January 17, 2010


The old saying goes, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade."  I remember seeing this on those old inspirational posters in the 70's - you know, like the kitten hanging by its front paws with the caption, "Hang in there!".  It's a great message, to be sure, albeit a tad hokey.

Flash forward about thirty years.  Back in December, I happened across a trailer for a new doc coming out called "Lemonade".  Unfortunately, I can't remember who of my contacts had posted it as a link on their Facebook page, or I would give them a mention.  I watched the trailer and to say the least, it gave me pause.  To say more than that, it was the start of the end.

"Lemonade" was created by Erik Proulx, a 37 year-old ad exec who lost his job in '08.  He started a website called Please Feed the Animals, a resource for other ad execs who've been laid off.  From the website came the documentary.

When I watched the trailer, I openly wept.  I have been surviving rounds of layoffs at my current job pretty much since Day One (that's 4 1/2 years).  Now, for anyone who has indeed been laid off, you may think to yourself, "Boo hoo, Mel.  You still have your job.  I actually LOST mine."  Excellent point, and one that has hit close to home, as I have lost many, many work friends this way.  At the time that I viewed this, no layoffs were on the horizon and, as far as I know, Gannett is holding off for a while.  But it was at that moment of viewing the trailer that I realized I was nearly at the breaking point.  The stress of wondering when (not if) it was going to be my turn became too much to bear.  So I decided to take matters into my own hands and give this art thing a try.

Now, before you think, "Geez, this doc is a total downer; why would I want to watch something so depressing?", you need to watch it.  Because the layoff part is only the beginning.  The real heart of the movie is the uplifting and inspirational stories behind the people being interviewed - what they did with their lives AFTER the layoffs.  Because most of the people interviewed are ex-ad execs, you're dealing with a very creative bunch.  And yes, in case you're wondering, many of them did have the upstart capital to make their post-career dreams a reality.  But some of the people (including the documentarian himself) bet everything to fund their new lives.

I was talking with a very good friend of mine the other day - she is one of my friends who was a casualty of the layoffs at my workplace.  When I told her I was leaving, and how it'll be interesting to see what life will be like with a 25% decline in our household income, she said to me, "You know, when I first was laid off, the lack of money kept me up nights.  But it's funny - after a while, your budget just adjusts naturally.  You just make do with less, and it's not as bad as it seems at first." 

I can't say enough good about this movie.  It puts everything in perspective, no matter what station you're at in your life.  I admire the tenacity of these folks being interviewed; they could've just landed themselves another ad agency job somewhere else in a scary job market, but they didn't.  They took control of their lives and tried something new.  I never considered myself a risk-taker, but this movie helped me to see that everything is going to be okay.  Really.

Incidentally, one of my Facebook friends, Jennifer White, is trying to get the movie to play in either Milwaukee or Madison, in theaters.  If you'd like to donate to the cause, visit her blog.


  1. Been there with the whole layoff thing a couple of times, and the most stressful part of the whole ordeal of not knowing where you stand. I wasn't thrilled when I was laid off, but my first thought was "Well at least I don't have to worry about losing my job any more."
    Good luck with your new career as an artist.

  2. I couldn't have put it better myself, Eric - that's exactly how I felt (the not knowing part). And thanks for the well-wishes! :D