Coppola-backed FILM cryptocurrency boosts independent cinema


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

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But almost every night, Quinn logs into Decentralized Pictures, an unusual new platform where he can earn and spend his own cryptocurrency known as FILM. Quinn uses the system to collect feedback on her burgeoning film project — a dark comedy set during the Irish Potato Famine — to give ratings to other writers and even win grants run by the site’s founders.

“I’m pretty far from everything here,” Quinn, 36, said one evening via Zoom from her writer’s booth. “So it means a lot that I can find a place where people are encouraged to give feedback on my project.”

Quinn is evidence of a fervent argument by decentralized executives and other proponents that, contrary to growing skepticism, crypto is more than a poorly regulated asset class where people can lose their savings or an opportunity for celebrities to brag about their NFTs. It can have useful applications.

They say crypto could be a way to forge a global community that isn’t focused on restrictive old Hollywood clubs — and maybe even help the industry find the next “godfather” or “Pulp Fiction.” Decentralized, a nonprofit with the participation of the Coppola family of filmmakers, aims to use its unofficial currency to nurture and nurture a new generation of filmmakers who they think would otherwise never be found.

“The decision about what to do in Hollywood comes from small groups of people,” said Michael Musante, co-founder of Decentralized of DCP. “We want to break this open so that the process becomes democratized, so that all these ideas can be tested and developed by new people who now have the chance to break through.”

DCP was founded by several executives from American Zoetrope – the company long overseen by Francis Ford Coppola, director of The Godfather – including Coppola’s son Roman Coppola, producer-director and Musante, vice president of production and acquisitions of Zoetrope. Launched in May, DCP has attracted about 2,000 users, according to executives, with the goal of eventually reaching 2,000,000 and capturing the attention of culture gatekeepers.

“I know there’s some cynicism when people hear the word ‘crypto’ – what’s that worth and isn’t it just hype?” says Roman Coppola. “But we attach great importance to smart involvement of our participants. And we think engagement should pay them back, which will bring smarter participants and build community.

At the heart of DCP is a kind of barter-based public square that proponents say could never happen on an unencrypted website, though some critics wonder why today’s social web can’t achieve many of the same goals.

Most art industry communities on the web today — for example, the writers’ conurbation known as Book Twitter — work solely for the benefit of their participants, who post thoughts and receive ratings when the desire is felt. A screenwriter who wants to make his ideas come back more often can apply for a so-called lab – a postdoctoral fellowship from a high-end institute like Sundance. But labs are so intensely competitive that they are inaccessible to most.

Web3 promises another promise: by gaming and even funding the idea of ​​feedback, it can smear a robust community open to everyone.

The decentralized system works as follows. The site recruits projects – short films, scripts, pitches – for a small fee. Users can earn crypto by rating these projects and interacting with the site in other ways (for example, lending their computing power to validate transactions). They can then use the crypto they have earned to pay for their own projects ― where others can in turn earn crypto with their own ratings.

It’s a self-sustaining ecosystem – a constant recirculation of labor and money that, if all goes according to plan, will provide makers with feedback and agents and producers with market intelligence.

“Think about the depth of a filmmaker’s or a studio’s process of getting a sense of what the audience is thinking — it’s actually during a test screening [after a movie is completed]said Leo Matchett, CEO of Decentralized. “And now we’re saying you can find out how your idea for a horror movie will be played out by women ages 18-35 before you spend a dime on the production.”

Comments are not the only reward for users. DCP also hosts 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 judged by users under a complex system that weighs not only the total number of upvotes, but also factors such as voter reputation and frequency of use. (Voters can even spend crypto to push a script to a more prominent place on the site, though executives point out that this only guarantees more general ratings, not more great reviews.)

Projects then fluctuate up and down in the public ranking. The best qualify for a final round. There, a small group of professionals make the final decision about who will receive the prize money.

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

“We think it’s a much better way to run a match,” Matchett said. “And it’s all on-chain, so no one can claim that someone manipulated it.” The blockchain, a digital ledger, makes every action on a platform public, making tampering with a result difficult to hide.

Young filmmakers say a Web3 approach – or film3, as some in the entertainment world call it – can also help overcome the unknowns of a legacy industry.

“With a lot of other contests and scholarships, you just throw your stuff out there and hope something happens,” said Tiffany Lin, writer-director whose short story “Poachers,” about the illegal succulent trade in California, won a scholarship thanks to to the decentralized voting system. “With DCP, you have more control over what you post and you can also track progress live so you really know what people are thinking.” The site offers a high level of analysis, she noted, breaking down votes by age and other demographic information.

Some who submit to the site also say it can reduce Hollywood’s structural bias. Producer DC Cassidy, who founded production company Diamond Entertainment and produces a story about black athletes in extreme sports titled “Black People Do,” says a platform like Decentralized is pursuing this goal.

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

DCP executives say talent discovery isn’t the only use case. While the FILM cryptocurrency cannot currently be used off-site, Musante said the company is in talks with film production providers to allow it to purchase various production items — allowing users to fund their film, at least in part, with the crypto earned on the site.

Coppola has an even bigger idea. He asks if the entire system can be leveraged to locate talent in new ways. Currently, a producer who wants to find a specific location or a highly specialized artist, for example, has to go through a network of expensive and not always precise agencies.

“But what if you could use Web3 for that? he said. “Whether it’s casting, development, localization or whatever in our industry, crypto and blockchain will allow us to find more of what we need and function better as a business than ever before.”

However, crypto skeptics say it provides a solution to a problem no one has posed.

“With almost every community, the question is what can be done with crypto and Web 3 that you couldn’t do with just money and the web we have,” said commentator David Gerard and author of the crypto-skeptical book “Blockchain Attack from 50 meters.

A talent representative contacted by The Post, who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, added that he feared these changes would benefit not the best storytellers, but those who understood how a cryptography works. based system works and even manipulates.

But Smith, the trailblazing indie filmmaker behind hits like “Clerks” and “Chasing Amy” that released his new film as NFT, says he now sees these tools as necessary in the same way as movie theaters or the home video for a previous generation.

He said: “If you’re an established independent filmmaker, you can go to streamers like Netflix or HBO Max. But where is the up-and-coming filmmaker going? Where is the micro-budget filmmaker going? With crypto and NFT there is already a hungry community. He said he now sees the speculative crypto bubble as similar to the dotcom bubble of two decades ago: one that would ultimately not stifle underlying innovation.

While he waited to see if he would land a DCP grant, Quinn said that no matter which way it went, he already felt like he was winning.

“I come from a working-class family with no connection to the corporate world,” says Quinn, who studied screenwriting but worked at a local dairy in the 1920s. “Just having a platform to put my work on feels like a real turning point.”

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