DNA Info Chicago: What Happens When You Deny a Filmmaker Paid Leave? She Makes a Doc About It

Ian Pajer-Rogers |

From DNA Info Chicago:

by Patti Wetli

NORTH PARK — The United States is one of only three countries in the world — and the only industrialized nation — that doesn't offer paid maternity leave to its citizens.

It's a policy, or lack thereof, that filmmaker Ky Dickens didn't need to research before tackling the subject in her latest documentary, "Zero Weeks," because she lived it.

Pregnant with her first child in 2013, Dickens, who lives in North Park, approached her employer about taking time off after her daughter's birth.

She was told she could have two weeks, a far cry from the 12 she was hoping for, given that she'd spent 11 years at the company.

"I couldn't believe it," Dickens said. "I got angry."

For most people, that's where the story would end. But Dickens has a habit of using her personal life as inspiration for her documentaries.

Her 2009 film "Fish Out of Water," which examines the relationship between homosexuality and the Bible, was sparked by her experience of coming out during her senior year of college at Vanderbilt.

"Sole Survivor," which aired in 2013 on CNN, has as its roots the death of a friend, who was killed in an auto accident after Dickens gave up her place in the car.

With "Zero Weeks," Dickens, 37, quickly realized her own story was just the tip of the iceberg.

"I met a woman who had to go back to work right after a C-section. I met a bus driver who had to bring her newborn on the bus with her," Dickens said.

"Every other country recognizes you're a worker, but you're also a human and a family member," she said. "Here we have this mentality, 'You just deal.'"

The deeper she investigated the subject, the more disturbed she became.

Though the Family and Medical Leave Act allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave, the law only applies to full-time workers who've been employed for at least 12 months, at a company with 50 or more employees.

"Only two in 10 Americans even have unpaid options," Dickens said. "It's all based on the luck of where you work — there's no rhyme or reason to it."

Read the full article from DNA Info Chicago.

Visit the film's Kickstarter page.