The downfall of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried has caught the interest of Hollywood, with several high-profile projects already in development.
The collapse of crypto exchange FTX has crossed over into the mainstream like no event in the history of cryptocurrency, with acres of newsprint devoted to the downfall of the firm, its founder Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), and his cohorts including Caroline Ellison and Gary Wang.
Inevitably, Hollywood has been drawn to the story.
It’s a classic tale of hubris running headlong into nemesis, shot through with salacious details (the “polycule,” anyone?) and has dragged celebrities from Larry David to Gisele Bündchen into its orbit. With Bankman-Fried now facing criminal charges that could put him in jail for over 130 years, any film is guaranteed a dramatic final act in the courtroom, too.
The entertainment industry has seen success in recent years with films and series focusing on failed entrepreneurs (Hulu’s “The Dropout” and Apple TV’s “WeCrashed”) and finance bros (“The Wolf of Wall Street” and “The Big Short”). With FTX, they have a story that sits at the intersection of the Venn diagram. It’s hardly surprising, then, that production companies are racing to be first out of the gate with films, TV series, and documentaries focusing on SBF’s downfall.
Of course, not all these projects will make it onto the screen, with many of these sure to flounder in development hell—but it’s safe to say that if you want to watch a film, series or documentary about FTX in the next year or so, you’ll have a bevy of choices.
Untitled Michael Lewis Adaptation
Probably the highest-profile of all the FTX projects in development is the adaptation of Michael Lewis’ upcoming book on Sam Bankman-Fried. The author of “The Big Short,” “Moneyball,” and “Flash Boys” spent six months “traveling with and interviewing Sam Bankman-Fried,” according to a letter circulated by his agency CAA. The collaboration appears to be continuing even after Bankman-Fried’s arrest, with Lewis reportedly visiting the disgraced FTX mogul for “several hours” in January 2023.
While Lewis’ book was initially set to focus on Bankman-Fried’s rapid rise and embrace of the “effective altruism” philosophy, the collapse of FTX provided a “dramatic surprise ending to the story,” according to CAA agent Matthew Snyder.
Snyder also flagged up the rivalry between Bankman-Fried and Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao as a possible narrative thread in the book, with Lewis likening them to “the Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader of crypto.”
According to a report in entertainment industry trade paper The Hollywood Reporter, Lewis has been pitching the film and TV rights to his book, with Apple “nearing a deal” in the mid-seven-figure range. Per trade paper Deadline, other interested parties include Amazon Studios, “Harry Potter” producer David Heyman, and management company Sugar23, which is reportedly acting on behalf of actor Josh Gad (who previously played Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in the film “Jobs”).
Deadline reports that “The Big Short” director Adam McKay “might become involved” with the project, while Netflix is also reported to be “circling” the title on behalf of “The Social Network” director David Fincher, who signed an exclusive four-year deal with the streaming service in 2020.
Untitled Amazon Prime FTX Drama
Amazon Studios has raced its own FTX project into production, ordering a miniseries from Joe and Anthony Russo, the directors behind Marvel’s last two “Avengers” films.
Per film trade paper Variety, the Russo brothers will produce the eight-episode series through their production company ABGO, and are in discussions to direct and executive produce.
Based on “insider reporting” from multiple journalists who’ve covered the collapse of FTX, the series will be written by David Weil, whose previous credits include Amazon’s “Hunters” and “Solos,” as well as Apple TV’s “Invasion.”
According to Variety, “multiple Marvel actors” have been in discussions about taking roles in the show, though casting details have yet to be revealed. In a statement, the Russo brothers described Sam Bankman-Fried as “an extremely mysterious figure with complex and potentially dangerous motivations,” who conducted “one of the most brazen frauds ever committed.”
Untitled Graham Moore Project
Graham Moore, the Oscar-winning writer of “The Imitation Game,” is set to write and direct an adaptation of New York Magazine’s cover story on the downfall of FTX, per Deadline. Scoop Wasserstein is set to produce on behalf of the publication and its owner, Vox Media Studios.
Moore has yet to decide whether the project will take the form of a feature film or a TV series. The writer-director told Deadline that, “I’ve spent a lot of time writing about the complex and singular characters at the center of huge technological moments,” adding that, “In SBF, ‘complex’ and ‘singular’ sound like understatements. Whether or not he intended on changing the world—it looks like he just did.”
