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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Palabra Final > Business > Guest Voz: Hollywood Filmmaker Examines the Day-Laborer Issue From a New Angle

Guest Voz: Hollywood Filmmaker Examines the Day-Laborer Issue From a New Angle

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By Jonathan Browning

Jonathan Browning is a Midwest-raised actor and filmmaker who now lives in Los Angeles, California pursuing his passion. With a background in comedy, it’s not unusual for Browning to see things from a “twisted” angle. It was exactly that vision that he brings to his work and which inspired him to create a 3-minute short film called “The Job.
In the film, Browning “twists” the situation of day-laborers in such a way that it makes people think about the issue in a real way. That Browning can accomplish this feat through humor makes his message that much more effective.
This little film is making a big impact at film festivals around the world. Already, it has won 18 major awards and is slated for a host of new festival airings in April from Vail to Barcelona.
Mr. Browning shares with Latina Lista readers his reason for making “The Job” and what he hopes audiences take away from it.
(At the end of Mr. Browning’s piece can be found the video of “The Job.”)

My name is Jonathan Browning and I wrote and directed the short film, “The Job.
I was born and bred in the small blue-collar town of Benton, Illinois. Both of my grandfathers were coal miners, in a time where the tools that they used were considered to be more valuable than the lives of the miners themselves.
I grew up hearing stories about life underground and the treatment they received. One of my grandfathers was almost killed in the mines and the company didn’t want to provide the basic medical needs to save his life. These stories do color the way I see the world.
Because of their hard work and sacrifices, I never had to work the mines. I have however spent the majority of my life working “undesirable” jobs. I spent one entire summer hauling buckets of rotting fish up three flights of stairs into an outdoor dumpster warmed by the sun.
In 2001, my wife and I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles where I started working as a production assistant. (My first few jobs I worked for free…until I worked my way up to $50 for a 14-hour day. Eventually, I got the sweet, sweet standard $100 a day.) Production Assistants (P.A.) are pretty much the lowest person on the pecking order and you spend your day doing whatever you are told.
I was working as a P.A. when I drove past a Home Depot on Sunset Blvd. Sitting at the red light, feeling sorry for myself for not having a better job, I watched a group of Latino men try and get hired by a guy in a pick-up truck.
As I sat there, I couldn’t help but wonder how long those men had been there and how far they had traveled to stand in this parking lot to TRY and get work. Here I was feeling sorry for myself that I had a job that paid well and these guys were working harder than me to TRY and get work.
That image stuck with me as I pulled away.
I kept wondering if I would be willing to get up every morning at the crack of dawn and fight to get my job. What if everyone had to do it? What if that was how the world worked for everyone? What if every single working person in the world had to get up every morning, get dressed, go down to some location and fight for his or her job?
“The Job” was born.

I have no “agenda” with “The Job.” When I sat at that stoplight what I felt was empathy for those men. I wasn’t looking at them in terms of the immigration debate. I was looking at them as individuals.
I guess, to be honest, I did have an agenda when writing and shooting “The Job.” I wanted people to see a group of “day-laborers” and think to themselves, “What if that was me?” They can answer that question for themselves however they like. I just wanted to ask the question.
Immigration, like many political issues, isn’t discussed…it’s yelled.
Not many people (from either side) are wiling to have a dialogue about it. It tends to be boiled down to “talking points” or “hot button statements.” The truth is it’s complicated.
My goal with “The Job” is not to tell people what to think. I just wanted to share an idea I had sitting at a stoplight on Sunset.
“The Job” has screened at over 70 film festivals. I have been lucky enough to attend several of them and to participate in the question-and-answer sessions after the film. The audiences have always had insightful questions about the short and I have always enjoyed discussing it with them. Maybe some love it, maybe some don’t…but they were always willing to discuss it with me.
The Internet has been a whole new ball of wax. I have had several people e-mail me to inform me that I am a “hateful racist.” I have also had several people e-mail me to tell me that I am “anti-American and so in love with Mexico I am willing to sell out my own country.”
All of these people watched the exact same 3-minute short. How can one person watch it and consider it “racist” and another watch it and consider it “anti-America and pro-Mexico”? I think it’s because people bring their own biases to the film.
I worked very hard to make sure that nobody in the film was “good” or “bad.” THIS IS JUST HOW THE WORLD THEY LIVE IN WORKS! It is really that simple.
I think it is a huge compliment to the cast and crew for their amazing abilities as artists. Alex Castillo (the driver) doesn’t belittle the businesspeople. He is simply hiring them. Something that is done a hundred times at every hardware store in LA.
Alex even apologizes that he can only hire the ones he needs. The businessmen aren’t buffoons. They are real people who really need this job. They are behaving exactly like the Latino men who are hired every single day.
Allow me to give you an example. There is a shot where an older businessman (Bernard Thurman) makes eye contact and nods at a young female businesswoman (Leslie McManus) when they are in the back of the truck.
I have had some people say that unspoken moment is, “Yeah! We made it in the truck!” and others say it is, “This is so humiliating. I can’t believe we are in the back of this truck.” Same moment!
To me the moment was suppose to be an “elevator” moment. It’s what you do when you are waiting for an elevator and someone comes up beside you. We all do the same thing. Turn our heads, smile, nod and then look forward again.
I created this moment in “The Job” because this “getting chosen and getting in the back of a truck” happened every day. It was no different than them waiting for an elevator. We kept it simple, the actors did a great job and people make their own meanings out of that 2-second beat.
And at the end of the day…I think the film is really funny.
I think the nuances of the actors, the shots that David Jones (my DP) used, the music and the editing make a really funny short film. I am proud of what we were able to create together.

