"Apes Together Strong" is a popular saying in Reddit's WallStreetBets forum, a subreddit with nearly 11 million users. It's where every day people discuss aping into stock and option trading, and its collective community was the force behind the revitalization of the GameStop GME stocks despite the hedge fund squeeze.
In case you've been living in a cave, on January 22, 202 users of r/wallstreetbets initiated a short squeeze on GameStop after a comment from Citron Research predicting the value of the stock would decrease. The stock price flew more than 600% by January 26. The response by trading platform Robinhood was to restrict trading GME on January 28.
The Mulligan Brothers join us in this AMA to talk about their documentary "Apes Together Strong".
This Slogging thread by Akasha Rose, Mulligan Brothers, Justin Roberti, Limarc Ambalina, Katarina Andrejević and David Smooke occurred in slogging's official #amas channel, and has been edited for readability.
Meet the Mulligan Brothers, Portland-based brothers Finley and Quinn Mulligan who are both active among the WSB Reddit community and have worked together on multiple film and music projects.
Finley has spent most of his career working for Laika Studios, the award-winning stop-motion animation studio, as Assistant Director on such films as the BAFTA award winner Kubo and the Two Strings and the Golden Globe winner Missing Link.
Quinn is a highly acclaimed singer-songwriter who first gained attention while playing with his band Fanno Creek. He has since recorded extensively as a solo artist. Producing for Inner Station is Andrew Weiner (Mail
Order Wife, The Take, Hit & Run, and The Frankenstein Theory).
Finley says, “People like to claim that this has all been the work of a greedy band of internet trolls trying to game the system. But that’s simply not the case. These are normal, everyday people who wisely saw an opportunity of a lifetime to make money and they took it — only to be robbed by their own brokers. How the “Apes” are being portrayed as the bad guys in this story is beyond me, and we’re determined to set the record straight.”
Watch the moving promo to the documentary here:
Akasha Rose Thanks for having us! Hi everyone, stoked to be here — this platform is really unique and we’re excited to interact with you all!
Mulligan Brothers welcome! i watched your trailer and it is moving.
a few questions to start:
Justin Roberti Thanks for the kind words and for the questions!
Mulligan Brothers how open was the community to the documentary when it first came out? Did you run into a lot of distrust? It strikes me that you are speaking to people at the epicentre of a general storm of distrust for traditional finance and government, in some ways for mainstream culture in general perhaps? How did you earn their trust? These aren't generally people looking for attention -- are they looking for a dialogue w the mainstream? Or just to have an accurate record?
Mulligan Brothers bonus question: Did you catch the traditional fund representatives in the dark grey suits the day that GameStop jumped and how ready they were to suggest that the redditors had been at minimum inappropriate leaning on nearly criminal? (as they immediately suggested this activity needed to be regulated out of existence). Were you surprised at the response? Was the community?
Justin Roberti To be clear the doc is not out, we’re just about to wrap up pre-production and hit the road. When I first posted about the idea for making the film I brought it up to the community on reddit — you can see that post https://www.reddit.com/r/GME/comments/m7bfzb/question_who_wants_a_real_documentary_about_whats/ — My idea was to ask the community if this is a project that they wanted. A truthful telling of what’s happening with the Apes as the mainstream media has done a woeful job thus far. There was some distrust but I think by asking the community if they want the project and then relying on the “Apes” to tell us what they’d like us to focus on did and continues to keep us in good standing.
Trust has to be earned and the MSM has done nothing to earn the trust of these communities. The fact that we’re actually “Apes”, that we know the story, the culture, the humor and of course the people involved goes a long way. We’re not outsiders poking our head in, we’re hanging in the trees, swinging on vines, eating bananas on TV — we’re Apes.
“It strikes me that you are speaking to people at the epicentre of a general storm of distrust for traditional finance and government” Yes, Absolutely. 2008 hasn’t been forgotten. The fact that our wealthiest people gained trillions during the pandemic while the rest of us suffered in isolation isn’t lost on any of us. I don’t think there is a distrust in mainstream culture, they are the mainstream — and this is very important, these aren’t some clicky groups of counter-culture trolls — these are everyday people from varied and diverse walks of life. Gas station attendants, teachers, grocery store workers, construction workers, it runs the gamut.
We should make a point to say here that we don’t speak for anyone. There are no “leaders” in this, there are as many opinions as there are people and everyone encourages each other to do their own research and make their own decisions.
I mispoke - I meant to say when you first introduced the idea -- but what is your projected launch date Mulligan Brothers
Justin Roberti As for the bonus question: I would ask those “grey suits” what’s wrong with buying and holding a stock? What’s wrong with telling others about a stock you like? I’ll quote Gary Gensler: “…we all have a free speech right to go and say to a neighbour, whether it’s online or in-person, I like this investment”
These reddit/Ape investors saw an opportunity to make a potentially lucrative play in the stock market by simply buying and holding stocks in companies they believe in. It just so happens that certain financial institutions exposed themselves to MASSIVE loss which could have ripple effects over the whole market. Retail investors did not create this situation.
