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Going From Broke

By Laura deNey, Flicker Filmworks

Our production company, Flicker Filmworks in New Paltz, is now gearing up for Season 3 of GOING FROM BROKE, a show created by Ashton Kutcher to help young people overcome student loan debt.

Young people, especially in historically underserved communities, are often told that education is the ticket to a better life—“go to a good college and the rest will sort itself out.” But everyday we meet people who show us that an education is not the great democratizer of wealth we once thought it was. For example, we’ve had a 25-year-old with $200K of loans for a bachelors degree, and a 50-year-old professor with $300K of loans for a PhD. Each now make $75K a year and make their payments, but due to interest, their loan amounts just keep growing – they are unlikely to ever pay them off. It is also important to note that student loans do not go away when you declare bankruptcy, so the loan could just die with you (or with your parents in the case of Parent Plus loans).

An education is of course a wonderful and valuable thing, but we need to look at the price tag compared to likely future wages. As a society, we also need to prohibit predatory loans targeted at minors. Young people are handed ridiculous sums of money for school – “here, take out $120,000 for college, and why don’t you take this lovely credit card to have some fun while you are at it?” A 17- or 18-year-old isn’t thinking about being saddled with debt 20 years down the line. In fact, the human brain doesn’t finish developing until age 25, with our ability to comprehend future consequences usually evolving in our 20s. So how can we ask a high schooler to make a decision that could be detrimental to their financial health for the rest of their lives?

Add to this inflation, the housing crisis, post-pandemic recovery, unemployment, medical and credit card debt… so many people are sinking deeper into debt, even as the rich continue to get richer.

The good news is, anyone can become empowered to improve their finances and get out of (or effectively manage) their debt, as you can see from watching our show on – (free!). Last year, Tina Dierna, transitional counselor at Kingston High School, participated. She rented her house on Airbnb for extra money, literally froze her credit cards, and is now getting ready to pay off her credit cards and personal loans in the next couple of months!

If you would like to be on the show this year – you have a few days left. APPLY HERE for GOING FROM BROKE SEASON 3.

Next, Flicker Filmworks is developing a TV series about what could just be the best way to democratize wealth: MUTUAL AID, the good old-fashioned practice of neighbors helping neighbors. We are working with “Pandemic of Love”, which has guided $60 million in person-to-person transactions since March of 2020. We would love to hear your ideas and experience with this; we hope the show will help spread the concept of mutual aid far and wide.

Flicker Filmworks is a collective of artists with a passion for non-fiction storytelling. Founded by Emmy award winning filmmakers Laura deNey and Mustafa Bhagat, Flicker Filmworks’ mission is to tell entertaining, original stories that make the world a better place. Our work is guided by filmmakers, producers and writers who believe that captivating stories can be found anywhere on earth, in every person and subject – they just need to be told with skill and an open mind.

WATCH: Going From Broke, Season 2, Episode 1

Rooted Resources posts give us a clearer vision of what “democratizing wealth” means, refracted through the living experience and emerging projects of people making change today. This series grows out of the Rooted Resources Festival (May 12-15, 2022) and the Community Fund design project.

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