ruby Privateer .... production assistant
Sheela Reddy .... production intern
Adrian Rodelo .... production assistant
Dani Rotstein .... production intern
Shane Sahadi .... production assistant
Jennifer Schoen .... production intern
Elyse Steinberg .... production intern
Jessica Windt .... production intern
 

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Runtime:
USA:85 min
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A necessary humanization, 3 February 2015
Author: Steve Pulaski from United States

Waging a Living is a necessary humanization for a demographic often shortchanged to buzzwords or percentages in a political speech. We constantly hear many Americans are living "paycheck to paycheck" or "x" amount of people are below the poverty line, but here we see four case examples of those kinds of people and learn their struggle. Films, and documentaries especially, were once referred to by film critic Roger Ebert as "empathy machines" and Waging a Living churns out empathy, sympathy, and insight in mass amounts.

We focus on four individuals: Jean Reynolds, a nursing assistant, who is rallying for higher wages at her job, claiming she isn't underpaid for allegedly doing "the work of God," Jerry Longoria, a security guard for an enormous high-rise who lives in a one-room apartment, Mary Venittelli, a waitress from San Francisco earning a meager $2.13 an hour plus tips at her job, while going through a messy divorce and juggling several young children, and Barbara Brooks, a child care supervisor looking to obtain higher education in order to make more money. The film intertwines their stories by showing their constant struggle to get by, and the demoralizing attitudes that come with being "working poor." The film, for starters, isn't entirely bent on empty statistics and sticks to profiling four subjects who are trying to make a living off of minimum wage. Right off the bat, even if we know and hear about the struggles of a minimum wage earner, seeing men, women, mothers, and fathers struggle to support themselves and their children is a difficult sight to witness. It's also incredibly aggravating to see these hard-working individuals talk about how they've grown up with the notion that hard work will equal success over time, but all they've seen in their lives is hard work with menial payoff. All these subjects are so depressingly close to losing everything that it's demoralizing for them to be seen doing something like shopping for clothes at a goodwill in their same county or cutting back on their necessities to assure their monthly budget isn't extended.

The minimum wage debate is one I see from both sides. On one hand, there's the human side that kicks in and stirs the emotional pot of feelings when one sees so many people struggling to make it on a wage not adequately sustained and raised with rising inflation and the cost of resources. On the other, there's the question of economic consequences of raising the minimum wage, where prices of goods and services could rise and employees' hours could be cut to levels below full-time employment. These secondary consequences shouldn't be ignored, and generally aren't, but it makes the debate of raising the minimum wage that much more difficult.

One thing I can say, however, is that if you're working full-time at a job and you still qualify for food stamps and sit below the poverty line, the system is deeply flawed. Right there, you are diminishing the motivation and interest for someone to have a job in the first place; what's the point of working, overusing my body, and causing myself mental and physical strain when my labor isn't valuable enough to take me out of poverty? My grandmother and I have constantly fought about this issue, with her making the conventional argument that going back to school to gain higher education is what that person should do.

As stated, we see one subject in Waging a Living attempt to do that, struggling to keep her hours at a manageable level at work and attend classes. The fact of the matter is higher education is grossly expensive for middle/upper-middle class teenagers, who's parents likely had to save money since their kids' childhood in order to pay for it. Imagine not just the financial strain but the impossibility of someone who is living paycheck-to-paycheck trying to pay for higher education in order to optimistically lift themselves out of poverty. And what if they still can't find a high-paying job by the time they graduate? Now they're still stuck at the same miserable job and have incurred massive debt.

Waging a Living doesn't offer any kind of solution, but it notes what a cyclical problem this is. It's an issue that circumvents back and forth, with nearly every solution or attempted resolution imposed by the subjects of the film being met with either more problems or no clean remedy to their immediate conflict. It's a tough issue and the documentary's purpose is to show us that it indeed is, and has the ability to provide someone with a narrow, oversimplified view of people in poverty and minimum wage earners with a sense of necessary enlightenment.

Directed by: Roger Weisberg, Pamela Harris, Frances Reid, and Edward Rosenstein.

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