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Synopsis: SALLIE MAE NOT is chapter One in the untold SCARED TO DEBT story of how the US Government set up a system of greed that gutted student loans of consumer protections leading to the skyrocketing cost of tuition and indenturing millions through predatory lending. Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi discovers Alan Collinge, author of The Student Loan Scam, a dedicated stalwart who turns from scientist to activist when he is wrongfully thrown into default by Sallie Mae. Collinge warned, in 2006 on 60 Minutes, how this same scheme continued to throw millions of students, parents and colleges over the cliff. No one paid much attention and despite today’s headlines of privilege, scandal, greed and blame, the predatory lending system designed to indenture millions, especially women and people of color, remains hiding in plain sight.
After reading Alan Collinge’s book The Student Loan Scam: The Most Oppressive Debt in US History and How We Fight Back, I grew angry. Angry and fearful, knowing my wife and I had just a few short years before sending our two teenage children off to college.
After watching Ava DuVernay’s documentary, 13th, I knew we needed to go back to the beginning where this injustice began. Like, how the hell did America get here? Alan’s book published by Beacon Press offers a blueprint, yet I discovered only 5,000 copies had been sold in 2017. Why was no one paying any attention to this growing consumer debt? Collinge personally introduces me to the small handful seriously investigating the issue: Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone reporter), Ralph Nader (whistleblower, Jon Oberg (NY Times Whistleblower within Dept of Education), Catherine Austin Fitts (former Sallie Mae Board member), Bob Hildreth, Jill Stein, Thomas Borgers (whistleblower expert), Rachel Schreiber (Parsons School of Design) and dozens of borrowers among the thousands within StudentLoanJustice.com. These are all advocates who found Collinge’s whistleblowing book extraordinary.
While mainstream media covers the issue of student debt, up until the pandemic it largely and quite conveniently labeled much of the entire predatory lending scheme a “bad borrower” problem. The removal of bankruptcy protections from both public and private loans strikes at the heart of the US Constitution. College presidents and their board rooms remain largely absent. The issue of student debt doesn’t concern the wealthy class. It’s the millions of poor and middle class borrowers harmed by such a lending system impacted by the removal of consumer rights like a “uniform system of bankruptcy” foundational to freedom and formation of the U.S. economy.
Fail State, a prior documentary on student loans covers for-profit colleges while Collinge kept asking, “What about the non-profits, the so called “good colleges?” Sadly, even President Biden asks, ‘Heck, if you get into Ivy League, like UPenn, can’t you come up with $70,000 bucks?’ It was eerie to witness the utter silence of college presidents NOT protecting their customers—student borrowers and co-signers—from student loans that offer no consumer protections. It’s Collinge who recently uncovers that citizens in 19 US states (mostly red) hold more debt in student loans than their annual state budgets!
When student loans became an election campaign issue, and Covid-19 struck, student borrowers demanded we release our documentary. We took nearly every penny from Pandemic Unemployment and put it into Chapter One. Our approach is to create a style that hope will satisfy a range of viewers: younger borrowers to their near retirement co-signers, weaving verite imagery with scholarly perspectives that inform, entertain, enrage and inspire. It’s vital that we include perspectives with varying political bents, from a female financial voice like Catherine Fitts to founding professor of the Antonin Scalia Law School, Frank Buckley, to leading consumer advocate, Ralph Nader.
When viewers realize the situation they find themselves in is by design, and the deck is stacked against them, we hope that Sallie Mae Not will protect them from further harming their financial future. By design, women and black borrowers are the most seriously impacted by predatory lending. Sadly, borrowers are fearful in fixing this problem that seems uniquely theirs, but it’s not. I have no student loans, yet soon my children will. We all must do something to protect the future of America and slow the growing wealth gap.
The goal is to create a shift in our national discourse. You can help raise awareness. This has never been and never will be a bad borrower problem, yet each of us must get off the couch and do something. As Bob Hildreth states that something, “Involves protest! Protest your colleges and your government!”
Best known for his documentaries on Adirondack culture: Inside the Blue Line, How to Make an Adirondack Packbasket, screened on northeastern U.S. and Canadian television.
— Founding member / former President of Upstate Independents Filmmakers Network, Inc. the AIVF Salon in Albany, NY. (1995-2000)
— Founder, Videos For Change Productions. Based in Rensselaer Polytechnic Incubator (2002-2006) leading to the creation of The Battles of Saratoga, documentary distributed to home and educational markets.
— Director of short films Ruler of Life, Crossing the Whitestone and Relax, the latter made its Russian premiere (2011) where Camoin was the sole American invited to an intensive 8-day producers lab, Generation Campus.
— Founded 501(c)3 non-profit Capital Cinema Cultural Exchange, Inc. which hosts the annual Northeast Filmmakers Lab in upstate New York. cinemaexchange.org
— Credits include location manager/production coordinator for commercial clients and feature films including 2018 Sundance winner We The Animals; 2016 Sundance Special Jury Prize winning As You Are; Paramount’s Ninja Turtles; The Place Beyond the Pines starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes; Battle Under Orion, Marcom Visual Creation, Inc. (NYC/ Japan); numerous public service, industrial, educational and political campaign video projects.