There are two kinds of Wall Street films: the techno-science thriller involving financial risk management and VaR (The Bank; Margin Call; Arbitrage); and the elite trader’s excessive lifestyle (Wall Street; Boiler Room; Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps). Martin Scorsese’s forthcoming film adaptation of Jordan Belfort’s ‘pump and dump’ memoir The Wolf of Wall Street (New York: Bantam, 2007) goes for the latter, because it appeals to a far broader audience. The trailer benefits from Kanye West’s pulsating new song ‘Black Skinhead’ (from Yeezus).
Belfort’s friends got him the film deal with Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio whilst Belfort was resurrecting his sales career on the Australian seminar circuit (PDF). In just a few years Belfort transformed his Straight Line Sales technique from free MP3 interviews into slick website and seminar circuit presentations on sales psychology. Josh Brown outlines in his book Backstage Wall Street: An Insider’s Guide to Knowing Who to Trust, Who to Run From, and How to Maximize Your Investments (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012) how pitch books like Befort’s Straight Line works. Maybe Belfort’s seminar clients in Australia need to read Brown’s book and blog. It all reminds me of telemarketing stints I had in the mid-late 1990s, whilst reading Tom Hopkins and Zig Ziglar, and watching friends get recruited into Amway’s multi-level marketing schemes. Maybe Belfort will be able to pay back his clients, after all, if his deal includes a share of Scorsese’s film residuals.
The elite trader image of ‘conspicuous consumption’ has its roots in Thorstein Veblen‘s leisure class economics, and Reagan era money managers like Henry Kravis, Peter Lynch, Victor Sperandeo, and Martin Zweig. The traders I know enjoy the Hollywood media imagery. But they also know it is a myth that artificially inflates the subjective expectations of how trading actually works and what it is really like. The ‘excessive lifestyle’ myth actually serves as an entry barrier. Most novice and retail traders will more likely ‘blow up’ their trading accounts.