SKOWHEGAN — For the last 13 years, Oscar Brann has worked as a cutter at the New Balance factory here.

He gets to work at 6:15 a.m., punches in at 6:30 and works an eight-hour shift cutting synthetic materials and leather to make sneakers. He loves his job.

Before he worked at New Balance, Brann, 50, made his living managing and cooking in restaurants.

“I never had insurance, benefits or a paid day off. When I came here it was like a vacation every day,” said Brann.

American manufacturing jobs like Brann’s are declining across the country, according to the message of a new film called “American Made Movie” that features the Skowhegan New Balance factory as an example of a company that has succeeded in maintaining relationships with local people despite pressure from competitors who send the work and jobs overseas.

The film will play at the Strand Theater on Sunday as part of a 32-day bus tour its filmmakers are taking around the country prior to national release Aug. 30.

“Skowhegan really touched us personally. When we met the workers at New Balance and saw the pride that goes into making those shoes, it really gave us an understanding of the region and its relationship to manufacturing,” said Nathan McGill, who is a co-producer and director of the film along with Vincent Vittorio.

The two men, who are based in Atlanta and Burbank, Calif., came to Skowhegan for filming about a year ago and are preparing for the national opening of their film with a 32-day road trip to 32 cities in 20 states.

They started in Gwinnett County, Ga., and will stop in Skowhegan on Sunday before continuing on to Manhattan, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. McGill said the Skowhegan New Balance factory is one of the “primary stories” in the film. The feature-length documentary on the decline in America’s manufacturing workforce highlights innovative companies that have succeeded despite pressure from competitors to send work overseas.

McGill said the filmmakers divided their time between the factory and the town during their roughly weeklong visit. He said he hopes the film is as much about the communities the factory supports as it is about manufacturing.

“The approach they took was hands-on,” said Raye Wentworth, factory manager for the Skowhegan facility. “They seemed like they really wanted to capture what we do every day — coming in and turning the lights on, letting the audience see everything come to life.”

New Balance is proud that 25 percent of its shoes are made in the United States, Wentworth said. According to the company’s website, it is the only major company producing athletic footwear in the United States, with factories in Norridgewock, Norway and Skowhegan, as well as two in Massachusetts.

Wentworth said the Skowhegan factory employs 345 people and the nearby Norridgewock facility, about 11 miles away, employs 393. Together, the two plants produce about 7,100 pairs of shoes per year.

McGill said that New Balance is an example of a recognizable brand with a meaningful relationship to its workers and that since his visit, he only buys New Balance sneakers.

“I think people don’t realize how poor it is here. We have people traveling an hour and a half to get to work because there is no work in other places,” said Brann. “These jobs are really important to us.”

Brann said he was interviewed by the filmmakers but wasn’t sure whether he made the cut for the film.

“No one really knows what it will be. They haven’t told us much,” said his co-worker Bruce Patton.

Both men said that although the work day starts at 6:30 a.m., they always get there early.

“I like to mentally prepare for the day. I sit in my truck and listen to the news. I get ready,” said Patton, whose job is to check and repair shoes as they are about to be packaged for shipping.

Although factory work is notoriously monotonous, Patton said, he doesn’t think that’s true at New Balance.

“We move around a lot and do different things, so the day goes by quickly,” he said.

The American Made Movie is scheduled to screen at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Strand Theater. The screening is open to the public and will be followed by a question and answer period with the filmmakers. Tickets are $6 for adults.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368
[email protected]

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