False Profit: A Mockumentary Indie Film about the Financial Crisis, the Bailout, and Occupy Wall Street

“Finally,” CNBC declared about the mockumentary False Profit. “A comedy movie about the financial crisis.” I met one of the producers on this film, Dan Abrams, because we’d both been fans of and guests on a podcast called asymco. It’s host is Horace Dediu and Horace studies Apple and its competitors. It’s an example of the ways in which stories, digital media, and Apple are coming together for me. Dan’s current project is a mockumentary called False Profit, and it’s an indie film project in that he is seeking his own financing, partially done through a website called Kickstarter. To read more about that and potentially help fund the project (and pick up some swag in the process) you can click here.

William Torgerson Dan Abrams False Profit asymco Horace Dediu

False Profit from Kickstarter

When I asked Dan about his process for writing the story for False Profit, he said he wrote collaboratively, something that comes from his connections to the Second City comedy theater. He talked about a way of writing (and maybe it’s an improv technique too) called the “Yes And” method. I couldn’t figure out what he was saying on the podcast until I later saw it in writing. His example of the technique went something like this:

“It’s raining frogs.”

As the fellow writer, I am to accept that it is raining by thinking yes and and then going with it. “Finally,” I might say, “we’ve been having a terrible drought of frogs this summer.”

On the audio podcast, Dan and I debated the social merits of Will Ferrell movies. I thought mostly funny but also usually just silly and maybe even homophobic, and Dan mounted a satire-themed defense. From there, we discussed the Bailout, Chekhov, George Bush, and whether or not Republicans and Democrats alike might enjoy the film False Profit.

Dan is using Kickstarter to help finance his film and he explained how that works. I asked about Vimeo or YouTube for the sort of work I’m doing, and I had a lot of questions about copyright when it comes to news footage, the legal contracts in securing images and music, and all sorts of questions when it comes to film festivals and indie film distribution.

If you take the time to give the podcast a listen, I hope you’ll help me learn about some of this. I’m almost done with my documentary film For the Love of Books and I’m sensing that there’s more work ahead than completed when it comes to actually getting the film in front of audiences to where they can view it.

On iTunes, the podcast is called the “Read, Write, and Teach Digital Book Club.” If you look down the right side of this page, you can click on the file for download. I’d love to just have it ready for streaming play, maybe one of you can tell me how to set that up. Is it possible to do it while paying to go ad free on WordPress or do I need to run my own site? Thanks in advance for the help!

Prof. Torg’s take on Jennifer Egan’s A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD

If you have a Facebook page, own one of the latest cell phones, blog, or tweet, then you ought to at least check out chapter 13 in Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad.  In the following quote from the last chapter, a once big-time music executive laments about the state of the business.  Feel free to substitute ART in the place of MUSIC.  Here’s Bennie:

“The problem is,” Bennie went on, “it’s not about sound anymore.  It’s not about music.  It’s about reach.  That’s the bitter pill I had to swallow” (page 312).

Whose taste in art is for sale?

So when Bennie says “reach,” he’s talking Tweets, he’s talking Facebook Friends, and he’s talking hits on somebody’s blog.  The last chapter takes place in the future—and she could just almost be talking about right now—we all have to wonder if a book or album or any kind of art is really good or it’s just being promoted very well.  What is the Tweeter getting paid to say that this new artist is the next Bob Dylan?  What perks or gifts have been sent the book blogger’s way?  I just attended a BEA blogging panel where there was talk of ethics in the blogging world.

It may or may not have occurred to you that a novel can pay-off in various ways:  you can be made to feel as if you get to know the characters like people, the text can make you think, cause you to believe you are getting smarter, or make you bawl your eyes out or want to break stuff.  Another pleasing feature of a text can be the language, the words the writer chooses and the ways that the writer puts the words together in the form of sentences.  Egan’s text has that feature.  There are sentences beyond this one that would make for better examples of word choice but there are some original choices here—prewallet, overhandled, Sow’s Ear—and the clever detail of the guy who drinks flakes of gold.  An expensive habit, especially these days when an ounce of the stuff would cost over $1500.  This quote comes from the first story (notice also that it is a long sentence, not an always easy thing to pull off) when Sasha remembers stealing a wallet from a woman in the restroom while she was on a date.  We’ll also hear about Bennie here and we get to see him in the stories that follow.  He’s worth meeting.  Now here’s Egan’s sentence:

“Prewallet, Sasha had been in the grip of a dire evening:  lame date (yet another) brooding behind dark bangs, sometimes glancing at the flat-screen TV, where a Jets game seemed to interest him more than Sasha’s admittedly overhandled tales of Bennie Salazar, her old boss, who was famous for founding the Sow’s Ear record label and who also (Sasha happened to know) sprinkled gold flakes into his coffee—as an aphrodisiac, she suspected—and sprayed pesticides in his armpits.”

