Adam Sekuler’s Work in Progress is a series of two-minute video clips, each depicting someone at work. That’s it. There’s no commentary, no introduction, and no conclusion, and yet the argument it conveys is powerful and precise. At its core, the film is an ode to labor—to the work that defines us, about the contribution we make to society that feeds us. But Work in Progress is cleverly in progress itself: No two screenings are the same, and it’s constantly being added to and edited.
The film’s adaptable nature connects it deeply to the present moment, and Sekuler (a major presence in the Seattle arts scene) filmed many segments locally. The version I watched featured the voice of Mayor Ed Murray speaking at a Seattle University symposium, while the camera focuses in on the man refilling the coffee urns. Later, I observed a policeman on the job as a “15 Now” rally marches by. A film concerned with the state of local work threatens to be depressing, but Work in Progress is surprisingly uplifting as it highlights service, manual labor, and the artistry required to work with substances from food to liquid metal.
However, there’s an ominous warning built into Work in Progress: Don’t get too comfortable. These people and their jobs are valuable, and we need the people who fight for workers’ rights (and the other community and political causes shown on screen) to continue pushing and striving for more. The real meat of the film is after it ends, and you wonder: What will it be like in a year, or 10? How many jobs can be done by robots? How will people be compensated for their time? Make sure to catch Work in Progress on April 8 at Northwest Film Forum, because your chance to see this moment, here, will soon be gone.