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Marco and Robyn Scaringi in the editing process. Photo courtesy of the Scaringis.

Marco and Robyn Scaringi in the editing process. Photo courtesy of the Scaringis.

KUOW News

Unemployment Brings Time If Not Money

Amy Radil
03/05/2010

Being unemployed uproots every daily routine, from the office to dinners out and vacations. But amidst the financial stress, one of the upsides of joblessness can be time: to spend with family, to pursue creative projects, and to be pursued by monsters in the Cascades.

TRANSCRIPT

So what do aspiring actors, film editors, and directors do during a recession? Make their own movies of course.

Movie clip: "It's 12:15 exactly and we're still hearing those noises!"

Robyn: "So far Marco and I have been working on this movie called 'Eyes in the Dark.' It's a fun little horror movie that we filmed down in the Cascades with some other people."

Robyn and Marco Scaringi are married, in their late twenties. They love movies, and met several years ago while working together at Blockbuster. Then, as in many horror movies, their professional lives took what seemed like an innocent detour. Marco got a call from an old friend who said he was making better money at the Kirkland–based firm Merit Financial. He urged Marco to come work there. Marco ended up getting a crash course in the culture of subprime lending.

Marco: "They had a ton of loan officers who didn't necessarily know what they were doing. They were people fresh off the street — if they were successful at doing the telemarketing, bam, you're a loan officer now."

Robyn meanwhile left Blockbuster for a job at Merit's related escrow firm. She and Marco commuted together to their new corporate jobs.

Robyn: "I just wanted something more like a grown–up job, so working at the escrow company seemed like the perfect thing."

But Merit Financial was one of the earliest lenders to close its doors, in 2006. After that Marco worked as a loan processor for a series of firms, but they just kept dying off. Kind of like characters in a horror movie.

Movie clip: "Andrew's dead, Dean's dead, Josh is dead, Heather's probably dead."

At first the problems these firms were facing seemed isolated — their deaths, "accidental."

But then at one of his jobs Marco was asked to track failing banks. Their names were being compiled on a website called the Implode–O–Meter. That's when he realized the financial bloodletting was turning into a national horror.

Marco: "You'd hear rumors, oh, this bank might be going out of business soon, or — well are they on the Implode–O–Meter? No, they're not out of business yet, so it must be just rumors, but then they'd be on there the next week."

Meanwhile Marco and Robyn had plunged into the housing market themselves in 2006, buying a brand–new townhouse in Shoreline. Marco lost his last job in October. Since then, they've been able to make their mortgage payments but that's about it.

Marco: "What I make on unemployment pretty much covers our mortgage and that's it. But we also like to be able to eat food each month."

But Robyn's paycheck — the "food" paycheck — is not very predictable right now.

In 2007 — when Marco's job seemed safe — Robyn went back to school to fulfill her dream of becoming a film editor. They took out a line of credit on their mortgage to pay her tuition at a local community college. And they borrowed money from Robyn's mother to buy the high–powered computers she needed for her editing jobs.

Robyn: "That computer right there, that's three mortgage payments."

Robyn's freelance editing work has been satisfying but sparse. She and Marco only have catastrophic health insurance right now. And they're definitely nervous about their looming debts. But Robyn says she has no regrets.

Robyn: "I'm definitely a lot happier than I was working at the escrow company. It's just a reminder that money doesn't equal happiness. I get to spend all this time with Marco. And I'm doing what I want instead of what I feel like I need to do to get money. It's totally worth it."

They got together with other aspiring filmmakers to shoot their low–budget horror movie "Eyes in the Dark." It's about something pursuing a group of college students in the woods near North Bend. They're submitting it to festivals now. Marco says he majored in theater in college but never did any acting until Robyn cast him in her editing projects. Now he's forming an improv group.

Marco: "For the five years while I was doing mortgages I really didn't do any of that. Then Robyn started putting me in her movies and I started acting again, and started helping behind the scenes. And I love doing that, it's a lot of fun."

Marco says he wouldn't mind working in the mortgage business again if things picked up. But for now he and Robyn are banking on creativity, rather than money, to fill their free time.

Movie–clip Man: "I can make a break for it."

Movie–clip Woman: "No, what if they get you too?"

I'm Amy Radil, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2010, KUOW

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