I tore that brown thing out on the side and used it as a bookmark.

This is a novel-in-stories, and I loved the first two.  I moved very logically with Sasha the kleptomaniac to her once boss Bennie in the second story who drinks the gold flakes and picks up his son from a previous marriage.  Most of the characters in the book are connected to the music business.  Egan almost lost me on the third story which takes place on an African Safari.  I felt internally frustrated as I was reading and trying to link each new story to the ones which had come before it.  On page eighty-seven, I wrote in the margins:  “I don’t know what the hell is going on or where I am.”

I gave up on trying to connect the stories and just tried to live in each one as a separate world.  I’d say this reading tactic helped, but really I think what happened is the stories got more interesting.  There were many good stories in a row and then on page two hundred and eight, I knew right where I was.  The stories were puzzling together.  I could see where all the pieces might go.  And then Chapter 12 is a Power-Point slide journal.  I don’t generally go for the story that could be called gimmicky.

I was just at a Writers Conference at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and most of the table moaned when I held up the book and showed off some of the slides.  One student is doing an MFA graphic novel thesis.  Suddenly, she was more interested in the book, and another guy at the table said, “I’ll never read a story like that.”

Fine, readers have their tastes I guess.  For me, Egan and The Goon Squad had won me over by the time the Power Point came up.  By the fifth slide I was laughing and my wife was wondering what was up.  It’s great the way I was taught by the text how to read it.  I say Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad is one you ought to read if you’ve got grown up and thinking tastes in reading.  I do.

Citation Information:

Egan, Jennifer. A Visit From the Goon Squad. New York: Anchor Books,    2011. Print.

Drop me a note if you want:

william.torgerson (at) gmail.com

Notes For Jan. 17 Music and Movies Book Club


My own novel, Love on the Big Screen, now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

On Monday night Jan. 17 at the Fresh Meadows Barnes and Noble at 7:30, we’ll be discussing Rob Sheffield’s Love is a Mix Tape. We’d love to have you join us either face-to-face in the store or else here online with a comment to this blog post.  I also want to share that my novel, Love on the Big Screen, is now available in the states online through Amazon or Barnes and Noble and soon to be available internationally.  Coming soon to Kindle and Nook.

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Rob Sheffield / The Guy:

  • What do you think of the Rob Sheffield you meet in the book?  His relationship with Renee?
  • If you finished the book, what was it that kept you listening to Rob’s story?
  • “I listen to Hey Jude now, and I think two things:  I never want to hear this song again, and in 1979, my dad was around the age I am now, and given a Saturday afternoon he could have spent anyway he pleased, he chose to spend it with his twelve-year-old son, making this ridiculous little tape.  He probably forgot about it the next day.  But I didn’t.”  (17)
  • “How do you turn down the volume on your personal-drama earphones and learn how to listen to other people?”

Love:

  • Do you have a wish list for a potential romantic partner?  Is this sort of mental exercise helpful when it comes to navigating love? (67)
  • When you get married, you hope__________? (129)
  • “If she breaks my heart, no matter what the hell she puts me through, I can say it was worth it, just because of right now.”  (70)
  • What did/do you and your romantic partners fight about?  (102)
  • How do you know when it’s love? (4)

Music:

  • Did/do you make mix tapes?  Tell us about them?
  • Did your parents listen to music?  If you listen, how did you find your way into what you listen to?  Why _______ and not ________?
  • That night, I learned the hard way:  If the girls keep dancing, everybody’s happy.  If the girls don’t dance, nobody’s happy. (34)

Sheffield writes, before Murphy's death, "Remember Brittany Murphy..." / from TheJC.Com

Death / Life:

  • What would you leave behind? (10)
  • The moment when we find out what happened to Renee. (14)  What book did you think you were going to read?
  • Remember Brittany Murphy, the funny, frizzy-haired, Mentos-loving dork in Clueless? By 2002, she was the hood ornament in 8 Mile, just another skinny starlet, an index of everything we’ve lost in that time. (215)
  • Some hope in tragedy:  “We know the universe is out to burn us, and it gets us all the way it got Renee, but we don’t burn each other, not always.”  (167)