June 14, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Brett Ratner to produce movie about WallStreetBets founder

GameStop’s stock may be down 90% from its 52-week high last week, but Hollywood’s desire to bet on movies about recent market mania and the people behind it is reaching new highs.

RatPac Entertainment, the production company of filmmaker Brett Ratner, has acquired the rights to make a movie based on the life of Jaime Rogozinski, founder of the online WallStreetBets forum credited with stoking a rise in stocks including the struggling video game retailer GameStop and cinema chain AMC Entertainment.

Ratner, known for movies including “Rush Hour,” was in 2017 accused by multiple women of sexual harassment or misconduct in a Los Angeles Times report detailing the claims.

Ratner “categorically” denied the women’s accounts. He declined to comment for this story through a representative.

Financial terms were not disclosed for the deal, which also includes television, documentary and podcasts to be financed by RatPac, as well as the rights to Rogozinski’s book, “WallStreetBets: How Boomers Made the World’s Biggest Casino for Millennials,” published last month.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the deal.

Rogozinski, a 39-year-old fintech worker based in Mexico City, launched WallStreetBets in 2012 but was pushed out as a moderator of its Reddit forum last year.

The often vulgar band of meme-sharing day traders became famous after promoting and piling into GameStop’s stock in an effort to squeeze hedge funds that had shorted the money-losing bricks-and-mortar retailer. The stock flew to a peak of $483 a share, up more than 1,700% from the beginning of the year. GameStop on Thursday fell $38.91, or 42%, to $53.50.

Shares of AMC and Blackberry also soared last week, though they too subsequently dropped.

Interest in Rogozinski’s story reached a point where he was “bombarded” with inquiries from people wanting to do film, television and documentary deals, including amateurs as well as big names, Rogozinski said in an interview.

“If this had been the only thing taking place in my life, I would’ve been a little star-struck,” said Rogozinski, who said he has traded texts with YouTube phenom Logan Paul during the craze. “But I became very quickly immune to it.”

Ratner’s company is the latest Hollywood player looking to dramatize the Wall Street shakeup, which has been portrayed as a David-and-Goliath story in which retail traders at least momentarily got the better of institutional investors. Netflix has been in talks with “The Hurt Locker” writer-producer Mark Boal to develop a GameStop project. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios purchased the rights to a forthcoming Ben Mezrich book about the saga.

RatPac Entertainment had a first-look deal with movie studio Warner Bros., which was ended in November 2017 after The Times published the accounts of six women who made allegations against Ratner. The women accused Ratner of a range of harassment and misconduct that allegedly took place in private homes, on movie sets or at industry events, The Times reported.

Another company — RatPac-Dune Entertainment, started by Ratner, Australian billionaire James Packer and later Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — had a financing deal with Warner Bros. that the studio declined to renew in 2018.

Rogozinski said he had no qualms about working with Ratner and cited his track record as a successful filmmaker as a major reason for doing the deal. The pact was hashed out quickly, over about three days, Rogozinski said.

“I don’t know nearly enough to form an opinion,” Rogozinski said of the accusations against Ratner. “All I know is that [Ratner has] been incredibly good at what he’s done.”

As detailed in a recent Wall Street Journal profile, Rogozinski was blasted by some members of the WallStreetBets forum when he began to purge some offensive content that permeated the feeds, which has included homophobic slurs and racist language. His actions, as well as his promotion of his book, spawned a heavy backlash that led to him being removed as a moderator. He also told the Journal he’d been recently attacked online by angry investors.

“I’m not new to being painted in a certain way,” he told The Times. “I’ve had a lot of things lobbed my way. Some are true, some are false, some are misleading. I’m not as upset about it as someone who may not have been through it before would be.”

Rogozinski said he expects the movie to take a more expansive view of dynamics that led to the WallStreetBets revolt, rather than focusing on just the GameStop story. He sees parallels with finance movies including “The Big Short,” “Margin Call” and the Enron documentary “The Smartest Men in the Room,” which highlighted systemic problems with the financial system.

“It’s not a movie about me; it’s about this movement, this phenomenon,” he said. “What we’re seeing on Wall Street now is an important movement. They’re exposing the weaknesses in the system. It was clearly never built to withstand retail traders coming in en masse. … There have been little cracks before, but this one has put it front and center. People need to realize the integrity of the system needs to be updated.”