CHICAGO, ILLINOIS — Imagine a job that required you to stand on your feet for seven straight hours, frantically screaming and yelling, while making bets worth $10,000, $50,000 or even $100,000. But this isn’t Las Vegas – it’s a trading pit.

At the peak of the mid-90’s market frenzy, over 10,000 traders worked on the floors of Chicago’s four major exchanges. Trillions of dollars’ worth of commodities were exchanged with just a flick of a wrist or motion of the hand. While an outsider might see this environment as complete chaos, it was actually quite the opposite. Open outcry, a style of communication relying on specific gestures and vocal cues was a sort of secret language unique to traders; one that has never been replicated elsewhere.

Aspiring traders often got their foot in the through apprenticeships or connections; but others attended the University of Trading, a weekend course offered at the CME, where they learned the how to communicate orders with their hands and practiced making trades with brokers in the pit.

A documentary film crew was given rare access to tape this particular class, which happened to include a young trader named Jonathan Hoenig. The resulting footage was never used and sat, untouched, for 17 years. During that time, the entire industry disappeared. This film is a look back at a job, an industry and a world that no longer exists.

Pit Trading 101 is a must-see for anyone who has ever dreamt of putting on a trading jacket and stepping into the true last bastion of pure, physical trade. For computer trading jockeys; this film shows how trading used to be done, where success was dependent not only on making trades, but on one’s self-confidence and ability to have enough physical presence to stand out in the crowd.

Filmed on location at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

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