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Documentary will be 'tough to watch'

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JAMES P. LEUTE
October 21, 2011
— Asked many times, Brad Lichtenstein is quick to point out that he's not another Michael Moore.

Yes, the 43-year-old Lichtenstein is making a documentary about a community rocked by the closing of a General Motors assembly plant, much like Moore did in 1989 with "Roger & Me" and its focus on Flint, Mich.


The difference is that Lichtenstein is telling the story of Janesville and Rock County from a much different perspective, without the venom that punctuated Moore's film.


Lichtenstein has spent more than two years in Rock County filming "As Goes Janesville," which will air nationally on the PBS series "Independent Lens" in October 2012.


Viewership is expected to be between 1.4 million and 3 million people for the film, which is primarily funded through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and private foundations.


He has followed several members of the community in an effort to tell the story of how Rock County is reworking its economy in the wake of GM's departure, the national recession and the political unrest of 2011.


"It's going to be a story that's tough to watch, and it's going to be a story that's tough to make," Lichtenstein said Thursday in Beloit, where he was the keynote speaker at the Rock Regional Business Expo.


"But it's one that everybody needs to know about, and people will benefit from your story."


The movie is far from being finished. Lichtenstein and his colleagues are working their way through 280 hours of footage on six computer hard drives in Milwaukee and Chicago.


"As Goes Janesville" is expected to make its debut next spring at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and at the Silverdocs, an annual festival of documentary films in Washington, D.C.


The film also will get at least one early showing in Rock County, said Lichtenstein, who is married to Janesville native Anne Basting.


Lichtenstein showed a five-minute clip of the film Thursday. When finished, the film will tell the stories of five people that will offer very different perspectives on the situation in Rock County.


"In my films, the theme is often resiliency, how you change your character, change your community to cope with stress and turn it into something else, such as opportunities," he said.


One of the people, he said, is a woman who was laid off in Janesville and transferred to a GM plant in Indiana. She left a son in Rock County who later was seriously injured in an auto accident.


The film tells her story of struggling to manage the changes in her life while struggling to care for her injured son.


Another woman struggles to find a new job as her generous health insurance benefits expire and she deals with a breast cancer scare.


"What I always try to do is follow several characters, which offers multiple perspectives of entry to the story for people to connect through," Lichtenstein said. "We're telling real stories that give human connections that will turn people on and let them see others being resilient.


"Their stories will resonate and inspire people."



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