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Dacula graduates make movie

A movie poster from a new, locally-made documentary examines the decline of America's manufacturing sector.

A movie poster from a new, locally-made documentary examines the decline of America's manufacturing sector.

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Special Photo Clyde and Sandra Strickland, who attended a local Jan. 29 screening for "American Made Movie," are executive producers for the film.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- For 17 years, Clyde Strickland has worn the same pair of shoes.

"They're still perfect," said Strickland, touting the durability of his shiny, black executive-style Rockports.

The local man said he still gets compliments about them. At the time the shoes were manufactured, the soles, the shoestrings and the leather all came from one place: America.

These days, that's unique, Strickland said. "If we could get people in America now to spend just $500 a year on products made in this country, we could employ every person that was on unemployment," he said. "We could solve a whole lot of problems."

It should come as no surprise that the philanthropist is an executive producer for a new, locally made documentary that examines the decline of America's manufacturing sector.

Directed by 1999 Dacula High School graduates Nathaniel McGill and Vincent Vittorio, Strickland said "American Made Movie" is the first of its kind, in that it's the first film "100-percent funded and homegrown in Gwinnett County."

Much like Strickland, McGill has deep-rooted feelings on the importance of American manufacturing.

A fifth-generation Gwinnett County resident, McGill said much of his family worked for General Motors in Doraville -- a plant which closed in 2008.

After GM opened in 1947, McGill explained, Gwinnett County became a bedroom community. "This is where people lived and stayed. Some of the first subdivisions here were formed by the executives from GM for their workers to live in," McGill said.

Times were different then, he said, adding that in the past 10 years nearly 60,000 American factories shut down.

"By the time my generation went to college, there were no manufacturing jobs to go into. When you lose the manufacturing sector in your country, you see massive effects on the economy."

Added McGill: "In smaller towns and smaller areas that didn't diversify themselves as well as Gwinnett County has, the entire town or county shuts down."

"American Made Movie" examines such matters, he said.

According to its official website, "American Made Movie" is a documentary "examining the factors contributing to the decline of the American manufacturing workforce and the integral role consumerism plays in getting the economy back on track."

While a national release date has not yet been set, Strickland and McGill invited some Gwinnett County residents to a screening on Jan. 29 at Studio Movie Grill in Duluth.

Among hundreds of viewers at the private screening were Clyde Strickland and his wife Sandra, who are executive producers.

The Stricklands are known for their local philanthropy, and Clyde said the couple felt compelled to be a big part of what he called "a movie that will change this country in a big way."

Added Strickland: "In everything Sandra and I do ... we concentrate on planting seeds that will affect people today and forever. That's our way."

And the topic, incidentally, is near and dear to Strickland.

For the past two decades, he's publicly advocated for change in the country with groups like Save America as a focal point. In 2008, Strickland and nearly 200 volunteers marched on the state Capitol to speak their piece on such matters.

"You've got to let people know when their freedom is at stake," Strickland said. "People don't realize that when they're buying foreign products, they're giving money to foreign countries that want to buy up our country and want to change our way of life."

Those who question Strickland's conviction need only see his 17-year-old pair of shiny, black shoes.

"I've still got them, because they were quality made," he said. "They were made here in this country."

For more information, including announcements about when the documentary will be released, visit www.americanmademovie.org. The filmmakers plan several more advanced screenings before a theatrical or video-on-demand release, which could be later this year.