Sundance Goes To 'Work,' Ups Reality Push

Get-to-work-AUnemployment is clearly a talking point in an election year.

Sundance will debut its latest reality series, “Get To Work,” on August 13. It is a hardcore look at the Strive training program in San Diego that targets the chronically unemployed.

Like “Push Girls,” which traces the lives of four women paralyzed from the neck or waist down, “Work” provides the “raw authenticity of watching real people documented in a very human, relatable struggle,” explains Sarah Barnett, Sundance Channel GM.

"We were attracted to “Get to Work” because it gives us an opportunity to shine a light on people who are experiencing something that many Americans are struggling with -- finding a job,” she explains.

In an economically difficult time, “Get To Work” is committed to real change. The eight-episode series, filmed at the nonprofit Second Chance in San Diego, is one of Strive’s most successful partners.

Each hour-long episode targets a new class of students in the four-week program. These are bottom-line trainees: Some ordered by court mandate to avoid returning to prison, others trying to kick drug addictions and get back on track.

Strive instructors -- many program graduates themselves -- take a tough-love approach. Failure is a reality: about 50% percent of students drop out. However, for those who complete the program, 70% of Strive graduates are employed within 90 days. They find work in the secretarial and administrative fields, as well as in construction, retail and the food and hospitality industries.

“More than a paycheck, what they gain is self-respect, integrity and the dignity of supporting themselves and their families,” notes Barnett.

Since its founding in 1984, Strive has graduated nearly 50,000 individuals from its core training programs, run by organizations nationwide. In 2011, there were 3,000 graduates and more than 2,200 were placed in jobs.

Philip Weinberg, CEO of Strive International, hopes the show will “inspire viewers impacted by the current economy or an unfortunate circumstance to turn their lives around.”

In addition to "Get To Work," five new unscripted series are in the pipeline for Sundance’s target audiences -- 18-49 viewers evenly split between men and women.

Two examples are “Dream School” and “The Trouble With Sex.”

“Dream School” is based on the UK hit by Jamie Oliver. Barnett calls the series an “ambitious social experiment” where accomplished people teach kids who have fallen through cracks in the system. Conversely, “The Trouble with Love and Sex” takes recordings from couples’ therapy sessions and brings them to life as animated stories.

Sundance’s acclaimed “Iconoclasts” is also returning this fall for its sixth season.

On the scripted front, “Top of the Lake” and “Rectify” will premiere in the first half of 2013, as well as a co-production called “Restless,” which airs at the end of this year.

Barnett says each show is defined by “distinctive storytelling, told from a singular vision.”

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