“FOLLOW THE MONEY”
– A Month In The Life Of A Ten Dollar Bill
Quite a few years ago, I met a certain individual, a fellow filmmaker in fact, and funnily enough at a film related event.
Subsequently, it was revealed that this person was making a film – a documentary with the simple premise of ‘following a monetary note in its journey across America’.
I say “simple”, because as a “premise” it is. It’s an easy story or explanation, or perhaps a variation on a tagline but to FOLLOW this promise and premise through would, logistically, surely prove a tough one to bring to life, let alone the screen.
Well, that man and his 2 filming partners succeeded!
In fact, if you’re a user of Amazon PRIME it’s likely that you’ve already seen this AWARD-WINNING film pop up on your suggested viewing lists or elsewhere.
The movie is here… and better than anyone surely could expect. In fact, it’s “right on the MONEY”!
I decided to review the film here, spoiler-free of course, as I feel it’s a documentary that all should see, if they can.
DISCLAIMER: Ironically perhaps, considering that the film heavily revolves around money, I or MMM are not getting PAID to write this. We love film and we write [and sometimes podcast] about them.
The film begins in the UK, but it’s not there for long, so don’t worry. A transaction regarding British money and [of course] American money takes place and soon, or immediately, follows a certain action which determines exactly the Ten Dollar bill that will be used or ‘tracked’ when the filmmaking team start their endeavour in the USA.
With that note in hand and a load of luggage, plus filmmaking equipment ‘in hand’ [literally, when it comes to cameras!] this team are seen setting off on this BIG adventure.
It’s at this point we are introduced to the 3 intrepid filmmakers. They are John Hardwick, Steve Boggan and Ben Unwin.
We are also told that this is a “film about the United States” [What? You thought it is one about a ten dollar note?!] and, perhaps more importantly, the note will “introduce us to interesting characters”.
Yes, although this particular sheet of paper money is really one of the film’s characters, one thing for certain is that the movie really shows us a slice of life in America, and that everyone has a story. Some of those stories and indeed characters are definitely ones in millions.
The subheading of this review, “Finding the Many” refers to these varied, unique and endearing people we meet on the route, on the road and on the way! That’s in case you wondered.
So, with their plan of following this money for 30 days and 30 nights already as ONE of their THREE RULES, they head towards the very ‘centre’ [or “center”?] of America, as this in line with another ONE of those rules. And I guess you’re therefore wondering what the last ONE of their rules was? Well, to “give the bill to a complete stranger”.
Therefore, by making these promises to themselves, you could say it means that they are seen to not only ‘follow the money’ but also the rules!
One thing that made silly old me smile was that the place being the very dead centre of America, as defined in this documentary anyway (you’ll have to see it to know what I mean!) is South Dakota, and I happen to know that at least one of these three guys has made a Music Video for the band Stereophonics, and they have a pretty well known song called “Dakota”. It’s funny – or worrying – how your mind works!
Now, I’m not going to run minute by minute through the events in this film but I will pick out some highlights and give you a feel for the movie.
Firstly, and perhaps the film’s charm, is the brilliant array of unique individuals these 3 filmmakers meet. Each one of them has a story, a sense of humour, a colourful or interesting past – either one of these, or all.
Next is the film’s great usual of visuals and titles. This may sound a little technical or specific [well, I do editing and videography myself, so…] but it’s pretty good, and perhaps first introduced to us around the 15 minute mark with a great use of graffiti mixed with such titles and words for these brave guys and their story.
It’s also around this time we meet a very unique and almost [or ‘really’] spiritual woman, which shines through in her personality and who is apparently an ex-Nato employee!
We continue to be lead to other people. One such person or situation leads us to witness bull-riding at a PUB (?! – far from ethical but this is America and as such a huge place!); journey after journey in different modes of transport; a transient who appears to live in his car; more than one birthday along the way [one of the filmmakers and a woman, to name but two].
There is also talk of multiracial relationships, which you may not think is a biggie or any controversial subject matter but again we are talking about America. I’m not referring to any labelling of the country being racist but with so many states and so much distance between places there are bound to be huge ranges of opinions, differences and attitudes.
The talk of teeth, bad vibes and a fake smile is another person’s story, a guitar-playing father who plays to spread wisdom [no tooth pun intended!] following a family member having ‘come out’ to him is yet another amazing story and meeting a poor man who is “having a rough day, to say the least” proves this film has it all, and almost every possible personality known to man, woman, or otherwise… Well, not quite, but the characters here really are so varied.
F-F-F-Furthermore, we meet a mushroom Foraging Foreigner [French] Female but actually Fully transgender and Feeling Fulfilled because she lives in a country where Freedom is Felt.
