About this project
Automated Futures is an experimental documentary film about the materiality of American finance. The unifying theme is a fiber optic cable network that connects traders in Chicago and New York. We will physically trace the path of the cable by car in order to capture and translate its scale and complexity into a visual and aural experience.
A private communications company built this fiber optic network in order to give financial firms and hedge funds that practice high frequency trading a three millisecond edge on the their competitors. High frequency trading is a financial practice that uses automated computer algorithms to participate in the stock, futures and derivatives markets at an extraordinarily fast pace. The documentary takes its name in part from the automation of trading E-Mini futures contracts that led to the flash crash of May 2010. Thus the cable represents the automation of financial practice and the drive towards profitable but untested and potentially dangerous trading technologies.
The cable runs from Chicago to a data center in New Jersey, amplified along the route at waystations in Indiana, Ohio, and near the old steel towns of Pennsylvania. This segment of America's rust belt has been hit especially hard by financial crisis and shifts in the global economy. The title Automated Futures also speaks to the larger question of what place do humans have within an economic system that is changing so rapidly without reference to the specific needs and desires of the people it is supposedly built to support.
The documentary is not a didactic film or an exposé, but rather a meditation on a specific place and moment in history. Through sound and image, Automated Futures will reveal the complexity and the inconceivable scale (both large and small) of automated finance and its relation to the American landscape.
Director - Ulysses Pascal
Ulysses studied anthropology at Reed College, where he completed his undergraduate thesis on the material culture of automated finance. Through his research he accumulated a wealth of information about financial technology and the construction of financial markets, as well as an understanding of the broader cultural implications of changes in the materiality of finance. After graduating from Reed, he studied film production at the NW film center. He currently resides in Los Angeles, California, where he writes about technology and culture.
Director of Photography - Brian Echon
Brian earned a degree in sociology from the University of California at Santa Cruz where he explored the relations between social capital and communication technologies. For the past seven years he has been visually documenting independent underground music, capturing local shows and traveling extensively with various bands documenting regional and national tours. His photos and videos have appeared in The Portland Mercury, The Stranger, Vice, Filter, and have also been used by PICA, Marriage Records, CMRTYZ, Folk Yeah! TV, Burger Records and Big Love Records in Japan. He currently produces music videWhoas for music label Gnar Tapes and operates independent publishing house No Nothing Publishing.
Sound Design - Matthew Doyle
Matthew Doyle graduated from Reed College with a B.A. in English. After that, he worked with Recess Gallery to organize a series of free improvisation nights called 'PORTLAND EYE AND EAR'. Since then he has moved back to Boston to study sound art with Florian Hecker in MIT's ACT program, and was Keiji Haino's road manager on his recent U.S. tour. He writes and makes videos too.
We see a lot of documentaries on Kickstarter asking for tens of thousands of dollars. This is not a big budget documentary. We are asking for the minimum amount of money to get this project off the ground. The money will be used for our travel expenses, data storage, gear upgrades and accessories to our already existing camera and audio equipment, and material costs and postage for our backer rewards.
$1600 - transportation costs
$750 - room and board
$270 - data & back up storage
$600 - material and shipping costs for rewards
$280 - Kickstarter / Amazon fees
$3500 - Minimum Amount of Funds Needed
Risks and challenges
We’re all experienced in film and video production, but this is our first collaborative documentary project of this scale. We will be driving across the country, which opens up the project to car risks and hard drive failures. Without the kind of financial resources that would enable us to stay in hotels, we’re going to be camping and staying with friends, which makes us vulnerable to losing data or our personal equipment.
We are committed to completing this documentary fall of 2013, so we’re going to be putting all of our time and energy into editing on a shoestring. We don’t mind, because we believe this is a story that needs to be told now. That means we’re going to be extra vigilant, working and organizing all our footage as we go, to maintain a consistent workflow from the road to the editing room.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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