Dumb Money is the true story of a financial revolution that rocked Wall Street during the pandemic. Keith Gill, a Mass Mutual financial analyst living near Boston, posted a series of YouTube videos under the moniker Roaring Kitty. He believed that GameStop, the brick and mortar retail video game store, was being purposely “shorted” – when an investor bets a stock price will fall, and undervalued by billion dollar hedge funds. Gill gained an army of followers from the WallStreetBets Reddit forum, who then inflated GameStop’s stock price a whopping 1,500% in less than a year. The ensuing fracas created a media sensation that resulted in notable bankruptcies and a congressional hearing to see if any laws were broken.
Director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl, Cruella) takes a raunchy, humorous, and heartfelt look at economic inequality. He contrasts the lavish lifestyles of billionaire hedge fund managers with working class people struggling to survive through COVID. Paul Dano stars as Gill with a venerated ensemble portraying the nurses, college students, and store clerks who supported him. They held the stock and didn’t take enormous profits, a “short squeeze,” to send Wall Street a clear message.
Gillespie believes that “GameStop became a rallying cry” against “wealth disparity.” The average investor was frustrated of not “being heard” because “the system was rigged against them.” He wanted to “capture this recent time in our history.” The film is laugh-out-loud funny with a Cardi B rap soundtrack, creative visual style, and superb editing. The characters also never interact with each other; Gillespie was “bouncing between characters constantly.” He credits cinematographer Nikolas Karakatsanis for helping “to keep track of all these moments.” You can read on for our complete interview with Craig Gillespie, and watch our video interview above.
Roaring Kitty’s Rallying Cry
MovieWeb: Dumb Money takes place at this confluence of events during the pandemic. What do you think is the film’s most important theme? What should audiences take away?
Craig Gillespie: You’ve touched on all the issues that were speaking to me when I looked at this story. It was this one moment in all of our lives that hopefully we’ll never see again. It was a generational thing that happened, isolation, COVID, the social discontent that was happening everywhere. The disparity of wealth, and not feeling that they’re heard, it happened to be that GameStop became a rallying cry to vent all of that. It was a stock, but it could have been many other things. It was a way of really letting the 1% know how frustrated everybody is. That’s what drew me to the project, and that’s what I got excited about, to capture this very recent time in our history.
MW: The movie has this segmented visual style. You have different stories with Keith Gill, the college girls, the nurse, and the GameStop clerk. It’s brilliantly put together and edited. Was that format in Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo’s script? Or did you decide the visual approach?
Craig Gillespie: No, honestly it was a beautiful script that they wrote, but it jumps around a lot. In that sense, a lot of is embedded, where we are bouncing between characters constantly. We check in more often than the script. That was stuff that I sat down and shot listed with my DP [director of photography], Nicolas Karakatsanis, who I did I, Tonya and Cruella with. We’d be like, here’s a moment, we’re going to visit every character, it’s like a five-second beat. We’d have to keep track of all these moments to go back, so all of that footage would be there for the edit.
MW: What was the best and worst day for you as the director of Dumb Money?
Craig Gillespie: I do remember our last day in [New] Jersey. It was with Pete Davidson, and there were some scheduling conflicts because he was doing a TV show at the time. We weren’t quite sure when we were going to get him. We had to be prepared. It might be dark. We might not get him until later in the day. We had the bike riding scene to do, him at the cemetery, him at the track, him watching the third act with the SEC, it was a lot of stuff to get. We had many locations ready to go, not sure whether we’d shoot inside, or outside riding a bike.
Craig Gillespie: I kind of like the adrenaline and spontaneity of it. It all worked out. He managed to get there early enough, so we got those daytime scenes. But because of that, I had that basement, so I said, “Pete, let’s jump in the basement and have you watch Paul [Dano] giving his testimony.” That was all on the fly, on the day. We grabbed it. It’s so much a part of the last act of the film.
Billionaire Hedge Fund Managers
MW: The one-percenters, the Steve Cohens and Gabe Plotkins of the world, they get a fair ribbing from you and deservedly so. I’m curious if you’ve had any feedback from these hedge fund types? What’s their reaction to the movie?
Craig Gillespie: I’m sure they’re as curious as you are. It’s funny, but we’re just telling the story. They’re doing what they do. The system is rigged in their favor, obviously. But it was important to me, Rebecca and Lauren did a beautiful job with this — it’s not black and white. They’ve just figured out the system, and they’ve got the resources to do it. That’s partly why we’re so frustrated with the system rigged against everyone. You can’t compete with the resources they have. So no, in terms of feedback from them… I suspect that will be coming (laughs).
Dumb Money will be released theatrically in New York and Los Angeles on September 15th. Then followed by a staggered national rollout over the next three weeks from Sony Pictures.