With an endless well of cat gifs and music videos at our fingertips, a film series about the economy seems unlikely to grab the internet’s attention — but that’s exactly what Paul Allen’s Vulcan Entertainment and Morgan Spurlock’s Cinelan set out to do by creating “We the Economy: 20 Short Films You Can’t Afford to Miss.”
“In the next week, you’re going to have more people, watching, sharing and engaging in the economy than you probably ever have in the history of the entertainment business,” Spurlock told Indiewire about the digital project launching today.
Last spring, the creators of “We the Economy” paired filmmakers with economic advisors to create 20 short films that illustrate different aspects of the economy in a fun and easy-to-digest way. Viewers turned off by the subject might perk up when hearing the list of names attached: Catherine Hardwicke, Jon M. Chu, Mary Harron and Adam McKay make up a few of the 21 directors. That’s good news, because the people who space out at terms like “Globalization” and “GDP” are the exact audience Spurlock wants watching these films. “You want to reach people who don’t watch CNBC or Fox Business News all day long,” he said. “You know, like 99 percent of us.”
Part of what makes the series so approachable is its break from the typical format — filmmakers explore the topic through comedies, cartoons, documentaries and musicals. Spurlock’s short film, “Cave-o-nomics,” gets as far back to basics as possible by imagining the first market as being started by two cavemen. Adam McKay’s “My Little Pony” parody, “The Unbelievably Sweet Alpacas” feels more like one of his Funny or Die videos than an educational film.
“Most people know me for big, poppy comedies and they act like (the economy) is boring,” said McKay. “My reaction was always, ‘What are you talking about? This is the language of power!'” His film follows three cartoon alpacas (voiced by Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Sarah Silverman) whose journeys after graduating from “sweetness school” each represent a different aspect of income inequality.
McKay attributed the inspiration for the idea to his daughters, which is fitting considering he believes this film can benefit young people the most. “I think it’s criminal that we don’t teach economics in high school,” he said. “Our popular culture frames economics as either boring or too complicated, and nothing could be further from the truth.”
The mass accessibility of “We the Economy” is another aspect that attracted so many big names to the project: Starting today, all 20 short films are available to stream for free from 26 different online platforms. It’s rare to see so many big names (Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, Hulu) working together to get a project out to as many people as possible.
“I’m a big believer in ‘coopetition,'” said Spurlock. “There’s times when you need to be competitive with someone; there’s times when you also need to be cooperative with someone…Something like this is when you need coopetition.”
Depending on the success of this series, this could be the start of more projects where corporate and creative giants work together to promote education. “That would be very exciting,” said McKay, “Though I have to say I would be happy if just the economic one pushed us just a foot closer to better understanding.”
“We the Economy: 20 Short Films You Can’t Afford to Miss” is now available to stream across the web and on wetheeconomy.com.