When his lifelong fantasy of winning the lottery unexpectedly comes true, a tiresome white-collar office worker slowly comes to discover the dark side of having all the money in the world.
70% of all lottery winners end up broke within seven years of hitting the jackpot. Many winners wind up squandering their fortunes or meeting tragic ends.
Take Jack Whittaker of West Virginia, for instance. He was already a millionaire when he won $315 million in a lottery back in 2002. The 55-year-old construction company president went broke four years later. He was robbed of $545,000 while sitting in his car at a strip club eight months after winning the lottery. That was just the beginning...
He was then robbed a second time for $200,000, arrested for drunk driving, sued for bouncing checks at a casino, his house burned down, he became an alcoholic, and he got divorced. After supplying his 17-year-old granddaughter with a weekly allowance of $2,100, she died of a drug overdose, as did her boyfriend. Whittaker’s own daughter later died of unknown causes. He blamed it on the curse of the Powerball win.
In a statement to the press, he said, “I just don’t like Jack Whittaker. I don’t like the hard heart I’ve got. I don’t like what I’ve become. My granddaughter is dead because of the money. You know, my wife had said she wished that she had torn the ticket up. Well, I wish that we had torn the ticket up, too.”
Abraham Shakespeare won $30 million in 2006 in a lotto jackpot, causing friends and family to hound him for money. He befriended a woman who made him believe she was trying to protect him from the greedy people around him.
She tricked him into transferring his assets to her before he went missing in 2009. She was later found guilty of first degree murder after shooting Shakespeare twice in the chest and burying him under a slab of concrete in a backyard. His brother, Robert Brown, said that Shakespeare always said he regretted winning the lottery. “‘I’d have been better off broke.’ He said that to me all the time”, said Robert Brown to the press.
Then there’s Sandra Hayes of St. Louis Missouri, who won a $224 million Powerball in 2006 and split the winnings with a dozen coworkers. The woman is now a retired social worker and said she had to “adapt to this new life” which changed how she saw her closest family and friends.
“I had to endure the greed and the need that people have, trying to get you to release your money to them. That caused a lot of emotional pain. These are people who you’ve loved deep down, and they’re turning into vampires trying to suck the life out of me.”
Evelyn Adams won twice, two years in a row. She headed to Atlantic City and gambled it all away - going broke. She later started a new life in a trailer park.
William Post went $1 million in debt just a year after winning $16.2 million. He went on food stamps for the rest of his life.
These are just a few cases of what has become known as “the lottery curse”.
Powerball is a fictional story based on the lottery curse. An average white-collar office worker named Edward, living in New York, thinks winning the lottery will lead to a better life until the day he actually wins.
Edward is a lonely man in his late thirties; a single father recently separated from his wife. He and his wife, Liz, have an eleven year old daughter, Natalie, but their marriage is not what it used to be. Edward is constantly preoccupied with trying to achieve a better life that he fails to appreciate the one he has - ultimately neglecting his family, but struggling with the separation.
One day while on break with a coworker, Edward buys a lottery ticket that he later finds out is the winning ticket worth $300 million.
At the start, everything is as good as Edward can hope. He gets the new house, the car, and he goes on the dream vacation. All is well, until a few people start coming out of the woodwork. Strangers he doesn’t know, family he’s never spoken to.
Edward starts to trust people who do not have his best interest in mind and things gradually start to fall apart.
His coworker files a lawsuit since he lent Edward the cash he used to buy the winning ticket. A suspicious character after Edward’s money becomes a threat to his wife and daughter, putting more strain on his dwindling marriage. Edward’s financial advisor loses all of his investment after a tech company he invests in goes bankrupt. Bills are piling up, the money is burning fast, and life becomes overwhelming. Edward gets robbed at gunpoint, a stranger tries to kidnap his daughter, and his wife files for divorce and moves back to Georgia near her family, taking custody of their daughter.
Between lawsuits, financial responsibilities, charity requests, lack of privacy, and mismanagement of finances, Edward starts to realize that winning the lottery is the opposite of what he thought it would be. He ends up tired, stressed, broke, burnt out, and longing for the simplicity of life the way it was before.
