Richard Whittaker’s day job is to edit films about reindeer in

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Richard Whittaker’s day job is editing films about Arctic reindeer and killer sharks in the Pacific – but when a massive cryptocurrency exchange collapses in 2022, blaming its eccentric, curly-haired founder, he knew he wanted to make a documentary about it.

Sixteen months later, Whittaker’s local investigation into the collapse, FTX: When money breaks, is streaming free on Prime Video in the UK and available for rent or purchase in the US and Australia. Not bad for a small production made with the help of his mother and on a budget of around $2,500.

Whittaker — who has never worked with cryptocurrencies — isn’t the first person you’d think would make this kind of documentary. During the day, Whittaker works as a full-time editorial assistant for the BBC’s documentary department, where he edits wildlife footage on Adobe Premiere for productions such as the Cate Blanchett-narrated film Our living world.

He laughs when we ask how a nature documentary photographer ends up making a movie about magic Internet coins. Like many people, he became interested in the topic because of the charismatic but eccentric character of Sam Bankman Fried, who became a mainstream public figure in 2022.

“It was about six months before (the crash) when (Sam Bankman Fried) started showing up a little more on my feed,” he said.

“One of the clips I use a lot (in the documentary) is ‘Sam is the most generous billionaire.’” Which I thought was cool.

Bankman-Fried, the world’s most famous proponent of effective altruism, has given plenty of interviews in which he talks about his grand plan to raise billions just so he can donate it all to charitable endeavors. The magazine asked him again in February 2021 if he was trying to steal from the rich to give to the poor.

“Maybe without the thief part,” he said, a quote laced with sarcasm and with the benefit of hindsight.

Bankman Fried was unusual in other ways as well. While most crypto influencers show off their Lamborghinis, huge houses and luxury watches, SBF’s public image was all about sleeping on bean bags in the office, playing video games during live TV interviews in a t-shirt and shorts and cruising around in a Toyota Corolla.

“It was an interesting contrast to what I saw,” Whittaker said.

So when it all came crashing down in November 2022, Whittaker had to figure out how it all happened.

Richard Whittaker'S Day Job Is To Edit Films About Reindeer InRichard Whittaker'S Day Job Is To Edit Films About Reindeer In

Richard Whittaker'S Day Job Is To Edit Films About Reindeer InRichard Whittaker'S Day Job Is To Edit Films About Reindeer In

So he asked his mother

“It’s funny, but the first thing I did was tell my mom,” Whittaker says. Susan Whittaker played a major role in the making of the film. An academic, she is also a former auditor at a mid-tier accountancy firm based in the UK. Throughout the documentary, Susan provides professional commentary on FTX’s questionable business and accounting practices.

In the wake of the crash, Whittaker and his mother began putting up paintings and sifting through court and company documents to try to figure out how it happened and where the money went — like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, issuing cryptocurrencies.

“Yes, I’m very lucky in that regard, I think, because my mother and I have very similar interests. Interacting with it and getting a good report makes things like this a lot of fun.

“One of the things I really wanted to do with… When money breaks He added that series make things more digestible.

On this front, Whittaker does a pretty good job – although it’s clear that the film was trying to speak to a broader audience than just crypto natives.

The main obstacle to the film was the budget, which he says was “about 2,000 pounds, including legal affairs, licensing and everything else.” So the budget was very tight by the end of it.

This meant that camera rentals were limited, and even stock footage was out of reach in some cases. Eagle-eyed viewers may notice a short shot in which an apparently homeless man is shown holding a sign that says: “I lost all my money at FTX.” This is actually Whittaker himself.

“It was really funny because there was stock footage available on a website, and it was a guy holding a sign. “I was thinking of buying it and replacing the exit sign (…) but they wanted 300 pounds.”

“I remember turning to my incredibly understanding friend and saying, ‘Can you film me on some steps in a hoodie?’” (…) It was cooked (hot) that day.”

One big hint that Citizen Journalism is not a complete document is the lack of expert commentary. Aside from Whittaker’s mother, the only people interviewed on camera seem to be members of the Bistrol crowd who don’t provide any information about FTX. It seems that many do not own cryptocurrency at all.

“Hopefully, if I do another film, I can get more academics on camera talking a little more, just to get more diversity in the people being interviewed,” Richard said.

“It was definitely a learning curve in making the documentary. Of course, in the next phase, we’ll basically do a full belt and calendar and maybe get a dedicated fact-checker.

Movie Review: FTX When money breaks

FTX: When money breaks It begins with the premise that everything in our daily lives depends on money, with the narrator asking: “What happens when the entire money system collapses?”

The documentary sets the scene for cryptocurrency trading to become an attractive ‘side hustle’ for many at a time of rising inflation, with FTX’s easy-to-use platform and 8% interest rates taking advantage.

The 54-minute film attempts to explain the events that directly led up to the collapse of FTX and the crazy discoveries that emerged in its wake. Sam Bankman-Fried’s personal life gets plenty of screen time, as the documentary also touches on the spat between SBF and Binance co-founder Changpeng “CZ” Zhao that led to Binance dumping all of its FTT tokens and precipitating the collapse.

It also exposes FTX’s clunky management structure, its complex network of interconnected companies (including Alameda) and the stock exchange’s poor accounting practices, which relied heavily on Quickbooks, among other things.

Unfortunately, the film’s release was delayed, and events took it a little further. As Whittaker previously pointed out, there are also some facts that could have been more thoroughly verified.

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For example, the documentary notes that cryptocurrency exchange Binance is based in China, although the company has no official headquarters. The film also states that there have only been 120 cases of cryptocurrency fraud, but of course the number is much higher than that.

Whittaker admits that the film’s small budget only allowed for about three to four days of professional camera equipment rental. As a result, it relies heavily on stock footage – people in business suits shaking hands with each other, etc. – and some of the footage appears to have been recorded with a smartphone camera, which can be a bit jarring.

But it helps that some low-budget shots give the documentary a “citizen journalism” charm and are some of the most entertaining parts of the film.

I particularly liked some of the crazier scenes featuring Whittaker himself, like when he tries to use Fiver to hire someone to create a token for him, and it’s somewhat fitting that the rug gets pulled out.

Aside from some incorrect facts, Whittaker’s documentary is a commendable attempt to explain a very complex saga in a short period of time.

There’s a healthy charm to all of this, and it’s clearly been made with a lot of love – which means we can forgive Whittaker for occasionally getting some facts wrong.

Felix NgFelix Ng

Felix Ng

Felix Enge first started writing about the blockchain industry through the lens of a gambling journalist and editor in 2015. He has since moved on to covering the blockchain space full-time. He is most interested in innovative blockchain technology that aims to solve real-world challenges.

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