Eric Gilliom scores Kula filmmaker’s documentary on climate change cost

‘Hot Money’ to be screened today during virtual event

Susan Kucera’s documentary “Hot Money” is built around a discussion between former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark (left) and his son, Army veteran and environmental activist Wesley Clark Jr., over the impacts of climate change on the global financial system. SUSAN KUCERA photos

As the COVID-19 pandemic began impeding Maui musicians’ ability to perform live for audiences, Eric Gilliom was offered an alternative creative opportunity — scoring award-winning documentary filmmaker Susan Kucera’s latest film, “Hot Money.”

It was both a dream gig and one of the most challenging projects of Gilliom’s career.

While he has composed many songs and acted in movies like the Barefoot Natives’ “Get a Job,” with Willie K, he had never created an entire soundtrack before.

“I was excited,” Gilliom recalled of Kucera’s offer. “The timing was amazing. It was literally when everything was ‘do not leave your house.’ Susan gave me a lot of space. She would say, ‘I want a Latin feel here or hip-hop feel on this thing.’ “

Gilliom ended up composing 52 music tracks across a spectrum of genres.

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark (left) talks with actor and producer Jeff Bridges in Susan Kucera’s documentary “Hot Money.” Bridges was also the executive producer.

“It’s almost a two-hour documentary, and there’s music through the entire film,” he explained. “Some tracks were amazingly difficult, very complex flamenco guitar parts and classical pieces like Mozart.”

Spending about four months on the project, he had some help from Kauai-based producer Michael Ruff, who has worked with artists such as India Arie, Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Nicks.

“It was just Michael and I, and about three quarters of the soundtrack I did by myself,” said Gilliom.

The “Hot Money” director is full of praise for Gilliom’s contribution to her film, which will be screened today at the virtual “Clean Energy for America Inaugural Ball” for President Joe Biden.

“The music he came up with is truly amazing,” Kucera enthused. “It was such a nice collaborative experience. He worked really hard.”

ERIC GILLIOM – Scored documentary

Built around a discussion between former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark and his son, Army veteran and environmental activist Wesley Clark Jr., “Hot Money” explores how climate change is impacting the global financial system.

“Things are going to break down,” Wesley Clark Jr. says in the film. “Do you think my kids are going to go, ‘I always wanted my kids to grow up in “Mad Max” and eating lizards off the road?’ “

“It only takes small disruptions and you would see catastrophe,” adds General Clark. “We’re heading over a cliff.”

A part-time Kula resident who attended school on Oahu, Kucera was initially inspired to create her new film after talking with General Clark.

“We were both asked to speak at a conference in Las Vegas,” she explained. “I sat with him at dinner and he said, ‘Susan, you really need to do a film on the financial side of everything.’ “

GEN. WESLEY CLARK – Inspired film’s creation

She describes her new film as “a nuts-and-bolts view of how the machinery of our money system contributes and reacts to climate change.

“Many people lack context interpreting the world and this documentary delivers it,” Kucera said. “Climate change is something that’s coming in the future; our financial implosion could come much sooner. The last 30 minutes of the film talks about the strategies and basic steps we can all take to avoid calamity.”

In examining complex economic systems, the film reveals how it now takes three times as much debt to make the same amount of gross domestic product as it did in 1970, how home mortgages end up becoming part of risky hedge funds and derivatives providing high rates of short-term return, and the global shadow banking system “that has hardly any rules,” economist Servaas Storm explains in the film. “It’s almost the Wild West of the financial sector.”

Looking at the big picture, General Clark notes, “The system is so complicated that accountability is lost.”

“We started to look at the financial system to see how it works and how it’s not working, as it’s leaving us very vulnerable,” said Kucera. “It’s almost like getting a Ph.D. in economics watching it, but it’s entertaining. It’s really eye-opening, and you can see the threads of how we need to change our system at every level.”

In 2018, Kucera released the remarkable documentary, “Living in the Future’s Past,” which won the United Nations gold medal for Outstanding Achievement in International Communications.

Narrated and produced by Jeff Bridges, “Living in the Future’s Past,” traced human evolutionary history with psychological and sociological insights, while providing a unique perspective on the concept of energy. Mapping the interconnectedness of all things, and exploring how collectively and individually people could more consciously face the future, it featured stunning nature cinematography.

“It has evolutionary biology and how our brains function, and how we’re collective entities,” Kucera noted. “I learned a lot and I was glad I got to use a lot of my imagery because I film and document all the time.”

“Living in the Future’s Past” compiled so much important information it almost requires repeated viewing.

“It’s been so popular with universities and schools,” she said. “We did a free 50-page study guide for schools.”

Kucera began filmmaking at the age of 9 while helping her dad, a glaciologist and professor, make science films for Britannica. She has been exploring the planet’s future since her critically acclaimed 2014 film “Breath of Life,” which was partially shot in Hawaii, featuring canoe paddler and environmentalist Wayne “Vene” Chun. Premiered at the Maui Film Festival, it won the audience award.

In February, she will begin shooting a new documentary in the islands with a Hawaii theme.

“Jeff (Bridges) suggested I make a trailer so we can get more financing,” she said. “Eric (Gilliom) will help as well. It’s 100 percent Hawaii orientated.”

“Hot Money” will be available on streaming and cable platforms worldwide Thursday, including: iTunes, Amazon, Hoopla, FandangoNow, GooglePlay, Vudu, Vimeo and across hundreds of cable providers, including Comcast, Spectrum, Charter, Cox, Dish, DirecTV and more. DVD retailers will include Amazon and all other major online retailers.


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