TORONTO (AP) — Think movies about the financial system and your mind is almost certain to turn to Gordon Gekko and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort in “Wall Street” or “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
When Hollywood takes on Wall Street, it usually goes straight to the C-suite.
However, the protagonist of “Dumb Money” is an amateur investor who trades from his basement in Brockton, Massachusetts, with a bandana tied around his head and a Belgian beer in hand.
This is Keith Gill (played by Paul Dano in the film), also known as Roaring Kitty. In 2021, Gill’s enthusiastic endorsement of GameStop stock helped fuel a viral trading frenzy that shook Wall Street and humbled hedge funds that shorted the brick-and-mortar video game company.
Now, Sony Pictures is betting that the David vs. Goliath story playing out on Reddit message boards could also be a big-screen attraction. Like any investment, there is some degree of risk.
“Dumb Money,” made for about $30 million, is still a fresh wound for some of Wall Street’s powerhouses; At least one executive featured in the film has reportedly threatened to sue.
The film, which begins in limited release on Friday and expands over the next several weeks, was forced to lose its colorful ensemble (including Pete Davidson, Seth Rogen, America Ferrara, Anthony Ramos and Shailene Woodley) due to the actors’ strike. You will have to sell yourself even without. , And then there is the inherent challenge of creating a dramatic narrative out of the revolution that has taken place primarily on computer screens and smartphones.
Yet Craig Gillespie, director of the Tonya Harding black comedy “I, Tonya,” managed to turn a groundbreaking online movement into a remarkably entertaining and crowd-pleasing entertainment that’s already fueling the same energy that fueled GameStop. Have taken it forward. Ticket prices for the film’s Toronto International Film Festival had reached over $900 on secondary seller websites.
“Even though it’s been a really fun ride, ultimately I wanted to honor the frustration and anger that was going on,” says Gillespie.
There are many ironies to “dumb money”. It will play in AMC Theaters, which adopted GameStop as a meme stock, sending its share price soaring at a time when movie theaters were struggling with the pandemic.
“I think we should go to AMC Theaters and we should get stuff from Bed Bath & Beyond and carry BlackBerrys,” says Ben Mezrich, author of the film, “The Antisocial Network: The GameStop Short Squeeze and the Ragtag Group.” Of the amateur traders who brought Wall Street to its knees.
Mezrich, whose 2009 book about Mark Zuckerberg, “The Accidental Billionaire,” served as fodder for David Fincher’s “The Social Network,” immediately recognized the potential drama in the GameStop incident. The day the company’s stock exceeded $300 per share, he began planning a book that could be made into a movie.
“By the end of that day, I knew it was something I wanted to write and I could see it as a movie,” says Mezrich. “That night, I wrote a 12-page proposal and treatment as both a film and a book idea. By the end of the week, we had a movie.
“Dumb money” moved quickly from the headlines – so fast that most of the people who created it failed to invest themselves. Gillespie was able to follow the event thanks to his 24-year-old son, who joined the subreddit Wall Street Bets.
“I got to live it through her,” says Gillespie. “That was a huge touchstone for me in terms of the emotionality of the film. That frustration, that anger, all those emotions that were going through it. I actually came in pretty late myself. My son warned me: You came too late.”
Lauren Shuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo, two former Wall Street Journal journalists turned screenwriters, came forward to write the screenplay. For him it was a way to further his interest in the power of Internet populism – and he already had some experience in turning digital-based stories into something human.
“We wrote a movie a long time ago about GamerGate that didn’t get made,” says Blum. “In that process the producers said, ‘Okay, let’s go out and invent a new language of cinema.’ It took years to figure out: How do you make a story like this cinematic?
“Dumb Money” seamlessly connects a wide range of characters investing in GameStop for various reasons – a Pittsburgh single-mother nurse (Ferreira), a GameStop employee (Ramos), a pair of debt-ridden college students ( Myhala Herold and Talia Ryder – effortlessly synthesizing complex economic context.
“We don’t need Margot Robbie in a bathtub explaining complex financial concepts,” says Angelou, referencing 2015’s “The Big Short.”
The film’s meme-laden grammar owes much to the frantic, flooded experience of social media, but it also serves as a surprisingly accurate portrait of the pandemic. You might be surprised at how effectively and powerfully the film uses the then-ubiquitous TikTok of Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage.”
“This was a time when people were feeling very small. They feel small, they feel powerless, they feel like the system is rigged,” Angelo says. “And it was an opportunity to feel bigger and find strength in numbers.”
As quickly as Gill came into the limelight, just as quickly he went out of the limelight. Her last tweet from her “Roaring Kitty” account was posted in 2021, about sleeping kittens. His investment, originally around $50,000 (most of his young family’s savings) when GameStop was going for around $5 per share, at one point reached $48 million in value.
The filmmakers attempted to reach out to Gill but ultimately respected his privacy and did not make any direct contact with him. Gill has said little publicly since testifying before Congress in 2021. Lawmakers were then investigating whether the rally violated market manipulation rules.
Gill said he advocated GameStop “for educational purposes only, and my aggressive style of investing was unlikely to be suitable for most people.” He just had faith in the company.
“In short,” Gill said, “I like the stock.”
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