Heather Schlegel is a true-blue futurist—the kind of early adopter who books vacation spots via AirBnB and hitches rides around town with peer-to-peer car service Lyft.
So when she set out to make a television series about how technology is transforming the financial services industry, she says, "I decided to eat my own dog food."
Using the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter to fund her six-part series "The Future of Money," Schlegel is gunning to raise $35,000 by Nov. 1. If she succeeds, she will use the money to film interviews with economists, journalists, bankers and other financial experts in five far-flung cities: San Francisco, New York, Hong Kong, London and Los Angeles.
These interviews will form the backbone of a project with a uniquely optimistic vision of financial times to come. Schlegel believes that peer-to-peer lending, mobile transactions and alternative currencies from Bitcoin to frequent flier miles are disrupting the financial industry for the better.
Her previous short documentaries "Fly Me to the Moon" and "Flowers for Grandma," each produced in partnership with Innotribe, an offshoot of the Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, imagine possibilities like tipping waiters with rides in a spacecraft instead of loose change.
"The Future of Money" will outline high-tech visions of the future in six major areas: payment transactions, banking, bartering, credit lending, money making and the international monetary system. Weaving together interviews and live-action scenarios that imagine alternative financial futures, Schlegel hopes to show audiences that "these are futures they'd want to live in."
"The technologies that will succeed will be the ones that address solutions to big problems," Schlegel says.
Schlegel cites crowd-funding as a prime example of positive change. Not only does it offer entrepreneurs access to capital they might not otherwise have, Schlegel says, it may also wind up helping banks vet offbeat applicants for more traditional loans. "If banks can see that that 3,000 people have already put in a vote of confidence" for a business venture, she says, "that may be a way of showing creditworthiness."
Of course, betting on crowd-funding can also carry real risk. If Schlegel fails to hit her goal, the series won't get made. At press time, the project had pledges of $13,793—almost 40% of the total amount she needs, with 28 days to go. "I have my fingers crossed it'll get backing, but I really have no safety net," Schlegel says. "My safety net is the Internet."