'Lemonade' a sweet look at how unemployed move on

The documentary "Lemonade" does something few movies can: Make you cry and smile at the same time.

The 36-minute film about 16 advertising professionals who were laid off but found their calling in life, is a sad recollection of the moments they were told they were losing their jobs. It's heartbreaking to watch them retell the stories of how they were let go by their employers, but then turns full of hope as they discover an opportunity to do something else with their lives. As the movie's tagline says, "It's not a pink slip. It's a blank page."

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Using their creativity and by finding their passion, they change gears and create jobs for themselves making coffee, teaching yoga, helping other unemployed people, and painting, among other activities. It's an inspirational movie that should give the 14.6 million unemployed people across the country something to think about before filling out another online job application.

The movie is a reminder of the end of "Up in the Air," where real people, not actors, describe how they were laid off and the consequences. That movie starred George Clooney as the bearer of bad news, who often told workers he was laying off that this was a chance for them to do what they always wanted to do.

"Lemonade" premiered in November 2009, before "Up in the Air," and wasn't meant to look like the Clooney movie, said "Lemonade" creator, producer and writer Erik Proulx.

"We strung together our stories to sound like one simultaneous story of people losing their jobs," Proulx said in a telephone interview.

Proulx, now 38, was laid off from a Boston ad agency in October 2008, and immediately started a blog for his fellow unemployed in the advertising business. He was laid off two days after his annual review, where he was told he was being promoted and given a raise.

While researching for his movie and talking with friends who had also been laid off, he found that "layoff envy" was becoming popular. Workers stuck in jobs for years find it appealing to have a fresh start and envied their former co-workers who were laid off. As someone who was laid off myself, in June 2008, I can tell you I'd rather be fully employed and looking for my muse at night while away from work, although the freedom to have a fresh start and create your own job is refreshing.

Proulx points out that people in his movie aren't victims and don't spend time wallowing for sympathy. They're doing what they love because it's the last option after unemployment benefits have ended -- which might be the biggest push Republicans need to end unemployment extensions.

He's now working on a feature-length movie about Detroit's high unemployment and how the city and its residents are reinventing themselves as the auto industry leaves.

Both movies are about taking risks -- whether by people laid off or safely sitting in their cubicles. The working world is changing.

"If you're just waiting for the next job to show up -- you're going to get passed by," Proulx said.

The movie can be seen for free at such websites as Hulu and SnagFilms, and donations are accepted. Proulx is also selling DVDs of the movie for $10. After all, he has to earn a living.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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