Money & Life: A Renaissance Moment

By Katie Teague, film writer and director


Money & Life is a lucid exploration about how one of humanities most brilliant inventions has turned into its darkest shadow, how money and debt haunt our highest aspirations, and undermine our greatest needs. Katie Teague’s documentary is populated by some of the most thoughtful monetary pioneers who explain money’s curse and promise, and point to new economic models that create social justice, economic security, and environmental health.”

– Paul Hawken, Author, The Ecology of Commerce

I’ve just returned from a screening of the documentary film Money & Life at my alma mater, the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.  During the Q&A following the film, a middle-aged woman took the microphone in tears and shared that she realized while watching the film how “pessimistic” she had become.  She expressed her grief openly and then turning on a dime she lit up like a street lamp in the dim theatre as she went on and shared how inspired she felt in knowing that a groundswell movement to create a better world was really afoot.

As writer/director of the film, I responded assuring her that there was a lot to feel daunted about with the converging crises in the world but that there was equally so much to feel excited and encouraged by, though the latter does not make the daily headlines and therefore goes largely unnoticed in the mainstream.  It was my vantage point of doing research for the film that allowed me to see what I referred to that afternoon as “spores of human regeneration,” collectively giving rise to new ways and means of trans-acting in the world.

Her vulnerability was refreshing and moved the conversation forward and more deeply, not an uncommon occurrence in the conversations that follow the film.  It’s a film that lends itself to engaged dialogue, not in hashing out what’s wrong with the current economic system but in reclaiming our sovereignty and inalienable right, as people and as communities, to participate creatively and innovatively in our collective evolution, to take an active part in living the New Economy.

Here is a synopsis of the film:

Money & Life is a passionate and inspirational essay-style documentary that asks a provocative question: can we see the economic crisis not as a disaster, but as a tremendous opportunity? This cinematic odyssey takes us on a journey, from the early days of money to connecting the systemic dots on the current global financial crisis and how we got here. Most importantly, Money & Life says that we owe it to ourselves to understand the fundamentals of this technology called money in order to be effective participants in the economic transformation that is happening around us, a shift more rapid and as profound as the Industrial Revolution.

The film is a tapestry of beautifully shot expert interviews woven with compelling vignettes of individuals and businesses consciously transforming their relationship with money.  Together with dynamic animation, an original music score and an elegant voice of narration, the film tells a new story of money, but more broadly it tells a new story of humanity.  Money & Life aspires to be a part of bringing a new consciousness to our understanding and practices in the world of money, bringing a touch of humor and a lot of heart to a matter that concerns us all.

An optimistic film steeped in appreciation for human ingenuity, Money & Life does not dictate answers. It is a respectful invitation to consider questions critical to all our well-being: How can we move beyond being merely consumers, debtors and creditors, and put money in service to what we really care about as citizens, as human beings? Can we design a monetary circulation system that fosters democratic equality? What responsibilities should a corporate charter convey? What does it really mean to make a living? The film itself demonstrates how to approach these questions with both clarity and compassion.  Money & Life empowers each of us to respond to the fundamental issues of our time and participate in the emerging new economy.

The question I most often get asked is what inspired me to make the film to begin with (seeing as my background was counseling psychology and not film or money/finance)?  In short, the film was my personal response to the heartbreak I experienced sitting with people as a counselor and feeling into the epidemic of self-hatred that has so many people suffocating their dreams and passions and values to meet the too often cruel expectations of the profit-over-people industrial complex.  Sitting in that role, I became acutely aware of our collective disconnect from who we are as human beings and our own innate brilliance, of our profound disconnect from one another and our communities, and most obviously from the earth and the natural world.

And so taking a healthy dose of my own medicine (following my intuition over the voice of doubt and criticism and “conventional wisdom”) I set out to make a social-issue documentary.  When considering what subject I would take on, I deliberated what area of the modern world was the greatest leverage point for social change, which also felt like the area where we were most unhealthy or in need of healing (to use more psychological language).

