SOM alum returns for ‘Freakonomics’

The School of Management is a far cry from the Tribeca Film Festival, but Chad Troutwine SOM ’02 returned to the school Monday to screen his latest film, “Freakonomics.”

Troutwine joined 60 SOM students at Horchow Hall to discuss his work as an entrepreneur and producer for “Freakonomics,” a documentary film adaptation of the 2005 best-selling book by the same title — both of which explore how principles of economics influence modern culture in unexpected ways. In addition to producing the film, which was presented as the closing film at the Tribeca Film Festival this May, Troutwine said he hired all six directors, secured the rights for the film from the authors of the book and paid for two-thirds of the film’s budget out of his own pocket.

“I loved ‘Freakonomics’ so much that I wanted to share it with people,” Troutwine said. “That kind of thinking can help us become better decision makers.”

Because of the book’s large fan base and the compelling storylines of the characters who emerge in the book, Troutwine told students that he always knew that the film would be a financial success. Troutwine is also an entrepreneur and chief executive officer of Veritas Prep, the largest privately owned test preparation company in the world.

Troutwine explained the strategy behind his decision to prerelease the film on the iTunes for $11 before its Oct. 1 theatrical release. Because “Freakonomics” is about “challenging the norm,” Troutwine said, he thought it appropriate to experiment with distribution for the movie. Though Troutwine said that this experiment may have hurt box office profits, he still described the film as an “unqualified success.”

Before the screening, Ryan Catania SOM ’12 asked Troutwine how the School of Management influenced his decision to work on the “Freakonomics” movie. Troutwine said the project was deeply linked to his education, adding that the “experimentalist education that the School of Management fosters” is directly related to the worldview the film promotes.

Troutwine holds degrees from four universities and is an alum of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University — which Troutwine said made its way into “Freakonomics.”

“Harvard gets a couple of plugs throughout the film,” he said in an interview before the question and answer session. “But Yale permeates the film in more powerful ways.”

Seth Gordon ’99 and Alex Gibney ’77, two of the six directors of the film, helped comprise what Troutwine called “the dream team of documentary filmmakers.”

The six filmmakers worked with Troutwine to transform “Freakonomics” into a film following the anthology format, which consists of multiple segments by different directors ranging from 12 to 25 minutes in length, Troutwine said.

Troutwine is no newcomer to the anthology format, as he was executive producer “Paris, Je t’aime,” a French anthology-style film released in 2006.

A student asked Troutwine what he looks for in a film when trying to decide whether to invest. A polished script, one or two well-known actors and a budget of $2 million or less are all draws, Troutwine said.

In 2002, Forbes magazine named Troutwine the Future Capitalist of the Year.

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