Plush: Can we fund an animated film in NFT?

The idea is surprising, but of course it is a collection of digital teddy bears that will fund the animated film Plush† These stuffed animals will be the heroes of the plot of this movie, which involves Rooftop Production and Karlab Studios. French studios that have already excelled with their animation work on hits like minions Where Asterix and the Secret of the Magic Potion. A rather unexpected story for Gaëtan Simonot, director of Rooftop Production: “NFT was brought to my attention by a client of mine. Until then, it had been a technology used to produce poor quality animated images, but this client wanted to make a different use of the NFT collections, specifically by incorporating 3D animation into them. They came to us precisely by looking for who did the best 3D. It was this client’s colleagues who discovered my work, they were seduced by our portfolio and the work on the series Arcanum”.

To give credibility to the skills of his relatively young studio, Gaëtan Simonot has obtained the cooperation of the Karlab studio, which is already working on the films ofasterix by Alexandre Astier and Louis Clichy, as well as followers† From there, the 50,000 NFT coins that were kept for the collection were born. Each potential buyer must spend $1,250 to get their hands on a teddy bear, with a look and outfit generated randomly by an algorithm and kept secret prior to purchase.

A major technical challenge: deadlines

The film is slated for a Christmas 2023 release and aims for particularly short production times. No wonder, then, to see that the highly influential voice cast is already starting to promote the film on social networks. Whether it’s established actors like Gérard Darmon or Kev Adams, singers like Gims or Dadju, or internet stars like videographer Ludovik or streamer Doigby, they’ve all passed on that film and NFT collection on their personal accounts.

Gaetan Simonot explains: “Illuminart is a company based abroad and focused on creation. So they made the designs for us and took care of the marketing. But since they don’t do 3D, that’s where we come in. Thanks to their connections in the cinema, this project gets a real exposure, much higher than I expected”. An exhibition that goes hand in hand with real creative freedom. Indeed, apart from some promotional aspects such as orientations for the voice cast, Gaëtan Simonot assures us: creatively, the studio had free rein. “How long are we not trusted as artists?” makes the director of Rooftop Production enthusiastic.

Laurent Guittard, director of Karlab, is also quite taken with the horizon of possibilities that he says opens up with this technology: “At Karlab we are mainly looking for projects with which we can express ourselves artistically. This is not the first NFT project that has been offered to us, but the previous one had no soul, it was a hell where the sole aim was to make a quick profit. Karlab quickly disengaged and we continued on. There I find a real interest in the project, which seems much more serious than many of the soulless projects that have been thriving on the internet for over a year. We are convinced that this is a technology that will count in the future, and that it can provide a nice playground!”

The main contribution of NFTs: the film’s co-producing audience

However, there is one aspect of the production where the animators don’t have complete control: any purchaser of one of the NFTs becomes a de facto co-producer of the film. He gets a share of the film’s revenue, 80% of which goes to the co-producers, as well as the ability to influence the script. If at first glance the proposal may seem like a screenwriter’s nightmare, Laurent Guittard puts the impact of the proposal on his work into perspective: “At least you can’t start animating a scene without having some characters, but also without being ready for the script. There are therefore necessarily fixed dates for each series, which are necessary for its realization.” So get it right: the different periods during which the public can vote to determine the orientations they want to give to the screenplay will therefore be organized in an order that allows the animators to start with a defined plan.

“There is already a certain narrative skeleton, says Gaetan Simonot† What will strengthen public opinion are certain details in the scenario: more espionage? An impossible love story? The influence in question will be thematic: as a father, I would like to ask the producers of the next popular animated film to talk about environmental issues, for example.” The interest of the audience is to maintain a role with certain restrictions, the animators can explain in a more educational way the field in which they operate and thus guarantee to their hundreds of co-producers that they will not affect the visual quality of the movie. From the audience interaction that the director of Rooftop Production sees moving forward, to the choice of release date, which is obviously a big deal for any co-producer: “It’s also an opportunity to show the reality of the limitations of our professions, to take the public to discover our work, a bit like DVD bonuses, but in real life!” A project that has also been thought of by the producer of Martin Scorsese, who plans to offer NFT buyers linked to his next film the opportunity to come to its film sets.

A project that has something to ask for

However, some professionals in the NFT community have some questions about the reliability of this project. In particular, the financial target of 50,000 NFTs at 1,250 euros per unit seems too ambitious. Doubt is all the more appropriate as there is no legal obligation to refund if the amount is not raised in full, unlike what is done on crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter. In addition, the “white paper,” which defines the rules of this fundraising, promises buyers of these NFTs compensation based on their purchase. A principle that is simply prohibited by the financial authorities in this use.

In addition, the site’s argument highlights the theatrical successes of followers or other Karlab films have a limit: the Illuminart team, which is responsible for the Plush project, has never participated in any of these films. We can therefore raise concerns about their ability to carry out a film project, especially since the agents of the star cast for the voices of the characters have still not confirmed the effective signing of a contract.

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