This contemplation took place in October of 2008 and so it didn’t take me very long of watching the news streaming the collapse of the housing market and the financial crisis at large to decide on MONEY as the central character in my first foray into the world of documentary filmmaking.

Thus the journey began and the trail led me to interviewing some of the forefront thinkers and leaders in the “New Economy” conversation: David Korten, author of Agenda for a New Economy; Hazel Henderson, president of Ethical Markets; Bernard Lietaer, guru of complementary currencies; John Fullerton, president of Capital Institute; Lynne Twist, author of Soul of Money, Vicki Robin, co-author of Your Money or Your Life, William Grieder, author of Secrets of the Temple; Rebecca Adamson, president of First Peoples Worldwide; Ellen Brown, author of The Web of Debt and many more.

My central inquiry and presupposition going into the film was exploring how the economic crisis might be genuinely presenting us with an opportunity to rethink our system and culture of money.  Does the breakdown truly portend breakthrough?

Of course, this inquiry necessarily led me down the path of my own research and synthesizing so to be able to weave the story together.  My intuitive understanding that we were “sick” in our relationship with money catalyzed the inception of the film and I was stunned to more clearly decipher the systemic inconsistencies and insanities of our current economic system that demands endless growth and encourages insatiable consumption and accumulation.  And this discourse takes up the better part of the first hour of the film as I found that most people have still not connected the dots.  I’ve even had seasoned finance professionals thank me for the film for how it helped them understand the overall situation more clearly.  And I’ve had investment managers and advisors buy up bundles of the DVD to share with colleagues and clients.

In ways, the trajectory of my own four and a half year journey making the film mirrored the woman who spoke during the Sewanee screening, from a dark pessimism to profound inspiration.  The shift for me came when the “spores of human regeneration” became visible to me.  And these spores vary from the noble courageous efforts of reformers and social investors working from within the system to right the mighty ship to the growing endeavors to create viable resilient systems outside the juggernaut, such as Transition Towns, the Sharing Economy development and the complementary currency movement (to name only a few examples).  In my vision, the myriad seemingly disparate currents emerging and flourishing are all clearly connected in what feels like the Renaissance moment of our age.

One of my favorite lines is at the end of the film when evolution biologist Elisabet Sahtouris recites a line from a Rumi poem: “Why do you stay in prison, when the door is so wide open?” First we must be able to see the prison, and a film like Money & Life is one of many useful tools in creating such awareness. Then together we innovate, invest and imagine more loving, sustainable ways and means of expressing our values in our relationship with money. Together, we live more from our hearts than our checkbooks and reclaim life from the rule of money. Together, we step out of the prison.

For additional information and to order the DVD go to-

More Reviews:

“Viewing Money & Life was a life-altering experience…a wake-up call. This film deserves to be widely seen.”

– Grady McGonagill, McConagill Consulting

“In Money & Life, the groundbreaking documentary, money takes center stage as a fascinating, fully-fleshed out yet still-evolving character. We learn of money’s birth as a brilliant piece of social technology, contemplate its evolution through the centuries, discuss society’s near-worship of it today, and examine its current incarnation in an unsustainable debt-based economy. It’s a complex story, but the beautiful graphics, personal stories, and interviews from financial thought leaders provide many windows from which to view money.“

–Partners for Prosperity

Article by Katie Teague, documentary film director, producer and editor of Money & Life  . Katie is an independent documentary filmmaker working in the growing field of transformational media. In 2009 she founded StormCloud Media, LLC, for the purposes of bringing forward Money & Life. StormCloud Media is committed to telling the emerging story of humanity and bringing inspired educational media to the social change process. Katie’s post-graduate background is in depth and developmental psychology. Prior to filmmaking she had a counseling practice in Seattle, Washington.  Katie brings years of study in depth psychology, human development and the world’s wisdom traditions to her work as a social and spiritual change agent.  Katie is also one of the 2012 Sundance Grantee filmmakers contributing on 99% The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film.


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