The Killing Floor was intended as the pilot for a series of dramatic television films on American labor history — ” Made in U.S.A.” — to be produced by Elsa Rassbach for PBS. For several years in the 70s Rassbach worked at WGBH developing treatments and securing funding from National Endowment for the Humanities and other sources.
Category Archives: English Language
Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune
Phil Ochs loved movies. As a youth in Far Rockaway, he and his brother would see several films a week. Later, living in Los Angeles, he got a pass to the theater of the American Film Institute and spent much of the time he was not on tour watching movies. Still later, in New York City, he would go to movies with Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk to see films they knew so well they could recite the actors’ lines as they were spoken on screen. Continue reading
Welcome to tonight’s showing of the 2014 British film Pride, an award-winning biographical comedy-drama which was inspired by an extraordinary true story. The screenplay was written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus.
The Hand That Feeds
I would like to set the stage for this evening’s film by drawing some connections to Rochester.
The film we are about to view depicts the struggle of a group of low wage workers, mostly immigrants, many of them undocumented, working on the east side of Manhattan. They’ve been ripped off in their pay, not paid even the minimum wage, and they’ve received no overtime compensation. Their working conditions are all too typical of employment in 2015. Continue reading
“Fellow Workers,” cried Bill Haywood as he opened the 1905 founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World, “this is the Continental Congress of the working class. We are here to confederate the workers of this country into a working class movement that shall have for its purpose the emancipation of the working class…” Continue reading
Eight Men Out
Tonight’s film is an historically accurate dramatization of events surrounding the 1919 World Series, which the Chicago White Sox deliberately lost to the Cincinnati Reds. John Sayles (director of the labor film classic Matewan) adapted the screenplay from Eliot Asinof’s 1963 book, Eight Men Out, which he closely follows. While both the book and the film explore the motives and actions of the players, gamblers and others involved in the fix and its aftermath, they differ in assigning responsibility. Where Asimof has the players suggest the fix to the gamblers, Sayles shows the gamblers at the outset discussing which players might be approached to throw games. Sayles presents the players more sympathetically — their behavior looks more like a labor action than an expression of personal greed.
Prior to 2000 Robert Greenwald was a producer and director of commercial TV and feature films: that year’s stolen presidential election turned him into a documentary filmmaker concerned with such topics as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers, whistleblowers and drones, and Walmart’s assault on the global economy.
Nine to Five
Two years before Nine to Five opened, I was a medical insurance claims approver for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. About 370 of the roughly 400 office workers were women; of the 30 men, half were in management or decision-making positions. During my fourth week on the job, a co-worker looked furtively over her shoulder and whispered, “Vince! Sign this!” while tossing me a union authorization card. Continue reading
Box Car Bertha
In Sister of the Road, published in 1937, Box-Car Bertha Thompson recounted her life: early years in her mother’s South Dakota boarding house; childhood stays in anarchist communes near Little Rock and Tacoma; hoboing alone, with one of her sisters or one of her lovers; working for a Chicago abortionist; running with a gang of midwest shoplifters; bedding 1500 men — one of whom fathered her daughter — during a two month prostitution stint; hitchhiking around the country collecting data on transient women; working for a pathology clinic in Chicago, running a women’s service bureau in Alabama and becoming secretary of New York City’s Unemployed Women’s Education Association. Continue reading
Kinky Boots, the 2005 British-American comedy-drama written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth and directed by Julian Jarrold, was the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical of the same name that just won 6 Tony awards.
The film tells the story of a 5th generation men’s shoe-maker, Charlie Price (played by Joel Edgerton), who inherits the failing family business and struggles to rescue the factory which is at the economic heart of the little village of Northampton, England. Continue reading