It’s not the only crypto-related project to come out of New York Magazine’s reporting; “Emily in Paris” star Lily Collins is attached to “Razzlekhan: The Infamous Crocodile of Wall Street,” based on the magazine’s coverage of aspiring rapper and accused Bitcoin money launderer Heather Morgan. (The 2015 movie “Hustlers,” about a group of strippers who drugged customers and stole their money, was based on a New York Magazine story.)
Untitled Panoramic Project
A fourth FTX project is in the works from Scott Burns and Jonathan Glickman’s Panoramic Media. Per Deadline, Panoramic is “looking at a potential project” with New York Times writer Andrew Ross Sorkin, who in December 2022 interviewed Bankman-Fried in the aftermath of FTX’s collapse.
During the lengthy interview, Bankman-Fried claimed that, “I made a lot of mistakes,” and that he “did not ever try to commit fraud on anyone.”
The former president of MGM Motion Picture Group, Glickman’s credits include the “Creed” series, Netflix’s “Wednesday,” and the James Bond films “Skyfall,” “Spectre,” and “No Time to Die.”
Untitled New York Magazine Documentary
Alongside the previously-mentioned scripted adaptation, New York Magazine and Vox Media are also collaborating on a documentary based on Bankman-Fried’s collapsed crypto empire. Per Deadline, the project will draw on sources and reporters in both the U.S. and the Bahamas.
SBF and the End of Silicon Valley
Produced by Vice Media and tech business publication The Information, “SBF and the End of Silicon Valley” will land in Q2 2023. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the documentary will draw on reporting from Vice’s Motherboard team and The Information’s crypto and VC teams, and will dissect FTX’s inexperienced leadership, the role of VCs, and Bankman-Fried’s involvement with the “effective altruism” movement.
“At the same time that the first generation of Silicon Valley giants were facing turbulent markets, new business challenges, and mass layoffs, money kept pouring into FTX as they tried to upend the world financial system with risk-seeking schemes that no one dared question,” said The Information founder Jessica Lessin in a statement. “This story marks the end of an era in Silicon Valley. A new Dark Age is coming.”
Untitled XTR Documentary
Nonfiction studio XTR raced into production on its as-yet-untitled FTX documentary, with filming conducted in the Bahamas—where the crypto exchange was headquartered—in November 2022.
Oscar-nominated director David Darg, whose previous credits include “Body Team 12” and “You Cannot Kill David Arquette,” is helming the project, which claims to have secured “unprecedented access to key players at FTX and the cryptocurrency community,” according to a report in Variety.
Describing it as “the most sensational financial story since WallStreetBets disrupted the stock market during the pandemic,” executive producer Justin Lacob said that the FTX saga “exposes major flaws within the cryptocurrency universe.”
Untitled Fortune/Unrealistic Ideas Documentary
In February 2023, Mark Wahlberg’s production company Unrealistic Ideas, the outfit behind HBO’s “McMillions,” entered the fray with its own documentary project.
Produced in conjunction with Fortune magazine, the film is explicitly positioned as being focused on the relationship between SBF and Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, with executive producer Archie Gips describing it as a “Shakespearean-like drama.”
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According to The Hollywood Reporter, the project is a “personal examination of the relationship” between CZ and SBF, contrasting the latter’s “austere approach” to building Binance with Bankman-Fried’s search for “celebrity endorsements and political influence.”
The film has secured the participation of CZ as well as executives at Binance and FTX, with Gips lauding the documentary’s “phenomenal exclusive access.”
Wahlberg and Gips will executive produce the documentary with fellow Unrealistic Ideas founder Stephen Levinson, alongside John Weston and Fortune‘s Alyson Shontell and Jeff John Roberts.
Untitled Decrypt Studios Documentary
Last, but by no means least, Web3 streaming platform Myco and Decrypt Studios, the production arm of Decrypt, are producing a feature-length documentary on the rise and fall of FTX and its founder. Production will begin in January, with a projected summer 2023 release.
The co-production will draw on inside access and exclusive footage from Decrypt, including interviews with Sam Bankman-Fried and Changpeng Zhao, whose tweet sparked the “bank run” that ultimately doomed FTX and its sister company Alameda Research.
“There is no substitute for firsthand reporting and exclusive access to the individuals who are actually engaged in the events behind the headlines,” said Decrypt Studios founder Alanna Roazzi-Laforet in a statement. “While others are out there speculating about what happened, we can give the audience access to the people who were actually there.”
“We have seen crypto market cycles and meltdowns come and go, but the implosion of FTX has captured mainstream attention like nothing ever before in crypto,” said Decrypt Editor-in-Chief Dan Roberts. “Most of all, people want to understand how this happened. Decrypt will tell this story in a riveting and lucid way for the mass audience.”