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Comment(36)

  • mayanmx
    April 4, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Well done! Very tight, well shot, tells a slice of life, fish out of water- the fish being the audience, which can now consider the story from a different perspective – without being told what to think. I appreciate your calm and good nature in the face of overreaction from either “side.”
    Thanks!

  • laura
    April 4, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Brilliant! A piece of art that wraps up more in 2 minutes than I could ever cover in talking for 2 hours.
    Thank you Marisa for finding and posting this – and thank you, Jonathan Browning, for creating it!

  • Frank
    April 5, 2008 at 8:55 am

    I smell a piece of propaganda here. He doesn’t fool me.

  • Jonathan Browning
    April 5, 2008 at 9:39 am

    I am deeply touched and flattered by the positive responses of my posting. Thank you for your kind words, they truly mean a lot to us.
    I wanted to thank Marisa for giving me a chance to talk in detail about the short. So often the internet can be a one-way conversation.
    I hope that you will share the short with others and it will start some much needed dialogue this country.
    I will check back to try and respond to your responses to the blog. But if you wanted to speak to me privately you can always go through my website…
    http://www.JonathanBrowning.com
    Thanks again for taking the time to watch it and respond.
    jonathan

  • Marisa Treviño
    April 5, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Only you would 🙂

  • Jax
    April 5, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Well done, but it does not change the fact that illegals should be deported back to their own countries.

  • Juan Gómez
    April 6, 2008 at 2:44 am

    Dear
    Movie maker
    Mr. Jonathan
    This movie was great. It is happening already. I use to live in Garland Texas. I am latino and I have had my landscape person a gringo. Also a have help other native american (gringos)as well of being a consumer for the economy,when I was living in Dallas, Texas. Unfortunately I was deported to my country and I have lost everything I have builded for 11 years living in the US,along with all these people that use to work for me or were dependents of me. It is not their fault yours neither. It was and is a racist issue.
    God Bless you.

  • Liquidmicro
    April 6, 2008 at 10:58 am

    How is it a RACIST ISSUE, Juan, when you were in violation of laws? Do you think you can just go where you like and do as you please? From your wording it sounds like you had only 1 employee at a time over a period of time. How can all these people then be dependents of you? Did you pay payroll taxes? Did you file taxes? To claim this as a RACIST ISSUE with very limited info from you is not very accurate on your behalf.

  • Horace
    April 6, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Yes Juan, keep saying that to yourself, after all you had nothing to do with crossing the border illegally and violating U.S. immigration laws. Of course you thought that the US would change its immigration laws just to suit you, as much as Mexico has been inclined to accommodate all those illegal El Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Nicuagrans. Now that you’re home, maybe you’ll be in the vanguard of reforming Mexican immigration laws to make them less “racist” and mean spirited toward their neighbors. Your world in the US was built on a foundation of sand, and when it washed away you’re ready to assign blame to others. Pathetic!

