Maureen Judge is an award winning documentary filmmaker. She’s directed and produced numerous documentaries, televisions series, and short documentaries. Her most recent film, My Millennial Life follows the daily lives of several twenty-somethings as they struggle to find meaningful work, deal with debts, money, and relationships. It’s a fascinating portrait of a generation trying to find their place in the world amid an erratic economy, and a dearth of good jobs. We recently had the opportunity to interview Maureen about the documentary. She opened up about making the film, and what she sees as “a huge gap between the dream our generation promised millennials and the reality they experience.”
The Underemployed Life: Why did you want to film a documentary focusing on millennials? Did you have any preconceptions of millennials as a group before you started the film?
Maureen Judge: I decided to make My Millennial Life when I became aware of the high percentage of unemployed and underemployed among college and university graduates. I wanted to explore how the shortage of jobs and the lack of a foreseeable future affects becoming an adult in 21st century North American society.
TUL: How did you choose the people who are in the documentary? Were you looking for millennials with specific backgrounds or degrees?
MJ: I wanted to focus on college and university grads. As boomers, we raised our children with the expectation that education would provide the ticket to a middle class future. We succeeded in educating — since 1981 there has been an almost 60% increase of 25-29 year olds with post-secondary degrees — but we haven’t provided the jobs. There’s a huge gap between the dream our generation promised millennials and the reality they experience.
Emily, one of the subjects in the film sums it up: “In my mind growing up, it was like, after public school you go to high school, after high school you go to university, you get your degree and then you’re somebody. And I thought that that entitled me to some type of career but really that’s just simply not the case.”
Emily was the first subject I approached to be in the film. She was renting an apartment in my basement, and I watched her go from a triumphant grad to a depressed, lonely, and jobless individual. Because I had seen her highs and lows, and believed she stood a good chance of getting back on her feet, I felt her story would have a dramatic arch, and be very relatable to millennial audiences.
Once Emily agreed to be in the documentary, the other subjects fell into place. Hope, at 26, is desperate to move out of her childhood home; Meron has incredible optimism in spite of her job cleaning hotel rooms; James, a young entrepreneur with a successful start-up, is still financially dependent on his parents; and Tim has dreams of being a musician, and wiles away his days in a low wage, dead-end job.
In the interactive documentary, we meet Kristy who has two degrees, Aboriginal Studies and Education, and yet she has to move home because she can’t find a full- time teaching job. And there’s Mark, who, seeing few job prospects, is content to live a bohemian existence and works as a waiter.
TUL: I was surprised at how open the subjects were. Did they slowly warm up in front of the cameras or were they unguarded from the start?
MJ: I believe mutual respect and trust are the most important ingredients for breaking down existing barriers between director and subject. When I’m filming, I try to reserve judgment about my subjects and let them express themselves freely. When we are shooting, we are a small intimate crew, and the camera becomes an extension of the relationship.
“When I began the project, I noticed that everywhere I turned people were dumping on millennials, blaming them for having expectations of work and for not working.”