Is ‘Nomadland’ Based On a True Story?

Chloé Zhao’s buzzy, critically-acclaimed Nomadland is lastly obtainable for most of the people to look at, each in theaters and streaming on Hulu, free to subscribers.

Starring Frances McDormand as a lady named Fern who strikes into her van out of monetary necessity, this drama is a searing portrait of the methods America has didn’t help its older residents. And, sadly, this isn’t one thing that Zhao—who additionally wrote the screenplay—made up. In some ways, Nomadland is all too actual for a lot of Americans who’ve been pressured into related conditions. The movie even options a number of actual individuals who stay as nomads, simply as McDormand’s character does.

Read on to get the complete scoop on the Nomadland true story.

Is Nomadland primarily based on a true story?

Yes—but additionally no. McDormand’s character in Nomadland, Fern, is fictional, as is David Strathairn’s character, David. Their love story is a work of fiction. However, the film was tailored from the 2017 non-fiction ebook Nomadland: Surviving America within the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder, which examines the rising phenomenon of older Americans who stay as “nomads,” out of trailers, campers, vans, and different automobiles out of financial necessity, lots of whom had been affected by the 2008 financial recession. The movie options a number of actual folks from Bruder’s ebook portraying characters that Fern meets on her journey.

Who are Linda May, Bob Wells, and Swankie?

Linda May, who seems in Nomadland as herself, is a actual lady who was the topic of Jessica Bruder’s 2014 Harpers Magazine essay, The End of Retirement: When You Can’t Afford to Stop Working. That essay continues to be obtainable on-line and is value a learn from anybody who noticed May in Nomadland. Many of the issues that May says within the movie—together with the story of how she almost killed herself when she discovered herself alone on Thanksgiving Day in her trailer and stopped solely when she considered hurting her canine—are tales from her actual life. May turned to the nomad life-style out of monetary necessity, within the early 2010s.

Just like Fern within the film, May labored for Amazon’s “CamperForce,” which is a actual factor to today. It’s a labor pressure utilized by the billion-dollar company that’s made up solely of individuals residing out of RVs and vans, lots of them aged. Amazon hires these for the Christmas procuring season solely and provides them a place to park. May labored at a warehouse in Fernley, Nevada, so maybe McDormand’s character title is a nod to that element. According to the Harper’s essay, May made $12.25 an hour and labored 10-hour days on her ft scanning bar codes. Her hours had been from 6 p.m to 4:30 a.m., with two fifteen-minute breaks, and one 30-minute break for a meal. She was in her 60s on the time. Bruder hammers dwelling simply how grueling her work circumstances had been for therefore little pay—and but nearly all the aged Amazon staff Bruder spoke to had been grateful for the employment.

Linda May as herself in NOMADLAND.
Linda May as herself in NOMADLAND.Photo: ©Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

May was impressed to spend what little cash she had saved on a broken-down RV by Bob Wells, one other actual one that portrays himself in Nomadland. Wells is a self-described “vandweller,” or somebody who lives full or part-time in a van, and is the founding father of Wells gained fame on YouTube and thru his books, inspiring many to check out the nomad life-style for themselves. Just as he does within the film, he affords suggestions for locating secure locations to park, avoiding police, and extra. Wells hosts gatherings of RV-dwellers, together with the “Rubber Tramp Rendezvous” in Quartzsite, Arizona, which May attended in actual life and within the movie.

May informed Bruder that gathering was the primary time she felt pleasure in years. “The different day, for the primary time in years and years, I felt pleasure. Joy! That’s higher than being joyful,” she stated.

As for Swankie, Fern’s pal with most cancers within the movie, she is just not featured within the Harper’s essay, however she is a actual individual portraying herself. You can learn her blog post in regards to the expertise filming the film on her web site,



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