As Goes Janesville

As Goes Janesville

About the Film

Janesville, Wisconsin is not unlike a lot of Midwestern blue-collar, middle-class towns in America. Since the economy began its nosedive in 2008, Janesville residents, civic leaders, and businesses have been plunged into an extended cycle of hardship and uncertainty. And like other towns in other states across the nation, Janesville has found itself at a crossroads: As a place with more people than jobs, how can it reinvent and restore itself, and at what cost? MORE

Almost exactly one year after the recession officially began, General Motors shuttered its Janesville Assembly Plant — the oldest GM plant in all of North America — where for decades locals had held down good-paying mostly union jobs making SUVs and pickup trucks. It was just before Christmas in 2008 and almost 2,000 Janesville residents were either out of a job or given an offer to transfer to one of several GM plants in other states. The nearest plant is a day’s drive away. For those with roots and family in Janesville, or kids in school, or a spouse with another company in the region, the prospect of leaving presented wrenching choices. Some Janesville GM alumni found work in other industries, or have gone back to school to retrain (sometimes incurring frightening levels of debt along the way).

Meanwhile, local business leaders believe they have a solution. If they can find a handful of companies who would be willing to relocate to Janesville, the jobs would come back, and the people of Janesville could stay and thrive. To accomplish this, they begin a persuasive campaign (its members dubbed “the ambassadors of optimism”) to woo promising companies, and to enlist the Janesville City Council to make them an offer they can’t resist with tax incentives and loan guarantees for private investors.

And then in 2010, the midterm election campaigns hit high gear, and perhaps nowhere did they reverberate more widely than in Wisconsin. Scott Walker, a young and fiery politician in Milwaukee, captured the GOP endorsement for governor with a platform focused on repairing Wisconsin’s battered economy and creating a quarter million jobs using deep cuts in the capital gains tax, incentives for small businesses, and rolling back spending on state spending — including measures to restrict the collective bargaining rights of public employees such as firefighters, teachers, and police officers.

Walker, who gave out “Wisconsin: Open for Business!” campaign bumper stickers, was swept into office by a hefty margin, and quickly introduced his “budget repair bill” in early 2011. The bill passed, but not before the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison was besieged by protestors and the Democratic members of the legislature (including Janesville’s representative Tim Cullen) fled the state in an attempt to block it.

Meanwhile in Janesville, there is ambivalence. A pro-business agenda at the state level is a relief to the local “ambassadors of optimism.” Those who have been lifelong autoworkers and union-members are nervous about wagering hard-won labor rights for a so-far speculative economic resurgence. But everybody in Janesville is eager for something — anything — that might help them keep their community in one piece.

The story of Janesville is a parable for cities large and small across the United States. In this era of economic challenge and ideological polarization, how might we redefine the American Dream?


The Filmmaker

Brad Lichtenstein an award-winning filmmaker and president of 371 Productions, a media company dedicated to producing social issue documentaries, technology projects and public engagement campaigns that contribute to the common good. Brad has been making documentaries since 1994. His 2006 Independent Lens film Almost Home, about people who live and work in an elder-care community, continues to be featured in workshops on aging and caregiving. As Goes Janesville is a coproduction of 371 Productions and Kartemquin Films. LESS

Film Credits

A Film by
Brad Lichtenstein

Co-produced by
Nicole Docta

Co-written and Edited by
Leslie Simmer

Original Music by
Vernon Reid

Produced and Directed by
Brad Lichtenstein

Executive Producers
Brian Glazer
Justine Nagan
Gordon Quinn

Archival Footage Researcher
Colin Sytsma

Production Associates
Kaleigh Atkinson
Colin Sytsma

Brad Lichtenstein
Nicole Docta
Danielle Beverly

Second Unit Camera
Kaleigh Atkinson
Colin Sytsma
Michael Vollman

Additional Editor
Nicole Docta
Liz Kaar

Editorial Consultant
Sam Pollard

Field Sound
Kaleigh Atkinson
Derrick Carey
Nicole Docta
Gino Gaglianello
Matthew Mixon
Richard Pooler
Colin Sytsma
Chris Thompson
Jonah Whipp

Spencer Chumbley
Kaitlin Creadon
Katherine Foster Vogelsang
Christina Gill
Keil Mitchell
Meghan O’Connell
Brett Rolstad
Brad Schiefelbein
Kurt Sensenbrenner
Jennifer Solorio
Joe Steigerwald
Patrick Walter
Jamie Weidman

