Although the title is deceptive, "How to Get A Job," tonight's edition of "Bill Moyers' Journal" at 8 on channel 26, really does deal with how to get a job. It shows students at an innovative school in San Diego learning the ropes of job hunting and preparing to face the gorgons and Whipsnades of the dreaded personnel department.
But there is another level. The film is also a persuasive, heartening study in resolve and resilience, and on that level it is always engrossing and occonsionally quite moving. Several of the students are followed as they progress through the course - a baker who wants to cut records, a reformed alcoholic, a bubbly data processor and a gung-ho woman crane operator among them - and their determination becomes both symbolic and immediate.It is impossible not to pull for them and hope they make good, because they so obviously either want to, or try to want to.
From the telltale quiver in a voice, or the revealing look of eyes momentarily stricken with self-doubt, anyone can sense the vulnerability of these people and share their terror of rejection by the system. Producer-director Wayne Ewing, a Washington film-maker recruited by Moyers for this project, brings us incredibly close not only to these people and their problems but to something within ourselves. Within everyone - the fear of failure.
They cheer each other on, they go through rehearsals and bull sessions, and the teachers lavish upon them the cliches of this era of I Can: "feeling good" about oneself, relating on a "one-to-one level," using "feedback" and "body English," "sharing an experience," and having a "positive attitude." But what the film also exposes and illuminates is the positive side of California's pathological positivism. These are people who must learn confidence in their own worth if they are to survive, and how many of us can safely predict we will never find ourselves in the same boat?
If they were fired from a previous job, they are told, they should just feel like "part of Americana." From this film one learns new respect not only for the reluctantly unemployed, and not only for those who have the courage to come back swinging, but also for the embattled and assailed old system itself, because it can still be made to work, too.
Moyers learned of Chuck Hoffman's San Diego school from a column by William Raspberry in The Washington Post. Hoffman, seen only briefly during the film - which wisely concentrates on the students and teachers - claims an 85 percent placement record, so impressive that the federal government, Moyers reports, is going to apply Hoffman's ideas to a pilot project in Baltimore. The film is less an extended plug for the program, however, than an expertly photographed and edited advertisement for the pervasiveness of the rebound impulse. Without clamor or piety, it says something genuinely inspiring about human spirit. "How to Get a Job" is a superb piece of work.