He settles his lawsuits, files for bankruptcy, and sells his house. His old boss gives him a job at a new company. His wife has moved on, but he decides to move to Georgia in order to maintain a relationship with his daughter. After the dust settles, there’s nothing more delightful than going to dinner, seeing a movie, and having a normal, quiet weekend - with his daughter. In the end, Edward finds true happiness, and it was there all along.
HER DIR. SPIKE JONZE
WARNER BROS. PICTURES (2013)
NEW YORK CITY
The setting of this story is New York City, a visually cinematic city in its own right. Its fast-paced environment is the perfect motivator for a workaholic dreaming to strike it rich. Home to 19.4 million people, 2 million businesses, and the world-famous Wall Street.
New York City has been home to some of the most classic Hollywood films. It’s been a go-to setting for filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee. You’ve seen it as the backdrop for Stanley Kubrik’s “Eyes Wide Shut” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”.
It’s an endless visual landscape packed full of history and texture. From its curbside restaurants, subway metro system, and expansive avenues of bustling streets, to its famous landmarks, bridges, city parks, and rooftop lookouts.
Manhattan is a concrete jungle of office buildings and skyscrapers. It makes you wonder what goes on in some of those offices, and who works there. What are those people’s stories? What do they want out of life? What do they struggle with? It could be a veteran who takes a job as a Taxi Driver to help deal with his insomnia. Or a TV conglomerate that exploits a mentally ill news anchor on their Network.
This is where we find Edward Carpenter: the ordinary man who strikes it rich. The story of “Powerball” is the perfect occupant for the city that never sleeps.
BIRDMAN DIR. ALEJANDRO GONZÁLEZ IÑÁRRITU
FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES (2014)
UNCUT GEMS DIR. JOSH & BENNY SAFDIE
The visual language will be filmic, classic and bold. As opposed to the handheld cinéma vérité style, we will harken back to very stable, controlled and motivated camera moves of classic cinema. The frame will be made up of dynamic lighting, purposeful compositions and depth of field. We want to emulate the stories told on film in the days when Francis Ford Coppola made “The Conversation” or when Mike Nichols made “The Graduate”. While incorporating the modern day influences like Spike Jones’ “Her” or the Safdie Brothers’ “Uncut Gems”.
We will follow our main character, Edward, through his experience of acquiring a sudden and enormous amount of wealth and dealing with all that comes with it.
When he wins the lottery, we get to live vicariously through him - a life of luxury and leisure. A life of no work, do as you please, a vacation to the Bahamas, a new car, a new house, and jet setting on a business venture to Silicon Valley among the famous tech companies.
When things start to fall apart, we see the courtroom drama, the shady characters money attracts, and the turmoil it causes in Edward’s relationships. We see a full character arc, coming from the notion that money buys happiness to the realization that true happiness comes from within. Edward gains a new appreciation for the things he had and ultimately gains a new perspective on life.
THE CONVERSATION DIR. FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA
PARAMOUNT PICTURES (1974)
CANNES WINNER PALME D'OR
OSCAR NOMINATION BEST PICTURE
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Eric Demeusy is a filmmaker based in Los Angeles with a background in animation and visual effects. He is well known for creating the Emmy winning title sequence for Netflix’s hit series "Stranger Things".
He cut his teeth working for creative studios like Prologue, Imaginary Forces, Elastic and A52 where he worked on the Emmy winning title sequence for HBO’s "Game of Thrones", Disney’s "Tron Legacy" and Guillermo del Toro’s monster epic "Pacific Rim".
His short films have premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Raindance Film Festival in London. His short film "Star Wars: The New Republic Anthology" went viral and was featured on the front page of Yahoo and Entertainment Weekly.
He marked his feature directorial debut with the sci-fi indie drama “Proximity”, a story about a man who's world turns upside down after an encounter with extraterrestrials. "Proximity" secured international distribution and is currently streaming on all the major platforms. See more on "Proximity" below.