On-line Facility
Kartemquin Films

Graphics Facility
Aurum Design

Re-recording Mixer
Dan Brennan

Color Correction
Jim Morrissette

Gayle Listenbee
Cindy Deegan
Mary Willmer
Tim Cullen

Larry Arft
John Beckord
Sarah Deegan
Christina Deegan
Doug Deegan
John Dohner
Ed Gansen
Vic Grassman
Diane Hendricks
Joe Knilans
Jim Leute
Eric Levitt
Spencer Listenbee
Skylar Listenbee
Tim Listenbee
John Nichols
James Otterstein
Greg Piefer
Yuri Rashkin
Austin Scieszinski
Chelsea Sheedy
Stan Stricker
Kerry Swanson
Kathy Winker

Aerial Videography by

Legal Representation
Frankfurt, Kurnit, Klein and Selz

Archival Photographs and Footage Courtesy of
Alex Connelly
Jack Davidson
Martin Eigenberger
General Motors, LLC
Historic Film Archive, LLC
The Janesville Gazette
Local Vision TV
Rock County 5.0 Initiative
Rock County Historical Society
Yuri Rashkin
Luciano and Barbara Vedder
John Versical
Ellen E Weaver
Gretta Wing Miller
Wisconsin Eye
Wisconsin Uprising Archive
Matt Wisniewski

Nation Consulting

Special Thanks
ABC Supply
Danny Alpert
Louis Alvarez
Tom, Sally and Anne Basting
Beloit Chamber of Commerce
Beloit School District
Black Dog Pub
Blackhawk Technical College
Blain Supply Inc.
Steve Bognar
Bob Borremans
Kim Carpenter
Rosemary Caruk
Center for Automotive Research
Sachin Chheda
Certified Parts Corp.
Community Action Agency
Community of Beloit
Community of Janesville
Dane County Administration for Employee Relations
Pauline and Robert Deegan
Carl Deal
Eagle Inn Family Restaurant
Emmanuel Baptist Church
Evansville Manor
The Filing Station
Nick and Kate Fitzgerald and Family
Forward Janesville
Gayle Graham
Kenneth Grant
William Grotz
Dan Harrigan
Dave Heckman
Doug Heenan
Helicopter Specialties
Hhffrrrggh Inn Restaurant and Bar
Janice Hodges
Jordan Hobbs-Johnson
Tim Horsburgh
Janesville Country Club
Janesville School Board
Janesville School District
Stephanie Jentgen
Charles Jones
Sharon Kennedy
Kettle Foods
Matt Lauterbach
Peter Lekousis
Tia Lessin
Patrick Lile
Ed Martinez
Media Matters
George Messina
Bill Mueller
Mary Nell Murphy
Lauren Pabst
David Parr
John Pearse
Performance Micro Tool
Rachel Pilkeny
Scott Portman
Regina Prude
Julia Reichart
Chris Rich
Yoruba Richen
Rinehart Targets
Rock County Job Center
Rock County Sheriff’s Department
Rotary Club
Rotary Gardens
Paul Ryan
Mike Sheridan
Shine Medical Technologies
Ines Sommer
Bob Spoden
St. Mary’s Janesville Hospital
Melissa Sterne
The Sun Room Café
Jan Sutcliffe
Tailgate Tasters
Julia Taylor
UAW Local 95
United Alloy
United Way Northern Rock County
Len Walker
Wanda Wellmen-Montion
Wiggy’s Saloon
Joe Winston
Wm. S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital
Aaron Wolf
Manny Wright
Young Professionals Group

Executive Producer for ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer

Major Funding Provided by
The MacArthur Foundation
Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund Trust
The Lubar Family Foundation
The Mary L. Nohl Fellowships for Individual Artists

As Goes Janesvilleis a co-production of 371 Productions, LLC, Kartemquin Films,
and the Independent Television Service (ITVS),
with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

This program was produced by 371 Productions, LLC which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2012 371 Productions, LLC. All rights reserved.

Persistent unemployment, poor consumer confidence, still free-falling housing prices, rising fuel and food prices. How has your life changed since the recession began? Do you think the American Dream is still possible?
Persistent unemployment, poor consumer confidence, still free-falling housing prices, rising fuel and food prices. How has your life changed since the recession began? Do you think the American Dream is still possible?