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We are about to enter an era where it will be easier than ever for movies to harness the power and wisdom of the crowd to produce new stories outside of traditional structures. The movie industry is just starting to realize how concepts like NFTs could disrupt its world as if it had art, celebrities, and gaming.
The potential to democratize and decentralize decision-making and support, through the use of the DAO structure, will enable anyone, not just powerful producers and studios, to potentially tap the next Spielberg or Tarantino on the shoulder.
Will 2022 indeed be the year of the DAO in Hollywood?
Limitations of Current Movie Crowdfunding
First a little context. When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its award nominations earlier this month, it was no surprise that Netflix continued to dominate those awards into the 2020s with a studio leading 27 nominations for 10 different titles. Despite the growing influence of Netflix when it comes to the prestige of the box office through the small streaming screen, or of Disney and the MCU for watching blockbusters ripped from the pages of a comic book in the theater, the real innovation for the rest of modern film production, which is still the bulk of it, takes place on the periphery of the indie film ecosystem.
While platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have boomed over the past decade, smaller movies like Veronica Mars, The Babadook, Anomalisa, and Super Troopers 2 were able to get a significant chunk of their budget from those platforms. In the case of Veronica Mars, it was almost entirely the film’s budget. These donations from users, usually in exchange for a reward such as early access, movie props, or meeting the stars, not only helped support these films financially, but also generated early cycles of attention and buzz almost worthy of an Oscar campaign.
However, the successes of crowdfunding for content prior to the development of these platforms were mostly limited to the mid-2010s with the exception of something like Mystery Science Theater 3000. The ultimate problem for these platforms is that they were best used by those strong fan-driven traits like Veronica Mars or MST3K, not projects that were essentially unknown quantities in pre-development, which is just about any movie project.
The Cultural Revolution of DAO
Now we are about to enter an era where it will be easier than ever for movies to harness the power and wisdom of the crowd to produce new stories outside of traditional structures. The movie industry is just starting to realize how concepts like NFTs could disrupt its world as if it had art, celebrities, and gaming. The potential to democratize and decentralize decision-making and support, through the use of the DAO structure, will enable anyone, not just powerful producers and studios, to potentially tap the next Spielberg or Tarantino on the shoulder.
While Vitalik Buterin’s 2013 Ethereum whitepaper focused on how a blockchain token can be used to represent contracts and smart property, the recent popularity of NFTs shows how the original principles of tokenization can be applied to creative works, be it artwork, music or filmed content.
In his white paper, Buterin also explained the structure of a DAO, or Decentralized Autonomous Organization, a virtual organization that would use cryptographic blockchain technology to enforce its own rules. What Buterin did was formulate a primary structure for decision making that can take place anywhere while being cryptographically verified at any time. Now imagine something like the Kickstarter-Indiegogo movie tree, married to a powerfully decentralized and platform-free technology.
In the wake of social justice movements like #OscarsSoWhite and #MeToo, Hollywood should embrace such technological transparency as a tonic. When used correctly, the use of NFT promises to be the most important thing in the movie production process since the indie film boom of the 1990s. Even that much-hyped movement wasn’t quite as independent, as the likes of Robert Redford of the Sundance Institute and the highly problematic Weinstein brothers were just a new breed of gatekeeper, their personal tastes dictated the final decisions about which films were supported, green-lit, made, and promoted.
The audience is king
In old Hollywood, audiences nominally had some pre-release power in the form of test screenings, but even these were mostly used by studios to persuade filmmakers to make a more commercial cut. A codified DAO would provide greater empowerment and liberation for both filmmakers and audiences. The potential of NFTs allows contributors not only to give their “tithe” to the fan cult of their choice, but also to create real ownership in a movie property, both creatively and financially.
The bigger studios may never fully understand the appeal of NFTs as they never quite got the internet until it was too late. Right now, we are in Space Jam’s 1996 website moment in movie history (although the Space Jam website may long endure as an enduring monument to human achievement).
We can also see continued hesitation from the studios because if you’re the one in power, you probably don’t see that decentralization is such a big solution. In the era of post-coronavirus box office losses for every movie without Spiderman in the lead role, the gatekeepers are weaker than ever. Hopefully, that weakness is also liberating, freeing traditional Hollywood from its tight grip on an outdated and dysfunctional system. NFTs have the potential to create a whole new relationship between the audience and what they see (and maybe what they helped put) on screen. Movies, and the studios and producers that make them, do best when that relationship is strong and healthy.
There’s nothing wrong with Netflix’s approach to small prestige, or Disney and Marvel’s approach to big spectacle, but we owe it to the public to deliver a medium built for all areas of the screen, filled with more daring. and various stories. A new decentralized structure based on fundamental technology will help us do that.
Ian LeWinter is an executive advisor to Film.io.
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This post The golden age of indie cinema is spelled DAO
was original published at “https://venturebeat.com/2022/04/24/the-golden-age-of-indie-cinema-will-be-spelled-d-a-o/”