Freakonomics: The Movie (available on Netflix and Hulu) is Chad Troutwine’s documentary film adaptation of the phenomenally bestselling book about incentives-based thinking by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. The film examines human behavior through consistently provocative and often hilarious case studies. Working with Dan O’Meara and Chris Romano, Troutwine assembled a dream team of filmmakers responsible for some of the most acclaimed and entertaining documentaries in recent years.
The Making of Freakonomics: The Movie
After Chad Troutwine read Freakonomics and its exploration of neoclassical microeconomic principles in rational utility maximization, he thought, “This should be a movie!” As an entrepreneur and filmmaker, he actually was able to pursue his crackpot fantasy with the zeal of a young Howard Hughes.
Hounding the authors’ talent agency for nearly a year, Troutwine eventually saw his perseverance win the day. He optioned the cinematic rights to Freakonomics and began assembling a team of directors to each tackle a different Freaky topic. He met Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) at the Sundance Film Festival and quickly enlisted him. Next, Troutwine recruited Academy Award-winner Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) who suggested adding the directorial team Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp). Spurlock recommended Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winner Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight), and Troutwine invited Seth Gordon (The King of Kong) to share in the producing duties and to direct the film’s introduction and the connective interviews between the four primary segments. Freakonomics: The Movie was the Closing Night Gala film at the Tribeca Film Festival, premiering before a capacity crowd of more than 1,000 Festival attendees … and Robert DeNiro.
Staying true to the irreverent spirit of co-authors Levitt and Dubner, Troutwine pursued a risky and unprecedented theatrical distribution strategy. He and Magnolia Pictures releasedFreakonomics: The Movie in the Apple iTunes Store and on pay-per-view before exhibiting it in theaters. An instant success, the film jumped to the top of the Documentary film category in iTunes and spent months in the Top 30 ranking of all films (just above a little film called Avatar). Further challenging conventional wisdom, Freakonomics: The Movie premiered in 10 large U.S. cities with a catch: moviegoers could pay whatever amount they wanted for tickets. The “Pay What You Want” screenings and unorthodox release strategy have prompted several commentators to wonder if Freakonomics: The Movie has ushered in a new era for independent film distribution. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences recently added Freakonomics: The Movie to its permanent collection at the Margaret Herrick Library. It is currently available for rent or purchase digitally and on Blu-ray and DVD.
“(T)his frisky adaptation of the Steven Levitt-Stephen Dubner bestseller on human behavior by the numbers adds up to a revelatory trip into complex, innovative ideas and altered perspectives on how people think. There’s little in Freakonomics that isn’t provocative, compelling or slightly perverse.”
“(N)ot only endlessly fascinating, but also immensely entertaining. (I)t would be impossible for any casual movie-goer to be bored by this film. Freakonomics is interesting, engaging, occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, and, simply, a fantastic documentary.”
“Seldom do documentaries set out in honest pursuit of hidden truths, but Freakonomics, a film based on the delightful best seller, is an invigorating and surprising journey.”
– NEW YORK POST
“. . .well worth dipping into.”
– TIME MAGAZINE
“. . .excel(s) at decoding real-world complexity.”
– CHICAGO SUN-TIMES
“There aren’t any weak links in the lineup, which makes it a varied and involving piece.”
– HUFFINGTON POST