Though the recession officially ended in summer 2009, the fallout continues for some 25 million unemployed and underemployed Americans, many of whom worked their way up the corporate ladder, achieving the American Dream, only to see it slip through their fingers.
Directed by Emmy(R) winner Marc Levin and produced by Emmy(R) winner Daphne Pinkerson, HARD TIMES: LOST ON LONG ISLAND follows four families on Long Island - often labeled the birthplace of the post-war suburban American Dream - as they struggle to find work amidst shrinking finances and declining morale. The timely film debuts MONDAY JULY 9 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.
Other HBO playdates: July 11 (noon), 14 (12:30 p.m.), 17 (5:00 p.m., 12:30 a.m.) and 22 (2:00 p.m.)
HBO2 playdates: July 11 (8:00 p.m.), 21 (7:40 a.m.) and 24 (5:15 a.m.)
HBO Documentary Films presents another weekly series this summer, debuting provocative new specials every Monday from June 18 through July 30. Other July films include: "Marina Abramovi? The Artist Is Present" (July 2); "Birders: The Central Park Effect" (July 16); "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom" (July 16); "Vito" (July 23); and "About Face: Supermodels Then and Now" (July 30).
Starting in summer 2010, when many hoped an era of recovery would begin, and continuing through the holiday season six months later, HARD TIMES: LOST ON LONG ISLAND spotlights the challenges facing highly skilled, well-educated Long Islanders who lost their jobs. Public relations professional Anne Strauss notes, "Being unemployed for two years is not just a financial loss. It's an emotional loss. It's a loss of friendships. People disappear. You can't socialize. It changes every facet of your life."
When both people in a couple suffer economic hardships, it can cause considerable strain on their relationship, as Heather and David Hartstein testify. "Things between Heather and I became really difficult," admits David. "I didn't know how to handle and deal and feel emotion." Compounding their crisis, the bank rejected their application for a loan modification on the same day their son tested positive for Down syndrome. They subsequently filed for bankruptcy. "That was when we decided... we're done with all this," explains Heather.
Families featured in HARD TIMES: LOST ON LONG ISLAND include:
Alan Fromm and his wife Susan, who grew up in Brooklyn, met at Brooklyn College and moved to Plainview, where they raised two children. He has a master's degree and spent his career in corporate education and training, but lost his job in summer 2009. No stranger to hardships, Alan was struck by lightning at age 15, had just started a new job as at the World Trade Center when it was first bombed and, most recently, was in the World Trade Center when it collapsed. At the time of filming, he has been out of work for more than a year and despairs for his family's future after falling behind on his mortgage.
Anne and Mel Strauss, who grew up on Long Island, and met commuting on the Long Island Railroad. She works in public relations and was laid off in summer 2008; he has a master's degree in operations research and worked in finance before moving into the mortgage industry. They separate when his stopgap commission-only mortgage broker job moves him to Albany, three hours away. In 1999, Mel was diagnosed with cancer and had a great support system, but when they both lost their jobs, people were nervous and disappeared. As Anne notes, "Having cancer was easier than being unemployed."