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“How We Saved Detroit: Pensions and Picassos,” is a documentary and community engagement project. The story is the compelling account of the tremendous struggle between lawyers, judges, bankers, union leaders, politicians, the philanthropic community, and the everyday people of the city as they fought to save Detroit. The battle to rescue this iconic city pulled together those who believed in its future despite their differences, those forced to invest in its future to protect their own self-interest, and those trapped in the middle praying for its future.

In 2013, Motown hit bottom when the city filed for bankruptcy, the largest municipal in American history. But how did we get here and how did years of racial polarization and financial mismanagement set the stage for Detroit’s downfall? “How We Saved Detroit: Pensions and Picassos” takes the audience on an epic journey that explores the city’s financial struggles, questionable deals, broken promises and need for a bold new plan.

The project examines Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s efforts to seek unprecedented sacrifices from retirees and union leaders while fending off Wall Street who demanded their money back. We explore Governor Rick Snyder’s efforts to convince a state legislature to participate in a plan, where there was no real desire, we get an inside look at the phone calls, meetings and legal maneuvers, as the city considered liquidating a jewel, the Detroit Institute of Arts, whose world-class collection became an object of desire for the city's numerous creditors. We gain deeper understanding into how Judge Gerald Rosen brokered the now famous Grand Bargain.

Finally, we spend time with retirees like Shirley Lightsey of the Detroit Retired City Employees Association and Cecilly McClellan of the Detroit Concerned Citizens and Retirees, who were faced with the possibility of an epic personal disaster or at long last, a powerful city with new hope.

As a lifelong Detroiter, writer/producer/director, Bruce Harper and the Big City Films team have a deep desire to tell the often untold stories of Detroit, stories best told from the inside. During the Detroit bankruptcy Bruce had a ringside seat, working at the NBC affiliate in Detroit. The nightly bankruptcy saga, frequent conversations with newsroom personnel and unclear perception of the events, left Bruce wanting more. Now, running Big City Films the untold stories of the bankruptcy is part of what he wants to add to the bankruptcy dialogue. So, for several months Big City Films has been working to research and develop the How We Saved Detroit project, and looks forward to telling the story of the fight to save Detroit against impossible odds.

Big City Films, a Detroit base, Emmy award-winning, writing, producing and directing team, has produced five documentaries for television and the home video market over the past few years. We believe the impact of How We Saved Detroit: Pensions and Picassos will provide its audiences with a deeper understanding of how the bankruptcy effected everyone in metro Detroit while serving as a cautionary tale for audiences across the country.

How We Saved Detroit: Pensions and Picassos is a story of redemption and hope, a documentary that gives a sweeping account of the financial ruin, backroom intrigue, personal strife, heartache and political rebirth in the struggle to reinvent one of America’s great cities, Detroit, Michigan.


The Community Engagement
Big City Films will partner with local organizations to develop and present the community engagement portion of the “How We Saved Detroit: Pensions and Picassos” project. The community events will take place throughout the metropolitan area with a series of film screenings and discussions. The multiple events will promote a better understanding of the Detroit bankruptcy. But more importantly, the events will also provide audience members the opportunity to engage a financial professional for personal financial health information and advice. 

The forums hosted over three months prior to the film’s premiere, will be held in selected churches, community centers, union halls and high school and college campuses. The “How We Saved Detroit: Pensions and Picassos” project is not only designed to be a dynamic documentary for the entire country but a meaningful local event, that explores the themes of the story in a personal way.  
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