Volunteers picked to star in a new documentary film will get $250 a week for two years to use however they please. That's $26,000 total over the course of 24 months. The only catch is that recipients must allow moviemakers to follow them around periodically throughout the experiment.
The movie is the brainchild of two filmmakers, Deia Schlosberg and Conrad Shaw, who want to test the concept of a universal basic income (UBI)—the idea that everyone gets a flat salary, regardless of employment or wealth.
A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to raise $50,000 to pay for the first two UBI recipients, and the filmmakers eventually want to raise enough money to cover payments to a total of 20 people over the course of two years. The goal is to present a finished documentary, with the working title Bootstraps: A Basic Income Film, to the public by 2020, in time for that year's presidential election.
Often presented as an alternative to welfare, and promoted as a way to combat inequality, crime, and increased job automation, UBI initiatives have gotten underway around the globe in recent years. The startup accelerator Y Combinator launched a program giving $1,500 to $2,000 monthly, no strings attached, to 100 people last year. Holland, Finland, Canada, and Kenya are among the countries experimenting with basic income initiatives as well.
The filmmakers told Fast Company that they are looking for a diverse group of volunteers from all over the country to film, and argued that a movie will have more impact than any academic paper on the topic. “The pitch to the American people needs to be done in a way that speaks to their hearts,” Shaw, a New York-based actor and screenwriter said. By the time the 2020 election rolls around, people "need to speak up if we’re going to pass UBI, because it needs to be bipartisan and something that everyone votes for.”
The movie will be on how the volunteers use their $250 a week, and how their lives are changed by UBI. “How does it change someone’s day to day with a little extra security and a little extra power over their lives?” Schlosberg said in a podcast interview last month.
Anyone hoping to volunteer, or to nominate someone else for the documentary, should reach out to the filmmakers at the Contact page at Bootstrapsfilm.com. Be sure to put the phrase "Bootstraps Application" in the subject line, and include a few sentences about who you are and what you would do with roughly $1,000 a month. Casting will take place as soon as the filmmakers have sufficient funds.
The film's visionaries are looking for "diverse stories of people around America from all ethnicities, walks of life, vocations, viewpoints," Shaw told MONEY via email. "We'll be casting these roles with a mind for what will give us a movie that the most Americans will be able to relate to, that will shed light on all of our mutual humanity and break down barriers of prejudice and othering that have been bred into us by the hypercompetitive, selfish world we've had to live in for so long."