Brian McGuire is a a writer, director, actor, music maker, skateboarder, born in Chicago and raised in Austin, Texas. LeftHouse is his production company. Some have called him the king of independent film. Others have called him a young Bill Murray. And some have even called him one of the good ones. His latest film, 1 World 100 Lonely, is now free on Amazon Prime. Find out more about Brian and his work at lefthousefilms.com.
The last article I wrote for Talkhouse, back in early 2020, The Cool of Film and Blockchain, was about the power of blockchain technology and how it could benefit the film industry in revolutionary ways.
At the time, there were only a small handful of crypto creators and/or companies who were digging into blockchain, trying to solve problems with it and deliver new tools for filmmakers and the film industry. Many of these tools were just ideas or works in progress, but only a few had functioning applications on the blockchain that could be utilized by filmmakers. Most of these apps were distribution platforms which more or less followed traditional online distribution norms, but had some minor blockchain benefits. More time for invention and adaptation to the blockchain was needed before these tools could deliver new ways to interact and function for film. It was the “way-too-early” days.
When I wrote that previous article, only a month had passed since I had completed principal photography on my movie Rabbit Hole, which was colored by my own obsession with crypto and blockchain, which I’d immersed myself in. It was also influenced by the sci-fi-like themes and often mysterious lore the crypto space oozes with. But I was not only interested in making a movie about the world of crypto, I also wanted to utilize the blockchain’s tools for distribution and use them to enhance the filmmaking process through production and post-production. I even tested a few blockchain distribution sites for a couple of my older films. I was excited to see how these tools would work, but none of them gave me what I wanted. Little did I know that what I was looking for was coming, just a couple years down the line.
It is worth noting that back in early 2020, only 27 million people in the world were using crypto. Since then, a lot has changed. Covid turned the world upside down. “NFTs” (Non-Fungible Tokens) and the “Metaverse” took over the crypto space and have become popular terms used around the world. Bitcoin went on a major bull run, going from around $6,000 up to its all-time high of $68,789.63.
With the pandemic forcing people everywhere into their homes, crypto and its technology exploded. At first there was the “DeFi” (Decentralized Finance) boom. Only the true crypto freaks actually understood this first wave in DeFi. But NFTs then took the stage and captured the imagination of the masses as celebrities represented and shilled for an array of NFT projects. The blockchain and its new baby, the NFT, then prompted a new wave in videogaming known as the “Play to Earn” model, and “game-fi” was now a thing. Tools to create and add utility to NFTs were popping up daily, presenting new ways to make money. The Play to Earn model was adapted into Move to Earn, offering people crypto for walking, if you were holding an NFT to unlock the earning feature. The way-too-early days were perhaps becoming just the early days.
Now today, with the world dealing with war, recession and the long-term global impact of COVID, the markets are low and a lot of impatient and unlucky investors have left the cryptocurrency space. Many of the companies have dissolved; some were scams and “rug pulls,” or just honest efforts that didn’t pan out. Others have been forced to scale down, laying off employees or merging with competitors, changing their names in an effort to rebrand and keep the dream alive.
Though now there is downturn and struggle, the last crypto bull run woke up a huge number of people. Now there are more than 100 million wallets in existence on Coinbase, the largest secure online platform for buying and selling crypto. The celebrities, sports stars, politicians and major fashion brands that entered the NFT game brought many pairs of eyes to crypto, bringing it one step closer to mass adoption. More filmmakers are now clued in and are seeing the benefits of the crypto space, and some have set up shop with new and inventive ways to share and allow audiences to interact with their content. Some of the film studios have even dipped their toes into the water – Fox is investing more than $100 million into their blockchain division – and major talent agencies like WME and UTA are now representing NFT projects. NFTs can help grow a community, share ownership, create games or digital comic books, create and sell music, and have opened up many tools now in play for filmmakers and the film industry.
Not only did blockchain technology reach new levels of growth, but the blockchain movement did also. Many new people have become true believers and see the blockchain as a way to a better world. In 2014, Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood coined the term “Web3,” referring to a new iteration of the World Wide Web which incorporates concepts such as decentralization, blockchain technologies and token-based economics. In 2022, Web3 is alive and happening. Many blockchain-based communities have adopted the now buzzing term and wave the Web3 flag proudly.
Filmmaker Jordan Bayne is taking Web3 to a new level. Jordan founded “The Squad” in February 2021 “with the intention of making a better future for filmmakers.” The Squad is not a project, but a brand. The Squad is a community of like-minded filmmakers who come together four times a week on Twitter Spaces to discuss the technology and how the community can help each other with their projects by utilizing Web3. Just recently, The Squad released a membership NFT, which sets you up as a participant in The Squad and gives you an all-access pass to everything Squad.
