New documentary film tells it like it is.
Movie reviews are notPM’s specialty
but this is an exception worth shouting from the rooftops.
“The Tradesmen: Making an
Art of Work”is an 88-minute social documentary that portrays the
real-life work, idiosyncrasies and personal convictions of a multitude of
working professionals, including two plumbers, two painters, a stone/brick
mason, several carpenters, two auto mechanics and numerous other craftsmen (and
one woman). The film recognizes the essential contributions these tradespeople
provide, and shows a few of the many challenges they face and the problems they
solve in their everyday work. Their stories are combined with academic analysis
of the socioeconomic, intellectual and philosophical aspects of modern trade
Creator and host of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs”Mike Rowediscusses the value and innovation
found in today’s trade work, which is commonly overlooked in our contemporary
high-tech society. “The Tradesmen: Making an Art of Work” premiered in
Baltimore, where it was filmed, on May 12.
Don’t look for it at your neighborhood multiplex, because documentaries of this
nature don’t have a lot of blockbuster movie potential. Nonetheless, I viewed a
DVD as a media courtesy and can tell you without reservation that most of you
would give rave reviews to this film. It deserves widespread industry
screenings and, more importantly, should be shown to prospective apprentices
and other public audiences industry citizens interface
A somber tone permeates the film, especially in the beginning as it dwells on
laments we’ve often detailed in these pages - cultural bias, trade
professionals reluctant to have their kids follow in their footsteps, school
officials favoring the academic over vocational track, young people shying away
from physical and dirty work. After that, it becomes more uplifting when trade
pros tell of the satisfaction and pride they take in their
“I’d rather build the office, I can’t just sit there,” says one of the
tradesmen on camera.
“You always hear the mayor or governor talking about building better
neighborhoods. Well, I’m part of that,” says another.
To me the most important message of the film comes across as it delves into the
complexities of trade work, displaying it as a matter of brains as well as
brawn. A plumber is shown thinking through a situation and talking about the
satisfaction he gets from “figuring out how things can be made to work when you
wouldn’t find an answer in a book.” A sociologist comments, “In some ways these
people are smart beyond those with degrees.”
Several tradespeople are portrayed who are artists by nature but gravitated
toward trade work to make a living. (Artists’ commercial prospects are even
bleaker than trade workers’.) They are shown incorporating construction
materials into their hobby artwork, and putting their artistic talents to work
in their trade craft.
The film ends on the upbeat, speculating about a possible “blue-collar
renaissance” spurred by green building and the need to shore up our nation’s
“The Tradesmen: Making an Art of Work” displays classy production values, including
beautiful photography with distinctive camera angles and closeups, along with
intelligent narration. It advocates a cause to be sure but rises above clumsy
propaganda. The trade workers are shown not as heroic figures, but everyday
people with quirks and flaws along with talent and drive.
me that while theatrical releases are a long shot, he hopes to gain exposure on
TV, from DVD sales and online video streaming. When we communicated in April he
was focused on promoting its May 12 premiere in Baltimore, which is his hometown and where
almost everyone in the film - including Mike Rowe
- has at least a tie. “In the following months we are hoping to screen it at
several film festivals with the hope of receiving a distribution
He added: “I intend to screen the film to as many audience members as possible.
I happen to feel the timing of this film, as well as the socioeconomic
underpinnings and personalized aspects, allow for a broad-based appeal. We are
currently reaching out for support from the documentary film world and
construction/trade communities. I am always open to community or industry screenings.”
This film would make for superb programming at industry conventions and
conferences, and an ideal tool for apprenticeship recruiters. If any
organization or individual is interested in having a private screening, write
to Richard Yeagley atRichard@thetradesmendocumentary.com.
Visit the film’s website athttp://thetradesmendocumentary.com, or at Facebook:www.facebook.com/TradesmenDocumentary.