The Way We Get By – An Update from the Filmmaker

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The Way We Get By first aired on POV in 2009 to great acclaim. It will rebroadcast on select PBS stations (check your local listings) on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010. The film has also been nominated for a News and Documentary Emmy Award! We emailed filmmaker Aron Gaudet to catch up on all things The Way We Get By.

POV: Can you give us an update on Bill, Jerry and Joan? How have they been doing since we saw them in the film?

The Way We Get By: People Magazine

People magazine feature on the Maine troop greeters.

Aron Gaudet: They are each a couple years older, but still doing pretty well physically, and still greeting troops every chance they get. They continue to be a real inspiration to us in their commitment to being at the airport day after day. Also, they’ve been able to travel all across the country with The Way We Get By and enjoyed some pretty incredible experiences — a trip to the White House, a trip to a star-studded Hollywood event to accept AARP’s Movies For Grownups award for Best Documentary of 2009 and a photo spread and article in People magazine. It’s been a pretty busy and whirlwind year for the three of them.

POV: What is the current count for the number of troops greeted in Bangor, Maine?

Gaudet: I put a call into Joan (my mom) for this one… The very latest update has the troop count at 1,075,000+ and growing — she said a flight is due in later this afternoon.

The Way We Get By: Troop Greeters with Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden with Maine troop greeters Jerry, Joan and Bill. Photo courtesy of Aron Gaudet

POV: Joan’s involvement in the Maine Troop Greeters was the genesis for the film. How did she first get involved with the organization?

Gaudet: As Bill says in the film, the first flight came through on May 3rd, 2003. She got involved greeting troops a few months later, in the fall of 2003, when a friend invited her to accompany her to the airport. One flight and she was hooked. After that, she got on a call list and started going to flights 24/7. It was a pretty instant addiction.

POV: What was the most surprising thing you learned during the process of making The Way We Get By?

Gaudet: When we look back at the last five years, I think what we value most is everything we learned about ourselves through the process of making the film. We learned a lot as filmmakers, but Bill, Joan and Jerry also taught us so much about life, and what is important in life. But maybe the most surprising thing was having a group of wedding vendors all come together to give Gita and I a dream wedding on the coast of Maine. To have people support the film and us in such amazing ways continues to surprise us.

POV: Has your film and the Maine Troop Greeters spurred other troop greeter groups to organize in other parts of the country?

Gaduet: This is one of those things that is kind of hard to track. We’ve certainly been contacted by a lot of people who have been inspired by The Way We Get By and were looking for more information on greeting troops in their area. Luckily, we have a great relationship with the USO and many other volunteer organizations across the country — so we’ve had the resources available to point them towards. I’m hoping the film has at least inspired many others to seek out opportunities within their communities to volunteer.

POV: How will the anticipated troop withdrawals — next month in Iraq and next summer in Afghanistan — affect the schedule for the troop greeters?

Gaudet: The Maine Troop Greeters are already very busy greeting troops. Multiple flights come into the Bangor International Airport nearly every day. Troop withdrawals may make for some busier flight schedules, and even more troops coming through, but I’m sure the troop greeters are up for the challenge. They’ll never complain about having too many troops coming home to greet. They’ll just need more cookies.

The Way We Get By: Morgan Freeman and Joan Gaudet

Joan Gaudet with actor Morgan Freeman. Photo courtesy of Aron Gaudet.

POV: Are you taking Joan to the Emmys? If so, who will she be wearing?

Gaudet: We’re not sure if Joan or the guys will be able to make it to New York City for the Emmys. But if she does make it to the award ceremony, she would be wearing whichever designer is the first to design an evening dress with a large American flag on the front. She would definitely want to still show her patriotism and support for the troops!

POV: What are you working on now?

Gaudet: In many ways, The Way We Get By still keeps us quite busy. The development and launch of our companion online resource The Returning Home Project has been very time consuming. Also, we are releasing a 2-Disc Collector’s Edition DVD of The Way We Get By in November loaded with special features and updates. In addition, we are developing a few different documentary and narrative projects with the hope of going into production on one of them by the end of the year.