  • Frank
    April 6, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Juan, no it isn’t a racist issue! If that is the way you feel about it then perhaps being deported was the best thing that happened to you. Wouldn’t want you to suffer in a “racist” country, now would we? We don’t need immigrants living here who hate us and call us vile names, especially those who broke our immigration laws and won’t take any personal responsiblity for what they did and blame and disrespect our country instead when they get caught.

  • Alex
    April 6, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Frank, you are called what you are because that is what you reflect in your postings. Loosing everything after 11 years of hard work it is really heartbreaking. Your comments just show how evil and mean spirited you and the other paid bloggers are. May God have mercy on you. He just came to work, for God’s sake!!

  • laura
    April 6, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Hola Juan, si se trata de racismo. Ellos que gritan lo mas fuerte en ese sitio son de los peores racistas. Desesperar nunca ! Viene un dia diferente.

  • Frank
    April 7, 2008 at 9:32 am

    By the way, Alex an American could have have taken those jobs rather than an illegal alien taking it for half price and breaking our laws. I think THAT is being mean spirited.

  • Jonathan Browning
    April 8, 2008 at 10:21 am

    I am glad that the film is creating enough passion in people to take the time to post. I did have one question for Frank, and feel free to email me directly so that we can have an actual dialogue.
    Your original post was, “I smell a piece of propaganda here. He doesn’t fool me.” Would you please help me understand what you meant by this post?
    I felt that I was honest in my description of how I got the idea and why I made the film.
    I would like to know how I was trying to fool you.
    I am serious about having a dialogue and not a back and forth series of jabs. I really want to know what I was trying to fool you into believing.
    Thanks!
    Jonathan

  • Frank
    April 8, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Jonathan, IMO anyone who takes an interest in filming a day labor site and airing it in a sympathetic way, is an illegal alien sympathizer.
    It was very telling when you related your story about sitting at a light in L.A. watching these day laborers and thinking about how tough there dilemaa was in trying to get a job rather than the probable illegal status of those people that were violating our immigration and labor laws. If not for those illegals standing there on the corner willing to work for cut rate wages, those employers hiring them would have had to hire an American for a fair wage.
    Another thing that showed your sympathy for the day laborers was your remark “what if we all had to get up at the crack of dawn that way to work”? Well guess what? We
    have a huge blue collar workforce in this country and they do get up at the crack of dawn to work!
    I find nothing humorous about illegal aliens living in our midst. Our government has not secured our borders, the employers are getting away with murder and foreingers think they can just walk right into our country in violation of our immigration laws. I am not even going to get into all their social costs to us taxpayers or how our population is growing uncontrollably due to illegal immigration. You seem like a smart guy….think about it!

  • Marisa Treviño
    April 8, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Frank, why do you assume it’s sympathetic? If you saw the film, without reading Jonathan’s post, do you really think you would have come to that same conclusion?

  • Jonathan Browning
    April 8, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Thank you to everyone who watches the short film. I am flattered that you take the time to watch it.
    The back-and-forth posting feels more like a monologue, rather than a dialogue. And to be honest, I’m sure most people are bored by it.
    If anyone would like to discuss the film (no matter what your feelings are about it) I am open and excited to talk to you. Email me at info@jonathanbrowning.com and let us discuss.
    Thanks!
    jonathan

  • Alex
    April 8, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Frank’s posts just show that he is an irrational uncompassionate homophobic. The only reason I can find for him not understanding the human problem that exists because of them trying to survive looking for what is best for them and their families is that these paid bloggers really need the money offered by their hateful groups.

  • Frank
    April 8, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    And Alex’s posts are filled with stretching the meaning of compassion in the bible to suit her ethnocentric agenda.
    For the umpteenth time I am not a paid blogger!!!!
    Is it so hard for you to accept the fact that most Americans do not share you views so you think people have to get paid for this?

  • Horace
    April 9, 2008 at 5:38 am

    Alex said; “Frank’s posts just show that he is an irrational uncompassionate homophobic. The only reason I can find for him not understanding the human problem that exists because of them trying to survive looking for what is best for them and their families is that these paid bloggers really need the money offered by their hateful groups.”
    First of all, Alex, homophobic is the fear of homosexuals, something not germaine to this discussion. Second, I am not a paid blogger, and as far as may be told from the nature of Frank’s postings, neither is he. You have no evidence that he is and I suggest you are just saying that as a cheap means to discredit him. It may surprise you, Alex, that unlike you bobblehead advocacy sycophants, there are people who think for themselves and are willing to express themselves in forums in which their philosophy of life is no welcomed with open arms. The only person paid to blog here is Marisa, so stop your nonsensical accusations, Alex.

