We recognize his voice before we see him. Kendrick Lamar (or a comparable Bay Area artist) standing in the middle of the street corner at the Bart near Fruitvale station.
The music track begins.
Various locked-off static shots of storefronts, street corners, homes and sweeping aerials intercut to give us a sense of the place. We recognize California, the Bay area, then Cupertino and Apple headquarters, a large circular pentagon-esque building when seen from over head, ending on the exterior of an apartment building in San Jose.
Inside we follow a woman as she wakes her four children for school. Her name is Marta Ramos. She’s a janitor at Apple in Cupertino, California. “Marta pays $2,300 in rent for a two bedroom apartment where she and her four children live. Before overtime and taxes, her $16.60 an hour works out to $34,520 a year. Her rent alone is $27,600 a year, leaving less than $600 a month once the rent is paid. Overtime, in addition to the wages from one of her teenage children who works part time at a grocery store, helps make the math work, though always tenuously.
She works from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. On days when one of the other cleaners doesn’t show up, she may get a few extra hours, which is great for the overtime pay, but it means even less sleep before it is time to take her children to school.” NYT
She has just received a notice of a rent increase beginning at the end of the month.
This episode enters the life of Marta Ramos.
It is a story about California’s housing crisis, gentrification and rising inequality, told through an exploration of the personal — the struggle of one families life on the outskirts of one of the wealthiest cities in the U.S.
Music and spoken word underlie the emotional tone of the episode. From Kendrick Lamar to local Bay area artists, we'll capture performances in visually striking places, sometimes cutting to performance, sometimes using artists to accentuate the narrative.
The goal is to uncover what we have in common, a shared experience that goes beyond the things we name that divide us.
There are fundamental truths that we all feel, deep down and in our core. How could I hurt you, if I didn’t know what hurts? How could I long for love, if I didn’t know what it is to love? The language expresses itself differently across cultures and experiences, but we all know something about pain and content. We are connected by our own humanity. Now, more than ever, we need to begin to recognize ourselves as a global community.
We believe that begins with recognizing ourselves in one another.
Each season we’ll focus on the regional tapestry around topics integral to American life. Immigration, Education, Gun Control, Climate Change etc. Our characters reflect polarities, the warring sides of issues that often divide American neighbors, but the series itself is not political.
Political issues become a narrative thread, connecting each character, but the focus of each story is intimate and personal. The point is not to judge, blame or indict, but to experience the complexity of American life and hopefully discover deeper commonalities than the differences we name that divide us.
Each season is supplemented by a soundtrack that unpacks the emotional world of the communities and landscape. Two to three artists and/or storytellers connected to the spirit of the place, help shed perspective on themes. We use performance as both the soundtrack to our visual language, and a break in the emotional intensity of each episode.
Click on the buttons below for more on the look and feel of the series.