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INDEPENDENT LENS: As Goes Janesville

Airs Monday, February 4, 2013 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Credit: Courtesy of As Goes Janesville/ITVS

Above: Sign for Janesville, Wisconsin, population 63,575. About 1/6 of Janesville's population lost their jobs when GM and other companies shut their doors in the wake of a recession.

This acclaimed Emmy Award-winning anthology series features documentaries and a limited number of fiction films united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement and unflinching visions of their independent producers. INDEPENDENT LENS features unforgettable stories about a unique individual, community or moment in history. The series is supported by interactive companion websites and national publicity and community engagement campaigns. Acclaimed actor and filmmaker Stanley Tucci hosts the series.

Courtesy of As Goes Janesville/ITVS

Veterans Job Fair

Courtesy of As Goes Janesville/ITVS

Scene outside of Madison, Wisconsin’s state Capitol, during 2011 protests against Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to curtail collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Courtesy of As Goes Janesville/ITVS

Cindy Deegan - Alcoa stopped making tire rims for GM trucks and laid Cindy off with no option to transfer to another plant. Job Center caseworker Ed Martinez recruited her for a federal stimulus program that pays to send workers back to school.

In Pictures: Janesville’s Industrial Rollercoaster

In "As Goes Janesville," when the General Motors plant in Janesville, Wisconsin closed for good in 2008, the town found itself in the midst of an identity crisis. View a pictorial history of some of Janesville’s bygone industries.

“As Goes Janesville” catapults viewers to the front lines of America’s debate over the future of its middle class — a debate that has become a pitched battle over unions in the normally tranquil state of Wisconsin.

First, in 2008, General Motors shuts down Janesville’s century-old plant, causing mass layoffs and exiling residents who must leave in search of work.

Then newly elected governor Scott Walker ignites a firestorm by introducing a bill to end collective bargaining, unleashing a fury of protest and sparking a recall election.

Spend three years in the lives of laid-off workers trying to reinvent themselves; business leaders aligned with the governor to promote a pro-business agenda they believe will woo new companies to town; and a state senator caught in the middle, trying to bring peace to his warring state and protect workers’ rights.

As goes Janesville, so goes America, a polarized nation losing its grasp on the American Dream. Directed by Brad Lichtenstein.


Long before the rest of America discovered Janesville, I learned about this small city in southern Wisconsin, my wife’s hometown. Shortly after their GM plant shut down in December, 2008, I started making "As Goes Janesville."

For three years, I followed a disparate group of people who span the gamut, from business and political leaders to laid-off workers, in order to tell an intimate story about how a community tries to reinvent itself during economic crisis.

Janesville is a true microcosm of America; good people trying in different ways to solve their economic problems during polarizing times.

I hope "As Goes Janesville" can provoke dialogue that unites people across ideological and political boundaries, so they might rediscover all they have in common and work together to improve the economic health of their communities. - Brad Lichtenstein (Producer/Director)

"As Goes Janesville" is on Facebook. INDEPENDENT LENS is on Facebook, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter.

Trailer: Independent Lens: As Goes Janesville

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Watch Focus on the Challenges That Janesville Faces on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

In the wake of a recession that has hit Janesville, Wisconsin particularly hard, the town and its residents struggle to redefine themselves and find solutions they can agree upon. The result is a microcosm of the national plight of the middle class and the political polarization over what the American Dream looks like in the 21st century. To learn more about this film, visit

Video Excerpt: Independent Lens: As Goes Janesville

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Watch One Janesville Family Endures Through Unemployment on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

Behind the Scenes: The Making of "As Goes Janesville"

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Watch Behind the Scenes of As Goes Janesville on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

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