Al Jazeera America Announces Production of Documentary Series with Kartemquin Films on Realities of Low-Income Living

Airing in 2015, Hard Earned will follow in the multi-layered, observational tradition of Hoop Dreams and The New Americans

NEW YORK and CHICAGO – (April 17, 2014) - Al Jazeera America today announced their collaboration with Kartemquin Films on Hard Earned, a six-part documentary series scheduled to air in early 2015. Production has already begun on the series, which will explore the lives of five American families striving to keep food on the table and their dignity intact despite the reality of high living expenses and low wages. 

“We’re pleased to bring this important documentary series to Al Jazeera America, which explores the economic realities that many Americans face,” said Shannon High-Bassalik, senior vice-president, documentaries and programs. “This series goes beyond the politics and policy discussions and immerses the viewer in the true day-to-day struggles individuals and families face, getting by in today’s economy.”   

“In the last year, we’ve seen low-wage work move to the forefront of the national conversation,” says series executive producer and Kartemquin co-founder Gordon Quinn. “This shift gives us an opportunity to take the conversation a step further and look at the consequences of low-wage work on employees, their families, and their communities.” 

Hard Earned is being executive produced by Kartemquin’s Steve James, Gordon Quinn, and Justine Nagan, who were responsible for Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, The Trials of Muhammad Ali and recent Sundance hit Life Itself, among many other acclaimed documentaries. 

Five stories, located in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, and two in the Chicago area, will be intertwined into six one-hour episodes.  The series will shed more light on an ever-growing sector of the American workforce. 

“Low wage jobs are the fastest growing sector of employment in the American economy,” says executive producer Steve James. “Yet the challenges of living on eight, ten or even 15 dollars an hour are still invisible to many Americans.” 

With an award-winning collaborative ensemble of producers and directors, Kartemquin will imbue the series with its signature style of emotionally intimate stories of people's lives that bring social issues into sharp relief. Kartemquin’s previous multi-part series, The New Americans, a seven-hour series on immigration produced for PBS in 2004, was an International Documentary Association award-winner for Best Limited Series. 

Al Jazeera America’s documentary unit brings critically-acclaimed, long-form storytelling to audiences on Sunday evenings as part of the “Al Jazeera America Presents” programs.  Most recently, the channel aired “Borderland,” a four-part documentary series that follows ordinary Americans confronting the realities of illegal immigration.  On May 18, 2014, Al Jazeera America will premiere “The System with Joe Berlinger,” an eight-episode series by the Oscar-nominated filmmaker Joe Berlinger that explores the criminal justice system in the United States. 

Al Jazeera America is available in more than 51 million homes in the U.S. on Comcast, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, Dish Network and Verizon FiOS. To find Al Jazeera America in your area, visit


About Al Jazeera America

Al Jazeera America is the new U.S. news channel that provides both domestic and international news for American audiences. It is headquartered in New York City with bureaus in 12 cities across the United States. 

Visit Al Jazeera America online at for the latest updates.You can also like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @AJAM ( and join the conversation using #AlJazeeraAmerica. 

About Kartemquin

Kartemquin Films is a collaborative center for documentary media makers who seek to foster a more engaged and empowered society. With a noted tradition of nurturing emerging talent and acting as a leading voice for independent media, Kartemquin is building on over 48 years of being Chicago's documentary powerhouse.

Kartemquin sparks democracy through documentary. Their films, such as The Interrupters, Hoop Dreams, and The New Americans have left a lasting impact on millions of viewers. A revered resource within the film community on issues of fair use, ethics, story and civic discourse, Kartemquin is internationally recognized for crafting quality documentaries backed by audience and community engagement strategies, and for its innovative media arts community programs. Kartemquin is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization.


For more information, please contact:

For Kartemquin Films: Tim Horsburgh. 773-472-4366.

For Al Jazeera America: Jocelyn Austin                                                                      

Amber Arnold/Martin Blair

Al Jazeera America                                                   

Goodman Media for Al Jazeera America                           


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