The Bainbridge Island Film Festival kicked off its inaugural event at the Historic Lynwood Theatre with a screening of ‘This is not financial advice,” a documentary co-directed by Bainbridge High School alum Zach Ingrasci.
It was followed by an opening night celebration at the nearby Manor House.
In front of a packed house, Charles Poekel, BIFF founder and showrunner, introduced the feature film followed by a Question and Answer session.
Poekel asked Ingrasci how the film came about. Ingrasci said the film came together during the COVID pandemic when he and co-director Chris Temple “were at our computers kind of watching the financial markets go kind of bonkers in early 2021.”
They realized something interesting was happening and decided to dive in and start documenting a few people taking different approaches with their money through the investing craze. “We quickly learned that this film was about understanding the craziness of this space, and it became much more about our motivations around money, the ecology of money, how we choose what you know, our fears, our ambitions—all these things that kind of drive our relationship with money,” Ingrasci said.
The beautifully shot film takes a close look at four people: Glauber “Pro” Contessoto, Senay Kenfe, Kayla Kilbride and Rays Rayl during the rise and fall of Dogecoin cryptocurrency and the risks some would take for fear of mission out.
The main character, Pro, is the film’s most charismatic and naive investor. As an undocumented immigrant working multiple jobs, eeking out a living from his 220-square-foot apartment, Pro catches crypto fever and gambles his life savings on a joke cryptocurrency.
Within two months, he became “The Dogecoin Millionaire” and a YouTube influencer, but it didn’t last long. Pro soon discovers that life in the crypto sphere is extraordinarily volatile and riskier than he imagined. Yet, he’s not alone.
The film reveals the risks and rewards of playing in the market through expert commentary and anxiety-inducing stories of real people trying to become internet influencers and millionaires.
At the onset of filming, Ingrasci said he had yet to learn where Pro’s story would lead. He kept thinking, “There’s no way this guy’s going to end up with any money, zero chance. Of course, he makes a million dollars somehow. It’s just a total lottery crazy system.”
Making the film was sometimes difficult to watch the story unfold. Ingrasci vividly remembers one moment when he was sitting next to Pro in his tiny apartment during the Elon Musk Saturday Night Live sketch, and he wanted to scream at him, “Sell the Doge! What are we doing here?”
“It was so anxiety-inducing for me.” He recounted the day he went to Costco with Pro to buy celery for his juicing regime. After they returned, Pro discovered that he had made $150,000. “That gave me FOMO! I’m a poor documentary filmmaker, and I thought, maybe I should invest in Dogecoin!”
It was an interesting time because there was “this huge asset bubble, and our economy interest rates were so low, money is so cheap. That’s why there was this crazy frothy market.” But, behind the scenes, “it was super interesting and infuriating,” Ingrasci said.
He added: “It was a crazy journey, but they were all brave enough to open up their financials to us, which is something that’s quite personal and ultimately, very, really revealing.”
Of Pro, Ingrasci said: “He is a genuine person,” and added that the more he learned about Pro’s upbringing and his desperate situation, he could understand his actions. “It really is true that people who are most desperate are most willing to take these gambles because they don’t have a lot of other choices. There are these systemic issues and Pro was in the middle of it and yet he has this kind of natural naive optimism.”
The festival continues through Sept. 24; learn more at www.bifilmfest.org.