Nobody was surprised at this reaction. Powerful people are traditionally very sore losers and tend to change the rules to avoid losing. These people are powerful enough to manipulate outcomes and manipulate just how that narrative is spun.
Another quick disclaimer, when we’re answering questions about the “community” it’s from our personal perspectives having been a part of all of this — these are many people with differing points of view; the one place these people are aligned is in wanting transparency and fairness in our markets.
Thanks for being here! Happy to have you on Slogging with us.
I have a few questions. "only to be robbed by their own brokers." - Can you elaborate a bit on how the brokers were robbing people who didn't actually do anything wrong?
Do you think what happened with GME will happen again? And if so, do you think it'll cause a shift in the way the stock market works? Perhaps the Warren Buffets of the world aren't happy that the tiny retail investors are taking a bigger piece of their pie now.
Also, I'm super interested in documentary filmmaking. What are some challenges you've faced trying to pull this off amidst the pandemic? How have you been handling the filming of all these apes? IS it all being done online via video call?
Limarc Ambalina Enjoying it so far! About the brokers, we were speaking specifically to the January event in which Robin hood and brokerages like it halted the buying, but not the selling of several so called "memestocks" (not a fan of this moniker btw) From CNBC: "Robin Robinhood faces dozens of putative class-action lawsuits and is under investigation by regulators, state attorneys general, the SEC, FINRA, and the U.S. Department of Justice following the Game Stop trading frenzy in January." On top of that the https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/01/feds-seized-robinhood-ceos-phone-as-part-of-gamestop-trading-probe.html as part of an ongoing investigation.
No, we don't think a situation like this will happen again. We hope and believe that the Apes will push the SEC and other regulatory bodies to create legislation with real teeth to address the issues surrounding naked short selling and failure to delivers. There are people like Dr. Suzanne Trimbath and Wes Christian, and Carl Hagberg who have been reporting on and pushing for change in this arena for decades — it's pretty fascinating to see millions of normal, everyday retail investors stand up for change in such specific and niche areas in our markets. We think this focused attention around short selling will be far more effective than simply "wall street bad"
Furthermore, whatever comes of this the consequences for breaking regulations in our financial systems must be greater than the profit for massive financial institutions. Robinhood was just given the https://www.finra.org/media-center/newsreleases/2021/finra-orders-record-financial-penalties-against-robinhood-financial at 70million (57mil fine and 12.6 in restitution) — to put that into perspective RH made https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/03/robinhood-made-331-million-from-clients-trading-activity-in-q1-2021.html in the first quarter of 2021 alone. So. The largest fine in Finra history barely makes a dent in quarterly earnings. Breaking laws and harming millions of retail investors over years and years cannot be a simple line item. Give https://www.reddit.com/r/GME/comments/m4c0p4/citadel_has_no_clothes/ a read. It's a post by a reddit "DD Writer" u/atobitt (Austin Tobitt)
We think someone like Buffett would be happy to hear that millions of new retail investors are buying and holding stock long term. He's the ultimate "HODLER"
Luckily as the pandemic is winding down (please please please) we are starting to nail down our subjects and head out with a crew. Up until this point it's been zoom call after zoom call and we've opened a submissions page https://www.apestogetherstrongdoc.com/submissions for Apes to submit videos telling us why they've bought into the market and what they intend to do when they get their "Tendies."
So far, hearing their stories has been remarkable. This is a diverse group of people. The media gets this all wrong when they rely on easy catch-alls like "reddit investors" or " Wallstreet bets" — we encourage journalists to check out communities like r/superstonk (the mods won't talk to media btw) but sign in, see how people interact with each other, get a feel for what's happening. Apes want change, and they aren't going anywhere until they get it. Wealth concentration today has passed that of the gilded age... this didn't happen naturally.
Mulligan Brothers is crypto from your POV any more of an even playing field than traditional finance now that institutional investors are involved and billionaires like Musk can openly move the market on SM? Are there any alt coins you are rooting for? taking doge to the moon?
We aren't experts in crypto and can't answer that question. We both have some crypto in a small amount, more for entertainment than anything.
Hi Quinn and Finley, how do you think that the average person can achieve financial freedom and freedom from wage slavery? Is it something a person can achieve alone, or must we all work together, and how? Will the world ever be free of wage slavery and if so what does that world look like?
Hey Akasha, lots to unpack there but I'd say by and large, we need to prioritize financial literacy education in our young people. We hope that moving forward, the millions of "Apes" out there will be continuing their education and journey to financial freedom and passing what they've learned onto future generations — that aside, we need regulation with teeth and an economy that works for everyone. Making this happen will take years, no doubt, and will require the revolving door between regulatory bodies and the private sector to be shut. Furthermore, we need to get money out of our politics but this is a much larger conversation than we'll be exploring in our film.