Add to this the mention of gay wedding planners at another point in the film by a seemingly great thinker, the sight of dead deer on a truck [yep] and simply an English girl who is enjoying her time at a university in North Texas, and you know that you are witnessing both the extraordinary and the ordinary.
Talking of being English, the trailer for this film – which can be found below – states “THREE ENGLISHMAN” rather than three “British Men” and I wondered why…
I thought that maybe:
- Our three filmmaking ‘heroes’ are all indeed from England only, and not any from Wales, Scotland or Ireland (UK).
- It’s easier to use the word “Englishmen” or perhaps Englishman.
- If, whilst on their travels there is comparison or talk of the Dollar vs the currency ‘in England’, the Pound, well, it’s solely the Pound and no need to confuse the matter with mention of Scottish notes etc.
- Englishmen / Englishman can be related easily to the word for the American language – simply put, “ENGLISH”.
- Similar to the these above, and to make it easier when meeting Americans – perhaps the term “English” rather than “British” is more commonly understood.
- [And I’m throwing this one in!] Maybe… Just maybe… These filmmakers foresaw complications coming from the recent Brexit and EU situation.
- LASTLY, perhaps because “Englishman” is more of a common, or indeed ‘real’ word, compared to “Britishmen” or “British Men”. It’s also closer to the one word of “Gentleman”, but I don’t know all three of these guys to be able to justify that.
Anyway, I’m clearly thinking / typing out loudly here but if I do find out from the filmic chap/s I’ll let you know – and indeed perhaps it’s all of the above. Note to self: Don’t overthink.
***BACK TO THE REMAINDER OF THIS RATHER RAMBLING REVIEW***
Another thing I’d be interested to know was how, in the editing process they decided to use which overlays, filters, and when etc. Obviously [if you’ve seen this film, I mean], there are several cameras, devices/phones as their means of recording what unfolds but I wonder if these filters help to bring a great look to imagery that needed something more, or simply to add an almost extra set of camera styles to the already used ‘pure’ ones.
I’ll bring this review to a close shortly, but as much as this 10 dollar bill comes into contact with many a unique human being, and travels across so much of a land where we may not often get much of a glimpse of the real lives of average Americans (and more), the viewer will also feel like he or she has travelled… with it.
The people the monetary note meets, exchanges hands with and the human lives we experience really makes this a MOVING film – MOVING in more than one way too!
***HOW DOES IT END?***
It’s perhaps ironic that with all the Americans we meet in this film and, of course foreigners etc etc, the last place the note passes through could be described as ‘none of the above’.
You see, what comes of that final ‘transaction’ really puts another spin on the words in this article’s sub-heading – We really do “FIND [the] MANY”. But, MANY of whom, MANY of what?
Well… This film is not about the money, but the MANY, but those many ultimately lead us to a certain climax. It’s upon the last ‘transaction’ which we witness, towards the end of the film [obviously], which results in the finding of many more ‘objects of many a human’s desire’. I can’t elaborate further in this mostly spoiler-free review, however I’ll end this on, “Just my 2 Cents worth!”.
***ALL IN ALL***
As well as all the above, I hope this film can also reach a large audience and indeed ‘find the many’ viewers it deserves.
In summary, this documentary really is an honest look at this planet of incredible human beings. Not only is it already showing on online platforms, following its cinema / festival screenings – at least Amazon PRIME anyhow – it’s also sure to prove popular. In fact, I’d put my money on it!
Speaking of Amazon PRIME, we’ve been kind enough to leave a direct link to the film:
If anyone has landed upon their Kickstarter page it has, amongst other interesting snippets of information the following:
“The origins of the film
In 2010, long before Follow The Money was even a twinkle in our documentary makers’ eyes, Steve Boggan was in the U.S. working on a book that would inspire the film. He came up with the idea of following a ten dollar bill as it crossed the country. He wrote down his experiences and produced a wonderful book about his travels called, you guessed it, Follow The Money. Here it is:
The book came out in 2012. It was tremendously well reviewed and was a BBC Radio 4 Book Of The Week.
John told Steve that the concept behind his book would make a great documentary. Ben was enlisted into the team and the three of us pooled our resources. We borrowed some cameras and set off to find out how the concept would work with added film crew… We found that it worked better than any of us had imagined!
Finally, here are two links – one to the film’s OFFICIAL website & one to the aforementioned Kickstarter page:
Well, almost all. Another place you can find film reviews [in vlog and podcast form], other movie related snippets, and indeed examples of Jason Verney’s filmic work is at:
Please subscribe if you can.
* Filks. A combination of Film and Folks.