  • Frank
    April 9, 2008 at 8:33 am

    Horace, I think Alex was accusing me of being xenophobic but he said homophobic instead, lol! I am not guilty of being either anyway.

  • Edie
    April 10, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Ok, everybody! Have you ever sat down to watch a movie with a friend, relative or whoever and when it was over, the conversation was either challenging or in agreement? All things of life can be questionable to some of us and acceptable to others. That is why we have the option of our own opinions but must be open minded to other ideas as we may see another side that is reality also. Have you ever stared long enough at those pictures that eventually an item will stand out and you SEE it? Some of us can and some can not! If we don’t understand a movie or a show’s plot, we don’t watch it, do we? You GO, Jonathan!!

  • Alex
    April 10, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Yes Frank. You are right. I meant to say xenophobic. That is what you are.

  • Horace
    April 10, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Alex, are you sure about that? Maybe Frank was trying to trick you. Maybe you ought to buy a dictionary. Alex, you really don’t know the meaning of xenophobe, do you? Pathetic!

  • Guy McCullough
    April 10, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Don’t mind the negative feedback, Jonathan. You have brought a human perspective to an important subject. This necessarily challenges long held myths that protect us from our history of genocide & slavery. Most people understand that we are under attack. However, those responsible have convinced us that the threat is from illegal immigrants & Islamic extremists. But how can those with no power be responsible for the transformations that are destorying our way of life. Doesn’t it make more sense to look at those who actually exercise power in our society–the private financial interests that control our political parties, education system and media corporations. How is it that people leave the land where they are born, leave their families to go to a strange country where they are vulnerable to abuse unless they are unable to support their families in a country whose economy has been destroyed by the same corporate trade(NAFTA) polices which are now eliminating the middle class in the good old USA.

  • Horace
    April 11, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    “How is it that people leave the land where they are born, leave their families to go to a strange country where they are vulnerable to abuse unless they are unable to support their families in a country whose economy has been destroyed by the same corporate trade(NAFTA) polices which are now eliminating the middle class in the good old USA.”
    NAFTA requires an ability to change and become competetive. Mexico fails in that regard. It’s funny how some US farmers are moving to Mexico because of an alleged labor shortage. Why is it that an American can be successful at farming in Mexico but Mexicans seem to be failures at doing the same thing in their homeland? I suggest that its a cultural failure compounded by the burden of a corrupt government. It’s an embarrassment to Mexico.

  • Alex
    April 13, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    On a Dictionary, Xenophobe should have Horace, Frank, Jax, EOT, Liquid’s pictures on it to illustrate its meaning.

  • Frank
    April 14, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    In a dictionary, Racist, ethnocentric traitor should have your picture in it to illustrate their meanings.

  • Jonathan Browning
    April 17, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    On April 9th Edie said it better than I was able to say it myself.
    Thanks for the insight.
    I do feel that people bring their own ideas to the short. Why else would the EXACT same short be interpreted so differently?
    And not to get into a “p-ing” contest with you Frank. But on April 8th you posted, …your remark “what if we all had to get up at the crack of dawn that way to work”? Well guess what? We
    have a huge blue collar workforce in this country and they do get up at the crack of dawn to work!
    If you are going to quote what I wrote…please actually get the quote correct. If you look at what I wrote it clearly says, “I kept wondering if I would be willing to get up every morning at the crack of dawn and fight to get my job.” I don’t see the quote you used anywhere in my blog.
    I understand that the majority of this country gets up every morning at the crack of dawn to work. Just ask my step-father who gets up at 4am and works all day as a welder in unbearable heat. It’s a miserable job and he is underpaid for it. But he doesn’t have to HOPE he gets to work that day. That was the point I was making in the blog.
    In response to your final line “think about it!”…perhaps people should actually “talk about it.” Less ! and more .
    It’s a complicated issue and the film was just my attempt to share a thought and emotion I had while sitting on Sunset Blvd.
    People can agree with what I felt or disagree but they can’t negate the feeling I had at that moment.
    The short is just me sharing that feeling.
    Thanks.
    Jonathan

