A documentary about the U.S. economic downturn that premiered on HBO Monday night was co-produced by an Iowan. After graduating from the University of Iowa in 1996, Devon Terrill landed an internship in Los Angeles. The Marshalltown native has been there ever since, working the past eight years at View Film.
Terrill’s latest film project, American Winter, involves the plights of eight families in Portland, Oregon through the winter of 2011-2012. “I think during the process of working on this, one thing we really discovered was that a lot of these families that are in crisis are hard working people who are desperate to get out of the situation they’re in,” Terrill told Radio Iowa.
The families were contacted through calls to a crisis hotline. Many of the families lost their homes after losing a job. “It doesn’t take very long for people to go from fairly comfortable, middle-class life to being completely in crisis and in poverty,” Terrill said.
One of the main goals of the 90-minute film, according to Terrill, was to break down stereotypes. Terrill said there’s a misconception that many Americans in poverty are deadbeats or people who’ve made bad decisions and are now taking advantage of safety-net programs.
Another goal was to highlight the growing income disparity in the U.S. Terrill believes everyone would benefit if the wealth is spread around. “We can’t be a country where only a few people are living comfortably and securely and everybody else is in crisis,” Terrill said. “That’s not America. That’s a third world country.”
Terrill will return to Iowa later this month for a special free screening of American Winter. That will take place at the Englert Theater in Iowa City at 2 p.m. on March 30.
Terrill lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter. She has two brothers who live in Iowa City, another brother who lives in Charles City and a sister who lives in New York. Terrill’s parents still live in Marshalltown.
AUDIO: full interview with Devon Terrill (runs 12:00)