Jordan, along with her Squad, coined the term “Film3” in a hashtag on March 20, 2022. Six weeks after that, she was at the Cannes Film Festival when someone came up to her and asked her to speak on a “Film3” panel, without realizing Jordan was the one who had come up with the concept!
When I interviewed Jordan recently about Film3, it was very evident that she works hard to help filmmakers in the Web3/Film3 space, to bring filmmakers into the space and to educate people about the space. Jordan believes Film3 is about owning your own I.P., maintaining your dignity and not letting gatekeepers stop you from getting your movie made. She told me, “Film3 is a desire to achieve,” and that there is a lot of growth to come before Film3’s potential is fully realized.
I also spoke with another Web3 believer, an educator and entertainer in the space who goes by the name FunUncle. When I asked FunUncle what phase he thought Film3 and Web3 were in, he replied, “Web3 film is here and now, and it is a missed opportunity for those who are not applying it right now.”
As a creative director in his professional life, FunUncle has a love for cinema, and thinks a lot of upcoming projects can fully utilize NFTs and Web3. He laid out an interesting concept on how major studios could use Web3 and NFTs: Instead of dumping $100 million on a film that ends up as a flop, they could create NFT collections based on the movie’s concept art. If the community showed interest and the collection of NFT concept art sold out, the studio could move on the idea and shoot the movie. Studios of any size and even indie filmmakers can utilize NFTs in such a way. FunUncle also mentioned streaming sites making NFT passes that would give the holder access to the “extra” content surrounding a film, like behind-the-scenes footage, cast interviews, director commentary, etc.
Warner Bros. is doing something similar with their newly created WB Movieverse and released The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring as a limited edition Web3 movie experience NFT bundle pack. You not only get the extended version of the film but also more than eight hours of special features. AMC Theaters has also found its way into NFTs, offering membership NFTs that come with tickets and collectibles from films like The Matrix Resurrections, Spider-Man: No Way Home and Top Gun: Maverick. Also comic-book giants D.C. and Marvel Comics are selling digital comic books, indie film hero Kevin Smith is working on a comedy horror film to be released as an NFT, Quentin Tarantino is selling Pulp Fiction NFTs and even Paris Hilton has an NFT collection.
There are many ways to interact in the Film3 space. I have entered my short films and music videos into Web3 film fests, most held in the Metaverse, a virtual reality space where people come together as avatars, often tied to an NFT. A community-based project called Story Dao is creating a place where communities can come together to create, contribute to and ultimately become co-owners of the next generation of story franchises. Community-based content is a big utility many NFT communities are offering, or plan to in the near future.
With all of this creativity happening – with the many projects across the board, from comics to gaming to music to of course film – I thought it would be a great idea to start a daily stream on YouTube and Twitch, so I could learn as much as possible along with as many people as possible. As I had anyway been planning to release my film Rabbit Hole using the tools of Film3, I decided to create a new tool, a new way to Watch & Earn while watching the movie. My company, LeftHouse, is extremely excited to share Rabbit Hole with the Movie City Cinema, an NFT/FT ecosystem for filmmakers and musicians to grow their communities and fanbase. Movie City Cinema allows creators to share their features and short films, animations, music videos or music by having their own virtual theater where they can offer exclusive membership club passes, set up their store and host giveaways, creating the Watch & Earn system for their own project.
Rabbit Hole will be the first film to use a Movie City Cinema Film Club Theater. Community members and Rabbit Hole fans will be able to purchase Rabbit Hole Film Club Passes which will get them into the Rabbit Hole Theater, where they will be able to watch the movie while earning the $ACTION token for viewing. Spend your $ACTION tokens on movie collectibles, or use them to play the Movie City Cinema game. There are many ways you will be able to earn and interact with film and music. Rabbit Hole and the Movie City Cinema opens November 17, 2022, on the WAX blockchain.
After being in the Web3 space for the past few years, and now expanding into Film3, I share Jordan and FunUncle’s beliefs that the time is now for people to get involved and that the Film3 movement has a lot more growth potential. How could it not? This technology is not going away. It will only continue to evolve as more people come into the space. Jumping in and growing with the tech can only benefit both the filmmaker and the film watcher. Perhaps you and your voice will make the difference that helps to shape what Film3 is and can be.
Featured image shows Brian McGuire interviewing Jordan Bayne. All photos courtesy Brian McGuire.