"Crouching Banks, Hidden Money"

Director of “That Film About Money" — James Schamus

We The Economy" is an ambitious undertaking but you would expect nothing less from Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Productions and Morgan Spurlock’s Cinelan. The partnering with other award-winning directors (including Adrian Grenier, Catherine Hardwicke, James Schamus, Adam McKay and Joe Berlinger) have produced 20 short films that drive awareness and, hopefully, a better understanding of the U.S. economy.

This short film series includes animation, comedy, nonfiction and scripted films, and cameos from Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Judah Friedlander,

All 20 films—which launched last week—are free and available to view across multiple platforms (online, VOD, broadcast, mobile, theatrical, etc.).

I experienced a strong connection to two shorts under “That Film About Money” by James Schamus.  

Mr. Schamus is an award-winning screenwriter (“The Ice Storm”) and producer (“Brokeback Mountain”), and former CEO of Focus Features, the motion picture production, financing, and worldwide distribution company whose films have included “Milk,” “The Pianist,” and the “The Dallas Buyers Club.”

Here is a fun fact, I’m such a fan of James Schamus that if—by magical intrigue—he could mange to steal all the gooey chocolate goodness in the world, not even sharing one with the “tiniest of tot” he would still remain on my  ”favorite” artist list. That’s how much I like James Schamus and I’m awfully fond of chocolate!

Recently, I had a 1:1 with Schamus to discuss “That Film About Money” which he directed. The objective of the shorts is to make the audience think about a dollar bill and how that “buck” works (or doesn’t work) inside the banking system and how it moves inside your life.

Here is what James Schamus had to share about banks, spirituality and filmmaker Justin Simien. 

myNewYorkeye: Why did you make these two short?

James Schamus: Money. They offered me “money” to make a film about money.  All 20 shorts are free.

myNewYorkeye: Sounds too simple. Please, elaborate.

James Schamus: I have a conflicted relationship both with the topic of the ‘economy’ and with the premise of the series as a whole. Indeed, the concept of the ‘economy,” even its constitution as an object of scientific study, as a thing, is relatively recent, and to me smells of an ideological maneuver wherein we replace what are essentially political relations with a mystifying body of social science ‘knowledge’ to be managed and manipulated by financial/political elites.

myNewYorkeye: Ouch, I did ask. So, what’s did you most people know about money?

James Schamus: It tuned out that some of the most sophisticated and connected people, out there, probably don’t know what a bank really is. So, it’s my job, in five minutes, to just freak you out every time you walk past a bank, for the rest of your life.  

myNewYorkeye: At five, I tried to purchased chocolate with my well earned Monopoly money.  The shop keeper tried to explain why my “paper” wasn’t the same as the U.S. “paper currency.”  In good humor, he showed me the words “in God we trust” as his final explanation to why only “that paper” only could be traded for goods. I didn’t buy it.

James Schamus: Now you know, all these years later that you were actually right and my movies tell you the reasons for that. The main purpose of a bank is to get rid of your money. The most profitable banks are the emptiest.

myNewYorkeye: Snap. A dollar ain’t a dollar.

James Schamus: In fact, I point out that the dollar bill[s] are these “magical objects” that are covered not only in the phrase “in God We Trust” but they have added a pyramid with the eyeball (which is Masonic imagery). It’s magical because you have to have belief. You have to have belief for them to work and if you stop believing in them then you stop trading them. It’s a sad state of affairs when probably the most spiritual content of our lives, on a daily basis, comes when you pass a dollar bill around telling each other (that) we trust in God.

myNewYorkeye: Thank you. Quick question, you have an exceptional eye for artistic talent. Who should we know and why?

James Schamus: Justin Simien. If you haven’t seen his film, “Dear White People,” run, don’t walk.  He hit it out the park!

For more on the film check out the official website: https://wetheeconomy.com/