James Schamus

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director's Note

“I have a conflicted relationship both with the topic of ‘the economy’ and with the premise of the series as a whole. Indeed, the concept of the ‘economy,’ even its constitution as an object of scientific study, as a thing, is relatively recent, and to me smells of an ideological maneuver wherein we replace what are essentially political relations with a mystifying body of social science ‘knowledge’ to be managed and manipulated by financial/political elites.

The premise of WE THE ECONOMY is to make otherwise complex, obscure, or academic ideas approachable and understandable by laymen, thus empowering us to participate more knowledgeably in public debates about policy etc. That’s a laudable premise I’m proud to be associated with. But the danger of it is that it already assumes that what is being made digestible - ‘economics’ — is somehow an ‘objective’ object of knowledge, rather than being itself already, in the very way it packages its concepts and ideas, a field of political decision and social action — one which helps naturalize the grotesque domination of people and natural resources of our current system.

My few minutes’ contribution to the endeavor, in the classic form of an ‘educational video,’ goes for a couple of takeaways: primarily, that no one who watches my films will ever again be able to think of money and banks as ‘natural’ objects, but rather will see them as sites of profound and enduring social and political struggles - struggles that everyone has a right to participate in.”

Short Biography

JAMES SCHAMUS is an award-winning screenwriter (“The Ice Storm”) and producer (“Brokeback Mountain”), and former CEO of Focus Features, the motion picture production, financing, and worldwide distribution company whose films have included “Milk,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “The Pianist,” “Coraline,” and “Dallas Buyers Club.” He is professor of Professional Practice in Columbia University’s School of the Arts, where he teaches film history and theory. He is also the author of "Carl Theodor Dreyer's Gertrud: The Moving Word," published by the University of Washington Press, and is currently completing another book, "My Wife is a Terrorist: Lessons in Storytelling from the Department of Homeland Security," for Harvard University Press. He earned his BA, MA, and Ph.D. in English from U.C. Berkeley. His current projects include (as Executive Producer) “Suffragettes,” starring Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep, and (as Producer) “Alone in Berlin,” starring Emma Thompson.

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