Documentary explores link between economy, generational differencesWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
As a college student in the ’80s, Cap Averill II learned about Morris Massey’s theory of generational dynamics predicting behaviors. He was hooked and now years later, his local movie company is releasing a film about the concept and its effects on the economy.
“I always remembered [Massey’s theory] and agreed with Dr. Massey that the generational dynamic is pretty well overlooked,” Averill said. “When I meet people I’m kind of thinking about what era they’re from.”
“Wants and Needs,” co-produced by Mantis and Moon Moving Pictures and Sound and WGTE, explores the idea that economic downturns are driven by generational changes.
“The cycle starts when there’s tremendous pain and suffering, which causes pivotal change to the people that survive it,” Averill said. In the latest example, people who grew up during the Great Depression are theoretically driven more by their needs than wants because of the time they were developing their values in. That group of people wants better things for their children and when the economy strengthens, they may want their kids to indulge.
“In turn, their children (baby boomers) want kind of a bigger house, want a nicer car and want those things their parents lived without, so by the time the next generation comes along, they’re driven almost entirely by their wants,” Averill said. These differences can have profound effects on the government and, in turn, the economy, he said. In theory, Massey’s ideas could predict how coming generations behave and thus how economies could perform.
The documentary, which began filming in 2006, juxtaposes interviews with Great Depression survivors and footage of baby boomer politicians. Averill said, “What seemed to be driving interest rates and politics more profoundly than political allegiance was [politicians’] generational status.”
He added that when the baby boomers began taking over government, lowering interest rates and deregulation became more commonplace. However, Averill stressed that the film is careful not to blame any generation.
“They’re no more responsible for the generation that they were born into. They’re just part of the cycle,” Averill said. He believes that cycle can be traced back thousands of years and through several cultures. In 1400s Holland, for example, a generation or two after a recession, people thought nothing of shelling out thousands for a tulip bulb.
The film, co-hosted by Averill and Gordon Ward, also uses “South Park”-style animation at times and strives to keep the interest level high when talking about financial concepts, Averill said. His hope is that the film is shown in educational settings and has an impact on Generations X, Y and Z.
Averill also hopes that the film finds national distribution through PBS like two other Mantis and Moon documentaries, “Thunder on the Farm” and “Thunder on the Mountain.”
Mantis and Moon began as a side project for Averill in 2003 when Averill and a friend shot the film “Out of the Shadows” together. The film went on to win awards, and Averill has been at it ever since.
“[Mantis and Moon] have never released anything that has not gained national recognition or distribution,” said Averill, also a financial planner.
“Wants and Needs” is the company’s first financial documentary and includes about 50 interviews although about 100 were conducted. One interview that sticks out in Averill’s head occurred in 2006 with a then 88-year-old woman named Donna.
She recalled the time before the Great Depression when “everything is just like it is right now. Mom bought fur coat, Dad bough Chevrolet.”
Averill said Donna, who passed away in 2009, added, “You know, there’s gonna be a rude awakening one of these days and I really believe it’s gonna be in my lifetime.”
“Wants and Needs” premieres locally on WGTE Toledo channel 30 at 4 p.m. May 27. Visit mantisandmoon.com to learn more.