Photo by Marianne Todd
In Chinese philosophy, it is said that opportunity lies on the other side of crisis. In the case of documentary filmmaker Katie Teague, the current economic crisis has presented her with a chance to demystify and question one of the basic institutions of modern society: money.
Teague’s filmmaking debut, “Money & Life,” aims to explore the current global financial situation, our relationship with money and the opportunity to change the United States’ monetary system.
“It’s like the great last taboo,” said Teague, who makes her home in Meridian. “None of us are taught about it. … Nobody knows about one of the most important instruments in our society.”
Teague said she believes that our current monetary system is shrouded in mystery and rooted in debt, which creates scarcity, prompting people to constantly be in competition to make more money. Teague hopes to create a film that serves as an empowering wake-up call to end the vicious cycle.
“Documentaries often hit people over the head and they’re depressing, especially about current issues,” Teague said. “What I’m saying is, the system is broken, but there’s good news.”
She hopes to inspire people to take action, even if it’s only doing personal research. On a larger level, she hopes to motivate citizens to collaborate on creating an economy that serves America, instead of people serving the economy.
“It will generate fear and concern, hopefully followed up with inspiration to take action,” Teague said. “You’ll see that it’s doable and already under way, particularly in our country. We may not see it because it’s not the government or trickle-down. I hope the film… reaches a lot of people.”
Teague said she believes that change will be a grassroots movement of individuals taking back their roles as citizens instead of consumers.
“We’re all born beautiful and gifted in unique ways,” Teague said. “Our relationship with money and the monetary system is so contrary to that. We serve money instead of it serving us and our joy. So many gifts, such creativity of the human spirit, get wasted, lost, squashed. I don’t think it has to be that way.”
Teague’s post-graduate work is in developmental and depth psychology. She practiced counseling in Seattle for five years, working mainly with patients in the area of personal growth.
“I love therapy, but I was not fully paying attention to the artist in me,” Teague said. “… I feel like I’m still doing healing work in the domain of filmmaker.”
In a four-month immersion course on digital filmmaking, she took her love of photography and morphed it into moving images. She saw filmmaking as a way to approach key issues in a way that touches many individuals. Documentary seemed more achievable because it is more affordable than narrative film.
“It is a beautiful medium to touch and awaken people’s hearts,” Teague said. “… I’ve always loved the form because you meet real people; real life stories and grapple with current issues in a way people can find themselves within.”
In 2009, Teague founded Intentional Films, now Storm Cloud Media, to bring forward “Money & Life.” She is working in the field of transformational media, “production that somehow crawls inside the soul and inspires it to become what it knows it can become.”
The word “psychotherapy,” she explained, means “tending the soul.”
“If a film intended to tend the soul of the world, where is that most needed?” Teague said. One world wound, she felt, was the economic collapse. “It felt like a very important or opportune acupuncture point.”
In selecting the subject for her film, Teague identified a topic about which she felt called to learn. She knew that other people would also benefit from the knowledge she gained.
“I was pretty ignorant about money and our monetary system—how it’s created, who controls it, how it plays into our life,” Teague said. “The crash made me confront my relationship with money.”
She began to educate herself, first by looking at her own relationship with money and where it did not align with her values. Teague also started questioning all the conventions surrounding money. She read 30 or more books over the two years she has been working on the project.
For her film, Teague spoke with many people, among them religious leaders, social scientists, economists, biologists and philosophers. She tried to bring in a diverse range of experts to appeal to a wider variety of viewers.
Teague found her therapy skills of holding space and hosting a dialogue translated easily to the interviews she conducted for “Money & Life.”
“The people I was meeting are amazing,” she said. “We would sit down in a space honoring the other person, most of whom gave their life energy to the subject. The magic is holding space.”
At the beginning, Teague would have said she was “funding” the project; now she uses the word “gift.” She feels the film is her way of working to create a more beautiful world. She also received help from backers through Kickstarter, an innovative fundraising Website.
“(It) leverages the social network in a way that builds energy around the project,” Teague said, adding that the site’s short time limits create momentum. “ … Backers so want you to succeed that they post it on their Facebook and email. … It creates awareness around the project. Awareness is its own currency. People all over the world have written to me how excited they are.”
Teague is trying to complete the film before the Sundance Film Festival’s deadline in September. She has more than 40 hours of footage to condense into a 90- or 100-minute film.
“My hope is that we can create an economy where we can do what we love, where we can be rewarded for doing what we love,” Teague said. “It’s idealistic, but it’s only limited by saying it’s impossible. The movie shows that money is a human artifact. It doesn’t grow on trees or fall from the sky.
“We created it, and over time it’s changed. We are living in a time of significant shift. Things change and the main institution that needs to change in our lifetimes is money.”