POV Staff
POV Staff
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 300 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.
  • Danette Van Huisen

    FOREIGNID: 26100
    I just finished watching your beautiful program. Bill touched me so much when he said he didn’t have anyone to tell things to. His four walls didn’t really listen much and when he judged his own self worth I could not help but tear up. So many of our “muched lived” have this sense of sadness about them and all it takes is a simple “Hello, how are you today?”
    You can help cook and deliver a meal once a month, take someone shopping or out to eat. My favorite is just listening. Today and tomorrow are yours but they can teach you all about lots of yesterdays!!!!
    Thank you so much for this program.

  • Terry Lee

    FOREIGNID: 26107
    I too just finished the show and teared up as well.
    I was struck by the search for the meaning of life. The elderly had no more insight into it than give something to somebody; and try to make a difference. Then juxtaposition to the troops who are finding the meaning of life in the giving….to their unit, their country and their family. It is a beautiful thing to see that the meaning of life is to share and give and that giving and sharing is it’s own reward

  • Susan Manning

    FOREIGNID: 26126
    Your documentary was both touching and inspiring. It is invaluable to learn that we always have more to give and can continue throughout our lives to give to others.
    I know that, if I were one of those men and women returning from the middle east, and I was greeted by the Troup Greeters, it would mean the world to me. I think we often forget what a tough job our troops have, and I, for one, am still ashamed of the way we greeted the troops returning from Vietnam.
    I do hope that our troops can eventually faze out of that fighting, but the Troop Greeters will always be needed, one way or another.
    Please tell them thank you.

  • Teri

    FOREIGNID: 26152
    How are Joan’s grandkids? did they come home safely?

  • Sheila A. Moss

    FOREIGNID: 26198
    Watched the Documentary to-night, what a wonderful presentation. How Great Bill and The Gang are, maybe more Airports will be able to join in doing the same. I was 8 in 1939 World War One in England, reminds me a bit about a situation, when the Americans arrived in 1941. Mother did Volunteer work WVS on Derber Railway Station, alot of troops passing through. I used to go out to the Trains, coming
    in the Station and deliver Tea, This Train loaded with Americans, all shouting for Tea they could not get off the Train, as a little tyke I did my Best, one of the Soldiers gave me a $5.00 bill I never forgot that. Our house was always open to British and American Service Men and Women, a hot Bath and a Meal. My Sister was in the British Land Army,
    married an American, G.I. Bride, he was from Connecticut,
    hence I arrived in the USA several years later.
    It was a Great Experience for me as a child to know how to
    Care for Others in a War situation.
    Keep up the good Work, you are all Fabulous.
    by Sheila 10:25PM on August 5, 2010

  • Joan Gaudet

    FOREIGNID: 26230
    Thank you for asking about my grandkids, Teri. They are both home safely. Joan

  • RJ Stiles

    FOREIGNID: 26429
    Did Jerry get another dog?

  • Loretta D.

    FOREIGNID: 26458
    I watched your show this past weekend. It was very heart warming that these three people ordinary citizens would get up at all times of the day and night to go and meet our troops.
    I cried because no matter what personal crisis they were going through they still went to Greet the troops. That alone took a lot of stamina. They all have big hearts.
    Jean not being able to sleep except for in her chair. The volunteering gave her a reason to get up and Greet these Troops. She didn’t know them but she did it anyway because she wanted to do something for the troops. To support our troops meant a lot to them and to her.
    Jerry and losing his dog really hurt. I think he should get another dog from the dog pound or somewhere like that. One that needs love. He won’t take his other dogs place but he will be saving a life and he will feel better.
    Bill my heart just broke. I just started crying to see him home and the trouble he was in just broke my heart. I wish I would have been near him to help him. I hope he is getting help from someone near him that can help him.
    Since I saw this show I am in the process of volunteering for the USO at Jacksonville IAP, FL.
    I am a veteran of the U.S. Army (Vietnam Era Vet), Florida Army National Guard and Florida Air National Guard (retired).
    I see our service men and women going off to war and I say a little prayer for them. Hoping they come home safe and not in a box.
    This was a great show. Thank you so much for taking your time for producing such a warm story.

  • Brianne Lucero

    FOREIGNID: 27092
    I can’t express the gratitude I have for the generation that gave us people like Jean, Jerry and Bill. They truly are what made America an incredible country. As a teacher I hope that shows like “The Way We Get By” will inspire the next generation to act and give as much, or even more, than that golden generation. I love this country and I love that we have people willing to thank and support our troops at all hours of the day. Thank you Jean, Jerry and Bill!