MAXED OUT Explores the Credit Industry - Total Bankruptcy
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MAXED OUT Peels the Lid off of the Consumer Credit Industry

Director James Scurlock set out to create a tongue-in-cheek documentary about consumer irresponsibility, but as he interviewed consumers, economists, collectors, credit industry executives and bankers across the country, his film Maxed Out evolved into something entirely different.

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While it comes as no surprise to consumer bankruptcy attorneys that the credit industry in America preys on those who are most financially vulnerable, that was a revelation to Scurlock--and apparently to press and public across the country as well.

Maxed Out garnered national attention after its spring 2006 festival debut, and earned positive reviews from Variety, E! Online, and a host of local newspapers and Internet film critics.

Newsweek interviewed Scurlock, and in 2007 Simon & Schuster released a book based on the research and interviews behind Maxed Out.

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Why is Maxed Out attracting so much attention? As Scurlock learned, debt doesn't discriminate. We're all affected by the shifting focus of the credit industry and the economic crises it has created. With more than 1.5 million personal bankruptcy cases filed in 2009, we're clearly a nation in serious financial trouble.

A recent Federal Reserve Board study determined that the credit card industry played no appreciable role in the "bankruptcy problem" facing the U.S., but Scurlock's experts-and he's lined up some heavy hitters-beg to differ.

In particular, Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, author of The Fragile Middle Class and The Two Income Trap reveals how American families are living on the financial edge just to keep a roof over their heads and provide health insurance, child care, and transportation to and from work.

Maxed Out mixes interviews with credit-strapped consumers (including two mothers whose college-age children committed suicide because of overwhelming debt) with expert interviews and news clips from commentators ranging from Robin Leach to Alan Greenspan.

An 88 minute film can only scratch the surface of credit industry tactics and their impact on consumer finance, but Maxed Out manages to touch on a variety of important issues:

  • The credit card industry has discovered that the most profitable consumers are the ones who are least likely to be able to repay their debts in a timely manner;
  • The elimination of most usury laws have made it possible for credit card companies to charge virtually any interest rate they want;
  • The vast majority of credit reports contain errors-and getting them fixed is "incredibly difficult";
  • At least one of the largest financial groups in the world is targeting the poor, stripping the little savings and home equity they've managed to build;
  • College students are prime targets for the credit industry, even though (and possibly because) they're typically poor credit risks.

We hope that the message Maxed Out delivers will reach and be heeded by those most vulnerable among us who are actively targeted by the consumer credit industry. Still, with more than $2 trillion outstanding in non-mortgage consumer credit, the road to recovery may be a long and difficult one.

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