This can be achieved alone on an anecdotal basis — the issue is that many of the people who have time to learn enough to achieve this on their own (or whose parents have time to teach them) are in a socio-economic position to do so.; thus usually reserving playing the market for middle to upper-class white folks. This "paradigm shift" that we're going through is introducing so many new traders to the market and we're hoping this will begin to level the playing field. When we say "work together" we mean fighting for transparency and fairness in our markets. No, the world will never be free of wage slavery, this is cyclical and once this situation boils over, pressure will build again at some point; that doesn't mean we shouldn't fight like hell to minimize the wealth divide that we see today.
"About the brokers, we were speaking specifically to the January event in which Robin hood and brokerages like it halted the buying, but not the selling of several so-called "memestocks" (not a fan of this moniker btw) From CNBC: "Robin Robinhood faces dozens of putative class-action lawsuits and is under investigation by regulators, state attorneys general, the SEC, FINRA, and the U.S. Department of Justice following the Game Stop trading frenzy in January." On top of that, the Feds have seized Vlad Tenev's phone as part of an ongoing investigation."
- Got it. In your research have you found that Robin Hood and other brokerages broke the law when they halted the buying and not the selling or is that, unfortunately, within their rights to do?
I'm interested to see where things turn out.
Also, what was your thought process behind funding this documentary via a kickstarter?
With your work on Kubo and the Two Strings and your filmography, I assume that you could have sought funding from more traditional methods in the industry.
Was this in an effort to make sure that you could remain unbiased in your portrayal of the story and not have to answer to any one producer or company?
Limarc Ambalina We're also interested in seeing how things turn out. We'll be watching closely to see what our regulators decide regarding the legality of their actions. We'll be exploring this in the doc.
Hi there, Mulligan Brothers! First of all: WHOA! The project, the logistics behind, everything is just :pinched_fingers:
I was wondering, out of all the supporters, has anyone claimed the Executive Producer or Producer Credit reward yet?
Katarina Andrejević Hello! It's been a wild ride so far. We have had a couple of parties interested in that level that we're in talks with, though some have come close.
Hey Mulligan Brothers, thanks a lot for making this documentary, and taking the time to answer a couple of questions here. The trailer is inspiring --- retail investors uniting to change the game. It makes a lot more sense for you all to tell this story than the Netflixes of the internet. From https://www.investopedia.com/wallstreetbets-slang-and-memes-5111311: If the “apes” are united, then they can be strong enough to outlast those short on the stock. I'm wondering, logistically how do such large communities unite on selling and purchasing decisions and timing? And as self-described apes, what was your biggest personal win investing with the apes?
David Smooke This is a falsehood the mainstream media has promoted. Retail investors or "Apes" are not coordinating purchasing decisions or timings. This practice is illegal and frowned upon. We've been on the ground with these people from the beginning and we've not seen a single whiff of this kind of behavior. Anyone reporting on this matter should join these communities themselves and see what the conversation is like. You'll see these people are by and large responsible, make their own financial decisions based on their own research, and any talk of coordination is immediately slammed down, and blocked. You hit the nail on the head asking how it would be logistically possible. It's just not. This is a diverse group of people with diverse opinions and financial needs and appetites.
When the Apes see reports of this on the media, then look around themselves and see nothing of the sort, they lose faith in the media and question the motives behind such stories. This is much of why we created the doc in the first place — we want the truth out there and want to make sure the Apes have a chance to tell the narrative like it is. Much of the journalism around this topic has been irresponsible, grossly under-researched, and dangerous to the health of our financial markets, specifically regarding the rights of retail investors. By not focusing on the wreckless and predatory practices from our largest financial institutions (many of which lead to the crash in '08) and instead falsely accusing retail investors of illegal activity, the media is actively eroding the trust in our financial markets in exchange for ratings and clicks. Without trust, the house of cards collapses — quick disclaimer: there are amazing journalists out there doing incredible work and we're not saying you're part of this group to be clear..
This is why reddit communities, youtube channels, twitter etc. have exploded. People are tired of being lied to and are yearning for safe places to exchange ideas, like r/superstonk, without fear of a conglomerate with an agenda behind each news story.
Mulligan Brothers do you consider yourselves part of a transgressive subculture? we live in a capitalist society that functions almost solely on profit incentives -- speaking out against the very wealthy is in itself transgressive.
It's unfortunate that it's considered transgressive to have motives other than the creation of wealth at abstract levels. I don't think this is a subculture, however; these "Apes" have been painted as a niche group of people on the internet, but they are a diverse group of everyday people numbering in the millions who are demanding fairness and transparency in our markets and our economy. We think the cat's out of the bag on this one and that the days of the Ape investor are just getting started.
I also am keen to know which of the people that you interviewed for the documentary left a lasting impression on you and why 😄
So many have left lasting impressions on us so far and we're only beginning production in earnest — truly incredible stories we'll be telling.
Okay everyone, Akasha Rose thank you SO MUCH for having us on this AMA. We had a great time answering all of your questions.
We are crowdfunding to please check out our website here: http://apestogetherstrongdoc.com/donate — we appreciate all the help and support we can get!