Kartemquin, Al-Jazeera Team Up

Kartemquin, Al-Jazeera Team Up

Al Jazeera America today announced their collaboration with Chicago’s Kartemquin Films on HARD EARNED, a six-part documentary series scheduled to air in early 2015. Production has already begun on the series, which will explore the lives of five American families striving to keep food on the table and their dignity intact despite the reality of high living expenses and low wages.

HARD EARNED is being executive produced by Kartemquin’s Steve James, Gordon Quinn, and Justine Nagan, who were responsible for HOOP DREAMS, THE INTERRUPTERS, THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI and LIFE ITSELF, among many other documentaries.

Five stories, located in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, and two in the Chicago area, will be intertwined into six one-hour episodes. The series will shed more light on an ever-growing sector of the American workforce.

Several filmmakers with midwestern roots are involved in the production process including directors Maria Finitzo (MAPPING STEM CELL RESEARCH: TERRA INCOGNITA), Ruth Leitman (TONY AND JANINA’S AMERICAN WEDDING), Brad Lichtenstein (AS GOES JANESVILLE), and Joanna Rudnick (IN THE FAMILY), series producer Maggie Bowman (ELECTION DAY), and editors David E. Simpson (LIFE ITSELF) and Liz Kaar (TYPEFACE).

“In the last year, we’ve seen low-wage work move to the forefront of the national conversation,” says series executive producer and Kartemquin co-founder Gordon Quinn. “This shift gives us an opportunity to take the conversation a step further and look at the consequences of low-wage work on employees, their families, and their communities.”

Kartemquin will imbue the series with its style of emotionally intimate stories of people's lives that bring social issues into focus, similar to Kartemquin’s previous multi-part series, THE NEW AMERICANS, a seven-hour series on immigration produced for PBS in 2004.

“Low wage jobs are the fastest growing sector of employment in the American economy,” says executive producer Steve James. “Yet the challenges of living on eight, ten or even 15 dollars an hour are still invisible to many Americans.”

You can see the world premiere of footage from HARD EARNED at the Kartemquin Spring Showcase on May 2nd in Chicago. The event will feature a conversation with series Producer Maggie Bowman, story director Ruth Leitman, and Al-Jazeera's Ash-har Quraishi as well as an exclusive short clip of the series, alongside three other Kartemquin works-in-progress. Tickets now on sale here.

Katie Prentiss is a journalist and documentary filmmaker in Chicago working with Kartemquin Films on Mormon Movie. Follow Katie and tell her what you’re working on at @prentkat.