What the does the price of the clothes you wear, the gas you buy, or the coffee you drink have to do with a room full of screaming, running, shoving, pushing, spitting personalities speaking in code? Everything.
In 2005, the filmmaker Johanna Lee started working on the floor of the New York Board of Trade, one of the most primitive, yet highly ritualized arenas of the financial world. This is the place where trillions of dollars of raw goods are traded daily, where men and women use everything at their disposal to make millions, resulting in a highly charged environment with its own unique personalities and rituals. This film brings cameras into the pits for the very first time.
For six months, Johanna worked on the floor and then followed the traders for four years, to get a personal glimpse of the drama and competition for survival, where streetwise Brooklyn guys become multi-millionaires and Ivy League hot shots try to make it big. She explores what it takes to succeed in a business where the rate of attrition is 90% and only the strong survive. She explores what it is that drives those last 10% to keep coming in, even when they have more money than they could ever spend. And we get to see what happens to those who risk everything that have, only to lose it all. Some say it’s gambling, others do it just for the rush. Either way, the energy is palpable. The pit is a zero sum game, meaning that if one person makes money that day, someone else has to lose.
“The Pit” introduces you to the rules of that game. What are futures and options? What is the arcane language of hand signals, and how does a trade go from beginning to end on the floor? We are also there as the pit starts to change and this historic marketplace starts to disappear into the high-tech world of electronic trading. Everything changes as traders have to adapt to the new technology. Incredibly, the filmmakers are actually there during the last day official day of “open outcry” trading. “The Pit” takes you on a unique thrill ride, through one of the most exciting, secretive, turbulent parts of the financial industry and the people who make it happen.