Coppola-backed FILM cryptocurrency boosts independent filmmaking

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Patrick Quinn lives with his wife and four-year-old daughter in a dormitory in West Cork, Ireland, far from the global media hubs where an aspiring screenwriter can find community or opportunity.

But Quinn logs into Decentralized Pictures, an unconventional new platform where he can earn and spend a proprietary cryptocurrency known as FILM almost every night. Quinn uses the system to collect feedback and give grades to other writers and even win grants run by the site’s founders for his budding film project, a black comedy set during the Irish Potato Famine.

“I live pretty far from everything here,” Quinn, 36, recently told Zoom from his writers’ cottage. “So it really means a lot to be able to find a place where people are encouraged to give feedback on my project.”

Contrary to growing skepticism, Quinn is proof of a case that has been fervently made by Decentralized executives and other advocates that crypto is more than just a poorly regulated asset class, where people can lose their life savings or lose the chance for celebrities to brag about their NFTs. It can have useful uses.

They say crypto could be a way to build a global community that doesn’t focus on the restrictive old-time Hollywood clubs, possibly helping the industry find the next “Daddy” or “Push Fiction”. A nonprofit with the involvement of the Coppola filmmaking family, it aims to use its decentralized, informal currency to encourage and expose the next generation of filmmakers they say they would otherwise never find.

“The decision on what to do in Hollywood comes from small groups of people,” said Michael Musante, co-founder of Decentralized, or DCP. “We want to open this up for the democratization of the process so that all these ideas can now be tested and developed by new people who will have a chance to crack.”

DCP was founded by several executives at American Zoetrope, the company led by longtime “The Godfather” director Francis Ford Coppola, including Coppola’s son, producer-director Roman Coppola, and Zoetrope’s vice president of production and acquisitions Musante. . Executives say DCP, which was released in May, has attracted around 2,000 users with the goal of eventually reaching 200,000 and attracting cultural watchdogs.

“I know there’s a certain cynicism when people hear the word ‘crypto’ – what value does that have and isn’t it just a kind of exaggeration?” said Roman Coppola. “However, we value the intelligent participation of our participants. And we think participation should give them something that will bring in smarter participants and build a community.”

At the heart of DCP is a kind of exchange-based town square, which proponents say could never happen on a non-crypto website, even if some critics ask why the current social network fails to achieve many of the same goals.

Most art industry communities on the current web – the authors stack known as Book Twitter, for example – operate purely on the interest of its participants, who post their thoughts and take notes if the mood is good. A screenwriter who wants more regular feedback on their ideas can apply to the so-called lab, a graduate scholarship run by a top institution like Sundance. But labs are in such intense competition that they are out of reach for most.

By gamifying and even financializing the concept of feedback, Web3 makes a distinct promise that it can lubricate a robust community accessible to all.

This is how the decentralized system works. The site requests projects – short films, scripts, presentations – for a small fee. Users can earn crypto by reviewing these projects and interacting with the site in other ways (for example, by lending their computing power to verify transactions). They can then use the crypto they earn to enter their own account to make payments. have projects where others can earn crypto through their reviews.

It is a self-sustaining ecosystem – a constant recirculation of business and currency, which, if all goes according to plan, will leave feedback to creators and market insights to intermediaries and manufacturers.

“Imagine if a filmmaker or studio got a sense of what audiences were thinking about how deep in the process it was – it’s basically a test screening. [after a movie is completed]”And now we’re saying that you can know how your idea of ​​a horror movie will impact women ages 18-35 before you spend a dime on production,” said Leo Matchett, CEO of Decentralized.

The system also gives Zoetrope a look at a number of new scenarios and projects – the blockchain is doing some sorting for them.

Feedback is not the only reward for users. DCP also runs a series of grant competitions that pay out tens of thousands of (real world) dollars to fund projects voted on by other Decentralized members. Projects are reviewed by users under a complex system that evaluates not only the total number of positive votes, but also factors such as voter reputation and frequency of use. (Votees can even spend crypto to push a scenario to a more prominent place on the site, although admins emphasize that this only leads to more general reviews, not better reviews.)

Projects will then fluctuate up and down in the overall ranking. The best few advance to the final round. There, a small group of professionals make the final decision on who should receive the cash prize.

Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh sponsored one such competition that would pay $100,000 each to three different projects; writer-director Kevin Smith backed one for $40,000. DCP also says that these blockchain blessed projects will help lead production companies and talent agencies.

“We think this is a much better way to run a competition,” Matchett said. “And it’s all chained, so no one can claim anyone manipulated it.” Blockchain, a digital ledger, makes every action on a platform public, making it difficult to hide tampering on the result.

Young filmmakers say a web3 approach – or film3 as some in the entertainment world is used to it – can also help clear up the unknowns of an old industry.

“With so many other contests and scholarships, you’re throwing your stuff in the void and hoping something happens,” said Tiffany Lin, a writer-director of “Poachers,” a short narrative film about the illegal juicy trade in California. Granted through the decentralized voting system. “With DCP you have more control over what you put in, and you can also follow the progress live so you really know what people are thinking.” She stated that the site offers a high level of analytics and separates votes by age and other demographics.

Some of the site’s applicants also say it can reduce Hollywood’s structural bias. A platform like Decentralized advances that goal, says producer DC Cassidy, who founded production company Diamond Entertainment and produced “Black People Do” a story about Black athletes in extreme sports.

“The power of web3 is that you don’t have to attend Chapman, USC, NYU, UCLA or AFI to meet the right industry people,” Cassidy said in an email. “Twitter and Reddit broke the foundations, web3 broke the walls.”

DCP executives say talent discovery isn’t the only use case. While the FILM cryptocurrency is currently unavailable off-site, Musante said the company is in talks with movie production vendors to authorize the purchase of various production items, allowing users to finance their movies, at least in part, with cryptocurrency. site.

Coppola has an even bigger idea. He asks if the entire system can be deployed to find talent in new ways. Right now, say, a producer looking to find a specific location or a highly specialized artist must work through an expensive and not always accurate agency network.

“But what if you could use web3 for that?” said. “Whether it is casting, development, locations or anything else in our industry, crypto and blockchain will allow us to find more than we need and operate better as a business than ever before.”

But crypto skeptics say it offers a solution to a problem no one has brought up.

“The question in almost all communities is what can be done with crypto and Web 3 that you cannot do with regular money and the web we have,” said David Gerard, reviewer and author of the crypto-skeptical book. 50-Leg Blockchain Attack.”

A talent representative contacted by The Post, who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press, added that they were concerned that these changes could support not the best storytellers but those who understand how a crypto-based system would work or even be manipulated.

But Smith, the lead independent filmmaker behind hits like “Clerks” and “Chasing Amy,” which released his new movie as an NFT, says he now sees these tools as essential for movie theaters or home video as they have been in previous generations. .

He said: “If you’re an established independent filmmaker, you can go for streamers like Netflix or HBO Max. But where is the rising filmmaker going? Where is the micro-budget filmmaker headed? There is a community that is hungry and already here with crypto and NFT.” He said he sees crypto’s speculative bubble as similar to the dot-com bubble on the internet two decades ago: a bubble that, after all, will not impede fundamental innovation.

Quinn said that while she waited to see if she could get the DCP grant, she felt like she had already won, no matter which way it was.

“I come from a working-class family that has nothing to do with work,” said Quinn, who reads my script but works at a local dairy in her 20s. “Just having a platform where I can put my work feels like a real milestone.”

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