How many times during the day do you hear the word, “economy?” On this site alone, it brings up tens of thousands of search results. And what about “money,” “inequality” or “globalization?”
These terms are part of our daily vernacular. They impact what we read, what we buy and how we go about our day. But how well do you know how our economy works? That question is behind the conception of WE THE ECONOMY 20 Short Films You Can’t Afford to Miss
WE THE ECONOMY is a new short film series from Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Productions and Morgan Spurlock’s Cinelan that brings together film and economics in ways never before seen, and the films can all be viewed for free on wetheeconomy.com, via the iPhone or Android app or on one of more than 60 distribution partners’ platforms. It’s what results when 10 experts and 20 filmmakers collaborate on addressing important questions about the U.S. economy that we should all know how to answer.
Let’s test your economic I.Q. (Answers at bottom.)
Question 1: Which of the following Presidents does not appear on a U.S. bank note?
A. Abraham Lincoln
B. William McKinley
C. John Adams
D. None of these
The former bank around the corner from your office may now be a drug store for a good reason: there is no longer such a thing called money. That’s what director James Schamus examines in his WE THE ECONOMY short “That Film About Money” and the follow-up, “The Second Part of That Film About Money.” By asking what is the real value of a dollar, Schamus takes a concept we assumed to be tried and true — that a dollar bill is money and banks are where our cash is stored and safeguarded — and shows otherwise.
“No one who watches my films will ever again be able to think of money and banks as ‘natural’ objects, but rather will see them as sites of profound and enduring social and political struggles – struggles that everyone has a right to participate in,” said Schamus.
He was not the only filmmaker addressing the topic of money and the economy. A Federal Reserve chairman gets amnesia and it’s up to his family to fill in his memory gaps about his job in Catherine Hardwicke’s (Twilight, Thirteen) “FED HEAD”. Hit the trading floor for a behind-the-scenes look at the New York Stock Exchange in Joe Berlinger’s “The Street” [https://wetheeconomy.com/films/the-street/]. And watch how a world-renowned dance company interprets the causes of an economic recession and recovery in “Recession,” directed by Lee Hirsch [https://wetheeconomy.com/films/recession/].
Question 2: What percentage of minimum wage workers have at lease some years of college study?
A. Almost none — most are high school students
On Election Day, five states plus San Francisco voted to increase their minimum wage. Yet, despite this progress inequality is still a hurdle to economic growth and sustained prosperity. It is a topic that WE THE ECONOMY directors and advisors were eager to address. Director Steve James visits Seattle and interviews residents in “The Value of Work”, which looks at the city’s 2013 law to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and how it sparked a national debate that continues today.
“For me, tackling ‘minimum wage’ held special interest. I am someone who did minimum wage jobs up until I was nearly 30-years-old, and haven’t forgotten what a struggle it was to make a living on such a low wage,” said James.
Adam McKay uses animation; some of his famous friends, and a certain popular equine children series to help us better understand wealth distribution and the inequality gap. It may be a magical land in “The Unbelievably Sweet Alpacas”, but it certainly sounds like the real world.
There are two things that seem to always be present in modern day America: doctor shows on television and questions around why healthcare is so expensive. In Mary Harron’s short, “This Won’t Hurt a Bit”, a patient meets some fictional TV docs and nurses as he “gets lost in the funhouse of American healthcare,” as she puts it.
Question 3: Which of the following goods is the United States’ largest single export (in dollars) to China?
C. Civilian aircraft
It’s odd to recall a time when a conversation or news story about the impact of globalization was not an everyday occurrence. In fact, the passage and effect of time is what sparked director Bob Balaban’s short for WE THE ECONOMY as he visits a family’s conversation about global trade over the years.
The loss of manufacturing jobs over time has hit Detroit hard. But as Albert Hughes discovered in his powerful documentary short, “City on the Rise,” drive, ambition and hopefulness still abound in his hometown.
Directors Miao Wang and Jehane Noujaim also have personal connections with their contributions to WE THE ECONOMY. From a look at the two-way relationship between China and the U.S. to the intersection of human rights and our insatiable appetite for the latest technology, the filmmakers introduce us to the people who show how connected we all truly are.
“I wanted to tell a nuanced story about China and its economic impact on the U.S. and I wanted to focus in the local communities that it impacts. What ensued has been an incredible fast and furious journey,” said Wang on her film “Made by China in America”.
“As filmmakers from Egypt and India, [we] were drawn to the question of human rights abuses that happen abroad while manufacturing consumer goods that we enjoy. How should we feel about these issues?” said Noujaim about “Supply Chain Reaction”. “It is a very complex subject, a challenge to tackle in a few minutes, but that was part of the fun. “
Answers: 1) C; 2) D; 3) D. Take more quizzes, see how you compare with others and watch all the short films at https://wetheeconomy.com.