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Money and Life
2013, 86m, documentary
Money & Life is a passionate and inspirational essay-style documentary that asks a provocative question: can we see the economic crisis not as a disaster, but as a tremendous opportunity? This cinematic odyssey takes us on a journey, from the origins of money to connecting the systemic dots on the current global financial crisis and how we got here. Most importantly, Money & Life says that we owe it to ourselves to understand the fundamentals of this technology called money in order to be effective participants in the economic transformation that is happening around us.
10 questions with Money and Life director, Katie Teague at the half-way mark.
Wednesday, August 17th, 2016
1Hi Katie! On behalf of Fandependent Films: what was the initial inspiration that made you want to make this movie? As a former psychotherapist (turned filmmaker) I wanted to make a social issue documentary that got at the root of the epidemic of dis-ease, dis-connect and scarcity mentality that I witnessed working one-on-one with people.
2Many of the people interviewed in your movie seem to be coming from a similarly alternative economic perspective. Regardless of where they came from, they've all reached the same sort of conclusion. Where did you find these interviewees? I quickly realized that there existed this sub-culture of "the new economy." It was like an epic scavenger hunt where one clue (person, book, resource) led to the next. And the doors opened.
3This is a movie with a lot of hope for humanity's potential future. It seems to come from the belief that, deep down, people are fundamentally good. How would you convince someone who believes the opposite, that people are fundamentally selfish shits, that they too should join in this hopefulness? Well, even Richard Dawkins revised his idea of "the selfish gene." I wouldn't try to convince anyone of anything but just point them back into their deepest heart's knowing/experience. We're conditioned (by many things -- for one, human artifacts such as money) to be selfish shits. It's not our True Nature.
4A documentary like this is obviously going to have to leave some parts of the issue unexplored--otherwise it would have to be, like, 20 hours long and insufferably dull. One perspective that I found myself wondering about (because, well, I'm basically part of it) was the working poor: people who have jobs and work hard but have trouble getting past living paycheck-to-paycheck. How can these people participate actively/intentionally in this new emerging economy? Your point is well taken. I agree, the film is necessarily over simplified and not fully comprehensive by the limitations you mention. While the film didn't take the worthy angle of focusing on "the working poor" I did try to convey that everyone has a role to play in accord with whatever our resources are. In my eyes, we're only poor when we get hoodwinked into believing we are poor -- because our inner resources are unlimited, our innate creativity and our relationships are our real wealth. From this basis, we can (re)discover how to build our communities based on what's most important and what's meaningful. This can look like creating a local time-bank or sharing library for example.
5As sort of a follow-up to that last question: why did you choose to make a documentary about this subject matter (as opposed to a book or a website with a massive database of information, etc.)? I took my own medicine as a therapist...and jumped off the cliff to DO what I loved and had a burning desire to pursue but was putting off because "filmmakers are other people" or "I can't afford to make a film." How else can I say it? I had a honest calling to make a film (I used to joke that it was a way to scale up my counseling practice!) and it ended being about money as one of the most influential and shadowy human artifacts of contemporary society.
6What is your ideal audience for this movie? Has it been able to reach them? I edited the film to try and cross a bridge from the progressive choir to something of a mainstream reach...whatever "mainstream" means. I do wish it could reach more. As I sit with your question, I think the film is clearly aimed at a more privileged audience...which is more of who it has reached. The more important question for me is: to what impact? How has the film effected the audience? I certainly received many email responses in the first year it was released from people who actively shifted some of their own behaviors after watching the film (e.g. to getting rid of excess stuff, to gifting more, or shifting their investments).
7On a strictly formal level, the flow of information is very well-executed in the movie. Were there any parts of the movie that were particularly difficult to get right? Any horror stories from the editing room?? Thanks for the acknowledgment. I'll spare you the gore. YES, it was exceedingly difficult at times. The whole thing was challenging to "get right" because the subject is so complex and could have gone in so many different directions. I spent countless hours and weeks with notes and sticky pads all over my studio, pulling my hair out discerning "the story" and its flow. I even edited a 3 hour assembly cut and after 9 months of working with it had to throw it out the window because it just wasn't "IT" and it was blocking me. At my lowest, I almost threw the towel in. It was like I had to let go of all my attachments (mostly my ego attachment) to the film and be willing to really let it go (admit defeat so to speak) in order for the film to come through. In other words, I had to get out of the way and listen to the emerging story in order to really be in service. I felt more like co-director once I let go and let it come through.
8What about production? Did everything come together pretty easily or did unforeseeable calamities threaten you every step of the way? It was my first film and defined by unforeseeable moments (let's call them moments i.e. calamities that always held some mysterious opportunity). It taught me to be flexible in ways I could not have trained for. You do your best to prepare while remaining open and fluid and in sync with "the Force" (as best as possible). Sometimes the best things came from the totally unexpected. I think this is true with life, definitely with documentary filmmaking. It was nothing short of a full-on odyssey.
9How did the financing of this movie (and it's distribution plan) fit in with the general theme of alternative economic approaches? Were you able to practice what you're preaching?? Indeed, the funding of the film came from some small financial resources I had inherited and from multiple rounds of crowdfunding. So, I got to steward money that was a gift to me and gift it back the life in the form of the film and I learned the engaging art of crowdfunding (which became an aspect of the distribution that was namely peer-to-peer grassroots). I have had occasion to consult on other crowdfunding projects and the first thing I tell them is...this is not really about the money, it's about relationships. That's what I learned...the wellbeing of life (mine, yours, ours) is determined by the health of our relations (to ourselves, to each other, to the natural world).
10What's next? Short films, time-lapse photography, visual storytelling for the epic transition we are facing as humanity in this time of converging crises. I've just kicked off a series called SACRED LIFE film series. You can read more about it here: https://www.patreon.com/katieteague
About the Interviewer: Nick Toti
Nick Toti is a decidedly amateur filmmaker, writer, and occasional visual artist who lives in Los Angeles.
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