  • Alex
    April 19, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Look who’s talking about racist. That should be your middle name. All your postings reflect the hate and racism you have. They are only destroying your soul. You should start examining your heart and your life and try to get rid of all those demons that cause such hate and hostility against your neighbors. Even if you may not be catholic, listen to the Pope’s hope and love messages. I really hope you, Liquid Horace, Jax and the racist groups paid bloggers start changing for a better future, not just the U.S. , but the whole world. We only live once, just one chance before we meet our creator face to face. Try to make the best of it and spread Love, compassion, solidarity, peace. Not hate driven by fear of people that do not look like you and just want to better themselves and lack the economic resources to do it “legally” as you want. remember, human laws are imperfect, God’s are perfect and should be followed and encouraged.

  • Frank
    April 19, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    Alex, you can knock off the false accusations and hateful remarks anytime now. You are a phoney bible thumper if this the way you treat loyal, law abiding Americans who want our immigration laws and our soviegnty respected.
    We only ask that immigrants come to our country legally. There is nothing racist about that. Nor is there any hate involved either. You are a disgusting individual and a big fat phoney on top of it. Christians don’t talk to people in the manner that you do. You are “bearing false witness” against us and that is against God’s laws too.

  • Alex
    April 20, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Frank, do you follow God’s rules, commandments, or just the ones you agree with and apply to your hateful agenda?

  • Alex
    April 20, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    For three weeks you will not see my name here. I will be visiting my grandmother and other relatves in Ireland and then my grandfather, by my dad’s side, in Argentina. I will try to gain a few pounds, my boyfriend thinks a few pounds would look great on me. I am too skinny, according to him. I will enjoy these vacations and try to forget that there are bad people in this world, like the ones that want to expell millions of persons who just want to work and give a better life and future for their families and, whose only crime, -not in the eyes of God -, is not having the economic resources to be here “the legal way. I really hope that by the time i return, Frank, Jax, Horace, EOT, and others with twisted, hateful ideologies change for good and understand that the people, object of their hate and antagonism, cannot be just deported after all they have worked for this country. Their children learn to love this country at school and they just want the opportunity to keep working to make the U.S. a better nation.
    Until next time, God bless you all and please have more compassion and love towards your neighbors.

  • Frank
    April 20, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    I said knock it off, Alex. I follow all God’s commandments as best I can. You certainly don’t or you wouldn’t be coming in here bearing false witness against those of us who respect the laws of this country and making nasty insults about us. None of our nation’s laws are in conflict with God’s laws.
    When you come back try to have some compassion for your own fellow American citizens instead of lawbreakers. And throw that bible of yours away because you don’t have a clue what it stands for.

  • Dipti
    October 14, 2008 at 6:29 am

    Hi Myself
    Dipti
    It’s the beginning of Pros And Con Games Competition at Filmaka! Make a
    1-3 film on this theme and you could win funding to direct your
    feature film! The competition is judged by esteemed international
    filmmakers Werner Herzog, Zak Penn, Colin Firth, Paul Schrader, and
    more! Each month there is a new theme and 15-20 filmmakers receive
    $1500-$4500. Three of them go on to compete for feature funding at
    the end of the year. Last year’s final winner, Nuru Rimington-Mkali,
    got $5 million to direct his film! Submissions are due November 6,
    2008. Ready to take the first step? Go to http://www.filmaka.com/featurefilm
    Regards
    Dipti

  • Dipti
    November 25, 2008 at 12:41 am

    Hi My Self
    Dipti
    It’s the beginning of “The Party” Competition at Filmaka! Make a
    1-3 film on this theme and you could win funding to direct your
    feature film! The competition is judged by esteemed international
    filmmakers Werner Herzog, Zak Penn, Colin Firth, Paul Schrader, and
    more! Each month there is a new theme and 15-20 filmmakers receive
    $1500-$4500. Three of them go on to compete for feature funding at
    the end of the year. Last year’s final winner, Nuru Rimington-Mkali,
    got $5 million to direct his film! Submissions are due January 12,
    2009. Ready to take the first step? Go to http://www.filmaka.com/featurefilm
    Regards.
    Dipti

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