Two months ago I started Crypto Movie Club in an effort to capture a snapshot of what I see as the next wave of projects making a concerted effort to bring the many potentials of Blockchain technology to the film industry.
I am excited to share this ongoing effort at capturing the pulse of whats being widely referred to as Film3, and all the great and necessary discussions questions and potential answers being offered up by the now numerous projects pushing forward with their ideas.
This is not my first time making such an observation, back in 2018 I presented the state of Blockchain in video content funding and distribution at the Live at Heart Film Festival in Örebro Sweden.
Back then there was a lot of attention on blockchain meets distribution of video content with a few projects making moves into Film funding and distribution specifically. It was an exciting time, I recall feeling really optimistic on the possibilities, during my presentation I received some very important questions from the audience which I did not have the answers to at the time.
Although the majority of the projects from that presentation no longer exist, those audience questions have stuck with me throughout the years.
Attempting to answer the tough questions are essential to tackle head on if we are to evolve the space in the direction we all claim to want; that is – empowering the creators, the ones that bring and create value. Rewarding those that support the creators, as-well as the creators themselves, of course all this (if we are to abide by the Blockchain ethos) is to be done in the absence of so-called middleman.
This is the challenge that when starting a project appears to be rather difficult to achieve from the get-go, due to how decentralised organisations emerge, so what’s the current status of blockchain meets content and more specifically film production in 2022?
While there are a number of solutions being rolled out right now to the many problems found in the movie industry, In this post I will zoom in on the most prevalent ones that seem to reoccur across the current film3 landscape conversation.
- Production participation via Studio DAOs
- Token gated communities via NFT holder privileges
- Intellectual property rights promises via specialised protocols.
Production participation via Studio DAOs
Many projects over the past years have attempted to build DAOs that serve the community in some way, typically ownership in some piece of a pie that may or may not be worth having a piece of over time.
Loosely speaking all DAOs attempt to achieve the same kind of outcome, this is no different for filmmaking in the current exploration. What has changed is the number of plug-and-play DAO platforms that have come to be in recent years, where users can quickly spin up a DAO of any kind and jump in and start designing the fundamentals without prior coding knowledge.
Arguably a film production or studio is the ideal fit given the number of people involved in the production of a film and the many moving parts that must be coordinated in tandem with other teams often distributed across the world.
What remains off course is how to get a DAO to decentralisation in a way that does not leave a perceived sense of a persistent executive group, or what is more broadly know as the founding team.
DAOs have never been easier to launch than today, but what of the application of trust that is still required of the founding team? How can a valued contributor ever really know that they will be part-owner in the success of a production when there are participants within a DAO that it can be argued have more power to control the production process than other members?
One solution is to have as part of a founding groups roadmap, the presentation of a clear vision for phasing out of their specific roles, or a mechanism for diminishing their roles over time.
Without such a mechanism I am of the opinion its highly likely we will simply see most DAOs in the film3 space revert back to the old centralised ways of yesteryear, where DAOs are just regular studios marketed by another name.
A consolidation of DAOs is also very likely as key players within a given DAO seek to create partnerships with other DAOs in order to tap each others communities. In order for Studio DAOs in the film industry to become what they claim to want to become, I feel there must be mechanisms for launching or delivering a DAO to the public which mitigate the potential for a repeat of business as usual; that is the centralisation of wealth off the back of artist and creatives that bring the initial value into existence.
Token gated communities via NFT holder privileges
Loyalty is important to many projects in the crypto space, “our token is better than that token because it has XYZ utility” is a standard response to many questions around tokenomics, but what if your token over time is perceived as a security?
Then you have a serious problem and your costs for expressing such utility to your community have increased overnight significantly, a perfect time to bail out, with a solid law-abiding excuse that you can no longer afford to continue.
The very fact that there was a central entity distributing the tokens in the first place tends to go against the very fundamentals of blockchain technology and begs the questions, did the project need a blockchain based accounting system to function at all?
What was added in doing so?
The conventional response is often “well it empowers the owners and artists” to have a better immutable connection via blockchain tokens; but if you have been in the space for any significant time and have been trying the products, you will know that it is not the technology that makes this strong bond, its the creator and their fans that create the bond.
The technology only serves (in this case) to account for the quantity and potential quality of this bond and so it’s perceived strength, when adjusted for automation, bot, insider, wash trading etc.
NFTs are a neat development in the ecosystem and there are some genuinely interesting use-cases being toyed with in Film3, I’m just not convinced building token gated access into a film project is the way to go, largely because most filmmakers want it to be easier to watch their films, not harder.
Putting up a pay wall where a consumer needs to first get hold of an obscure currency in order to buy an NFT that may or may not have more value down the road depending on the success of a production feels like a very roundabout way of onboarding new viewers to your productions.
Perhaps thats not the goal though, instead maybe it’s all about attracting the right members to your project in the hope that they will stay and contribute value in future productions. In this way the NFTs are not for everyone but instead a way to build out the initial word-of-mouth tribe, in order to be better positioned for future “NFT drops” a little bit like the ICO Airdrops of previous days.
While I do see NFTs continuing to play a role as merch or special access tickets, I do feel we could achieve these things without the use of NFTs, which begs the questions why not just do it using a regular database? My feeling is because the language has an attractive marketing advantage, and by not having to maintain a database of your own, you of course cut costs, and to a larger extent, accountability.
Intellectual property rights promises via specialised protocols.
The promise of technological empowerment through the likes of open source solutions found in the blockchain ecosystem are hard to deny, they make people feel like anything is possible. One such idea is indisputable ownership of ones creative works via tokenised IP (Intellectual Property)
Something many NFT and Film3 platforms are offering to creatives as a solution to a perceived problem most artist I would hazard a guess don’t spend much time thinking about. The current goal is to provide a kickback on an artists sales completed in the secondary markets, providing them a way to earn royalties on a piece of work in perpetuity.
Sounds great until one looks a little closer at the platforms making such promises, as we have seen over the last several months, artists works can and will be removed if they break the rules of a platform.
Again, how is this different from how we’ve always done distribution? Centralised entities store and distribute an artists work, and in doing so gain a commission. Same, same but different?
Another way to look at the role of IP protection is who is actually performing the protection? What legal avenues can be pursued in case of a dispute? If the same rules apply as previously, then the pursuit of litigation will be costly and timely, leaving an artist little appetite to fight for what they know is right, and what they were told would no longer happen because of “blockchain.”
There are solid protocol level solutions being designed as we speak; with many coming to launch soon, of that I’m sure. What seems to be the bottleneck in so many of these technical solutions in search of a problem, is that they are way to far ahead of regulatory bodies, promises they make now can’t possibly be verifiably true given the cumbersome nature of how regulation evolves.
It’s important to remain optimistic, but avoid being hyper idealistic. I spent too many years in an idealist mode, discovering and adventuring into so many projects claiming to do exactly what I’d always hoped this technology would do for what I wanted to see in the world. Only to learn people are rather predictable, we all too a certain extent behave in the same way regardless of the tool set.
The endless use of a lot of the recycled buzzwords and ideas can act like a guiding beacon in that regard, artist empowerment, the worlds first…, transparency, immutability, community, decentralisation!
We’ve all heard them many many times, but how can we come to learn how to actually verify their use is applicable for a given project? Let me know in the comments below how you verify whether a project is worth your time, commitment, energy and of course crypto.
Hey you! I’m sharing what I am learning about Film3 in real time every Wednesday via the Crypto Movie Club, hope to catch you there!