Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple’s documentary “This Is Not Financial Advice” premiered on June 10 at the Tribeca Film Festival. The documentary tracks several retail traders and influencers grappling with the intoxicating highs and painful lows that come with investing in crypto and memestocks. Dogecoin millionaire Glauber “Pro” Contessoto steals most of the screentime. He doesn’t understand what the word “affable” means, but it suits him perfectly. It is easy to see why Ingrasci and Temple seem less surefooted when they pivot to the other subjects.
Despite getting less screen time, much of the intellectual and emotional heft of the film comes from Senay Kenfe, Kayla Kilbride, Rayz Rayl, and the investing influencers and thought leaders who provide commentary.
The Self-Taught Teachers
Early in the film, it comes up that 70% of stocks are owned by 10% of people. “Psychology of Money” author Morgan Hausel noted, “I think there’s never been a time in US history where its as black and white as it is right now. Where there is a subset of people who are doing better than ever and then there is another subset of people for whom it is literally worse than the great depression.”
During the audition for Mad Men, series creator Matthew Weiner fought to cast Jon Hamm, in part because Hamm’s performance reminded him of “someone who wasn’t raised by their parents.” This trait was essential to series protagonist Don Draper, and it turned out to be true. In much the same way, the four subjects of “This Is Not Financial Advice” are raised outside the mainstream financial system. They are not formally educated, picking up bits and pieces of wisdom where they can.
The documentary is at its best when capturing the ways these outsiders look for cues and information. There is a rejection of mainstream sources, but there is also an awareness of their own educational gaps. Watching Kenfe and Kilbride share their learnings with their communities is both heartbreaking — because of the clarity with which it highlights those who finance often leaves out — and encouraging. In these brief windows, audiences get a little taste of what the democratization of finance could look like. Most importantly, it becomes clear who is still on the outside.
The Crypto Problem
Audiences are treated to terrific commentary throughout from Josh Brown, Genevieve Roch-Detecter, and others. However, the impressive portfolio of speakers is heavily concentrated in the crypto influencer space. Despite what that concentration of voices implies, Temple and Ingrasci are quite content to keep their own perspectives obscured. They seem fully aware of the absurdity of Elon Musk’s abysmal SNL performance being the inciting incident for the demise of Dogecoin. Additionally, a scene where Contessoto’s childhood friends express their exasperation over him not selling and solving his immediate cash problems hits particularly hard.
Of course, the core failing of crypto and Dogecoins is that their value is dependent upon people believing in it. For Dogecoin to have value, people must believe it has value. Regular currency is not immune to this either.
Having no money, paradoxically, makes it a lot easier to risk everything. The difference between gambling and investing is very much top of mind throughout the documentary. The extent to which crypto is gambling or an investment is up to the viewer.
“This Is Not Financial Advice” Unpacks Social Capital
Quietly, throughout the film, we’re treated to another cryptocurrency of sorts: social influence. Likes and views are a currency all their own. The directors make sure to track those numbers every bit as prominently as the crypto accounts of their subjects. Brown says at one point, “Every content creator, they just want attention… What wins in that world is whatever is most provocative, whatever is most entertaining.”
Readers can learn more about “This Is Not Financial Advice” here.