Lost your job? Documentary details layoffs' sweet side
Layoffs hurt. But "Lemonade" tells the story of job losses that turned into more fulfilling careers.
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With no steady salary and lots of free time on his hands, the 30-something husband and father of two fired up his computer, created a website, and began blogging about his experiences. “I’ve heard so many people express some kind of despair after losing their jobs. I was one of them,” Mr. Proulx says. “It was important for me to discover in myself that this could be the best opportunity of my life – with the right attitude.”
Soon his website (www.pleasefeedtheanimals.com) was attracting hundreds of laid-off ad professionals who contributed their own experiences of creative projects they’d undertaken. Proulx was so intrigued by their stories that he ended up creating a 40-minute documentary about life on the other side of layoffs. In a strange twist of life imitating art imitating life, Proulx found fulfillment in unemployment by filming the stories of people who found fulfillment in unemployment.
“I’ve been exercising this belief that I have that when you do what you love, money just seems to fall in line,” Proulx says. “That’s fairly cliché, but it’s the truth.” In its final edits, the film – called “Lemonade” – has been sent to judges for the Sundance Film Festival.
“Lemonade” revolves around the lives of Proulx and 15 others who were laid off from the ad industry. Instead of focusing on how unemployment crimped their lives, the film looks at how their unexpected downtime
allowed them to follow lifelong passions.
“There’s a real ‘Who am I?’ ” moment when you no longer have your job as an identity,” says Michelle Pfennighaus, an unemployed professional featured in the movie. Her moment came after being forced to leave her job as senior art director at Arnold Worldwide, a Boston ad agency, in March. Today, she is a yoga instructor and holistic health counselor who talks about her life with a twinkle in her eye.
“The best part is making a living doing something I’m passionate about,” she says.
Another of the film’s turnaround stories comes from Bob Weeks, laid off from Arnold in October 2005, who turned his hobby of coffee roasting into a business. He has traveled to Panama, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Colombia to learn everything about coffee – from seed to cup. His coffee, which he often serves out of his mobile cafe at local markets, is also available at Whole Foods, as well as at
a small retailer in eastern Massachusetts.
“Lemonade” addresses why these people decided to do something different after being laid off. For most, it was the feeling that life didn’t hold the same wonder anymore. Given time to think about where they might be in 10 years, they no longer saw rejoining the workforce as a viable option. But by doing what they felt passionate about, they found something even more fulfilling.
It is clear that these individuals’ lives aren’t simple. Their days are full of challenges they never knew they’d have. Sometimes, they’ve not known when the next paycheck would arrive.