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Cannes: Is the Film Industry Really Ready to Embrace NFTs?

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Source: Hollywoodreporter

At the turn of the millennium, Cannes was taken over by the dot-coms. A fresh generation of technology start-ups descended on the Croisette, plastering the hotel fronts with banners and billboards and promising to revolutionize the film business thanks to this new-fangled technology called the internet. A year later, those banners were gone. The tech bubble had burst.

For Cannes 2022, replace dot-coms with crypto technology and the internet with the blockchain. Crypto and NFT-sponsored panels, parties and events are everywhere on the Croisette this year. Even the lead sponsorship of Cannes’ May 26 amfAR Gala comes from cryptocurrency exchange platform FTX. The tech start-ups crowding into Cannes this year have new buzzwords — “NFT,” “metaverse,” “Web 3.0” — but their promise to revolutionize and democratize the movie business sounds eerily familiar.

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“It does remind me a lot of the internet bubble days, which I was very close to and had a front row seat to,” says Mark Kimsey of Electromagnetic Productions, a film and TV production studio that has made NFTs and blockchain technology a core part of its business model. “There were a lot of companies just doing the gold rush thing, with companies whose valuations made literally no sense [and] a whole sort of ecosystem of bad actors. But the technology lived on, and the companies that used it wisely and judiciously added to their customer base and added value to their companies.”

If anything, the technology involved in this new wave is more poorly understood than the internet was back in 2000. At the base of it all is the blockchain, a computer protocol that can be used to create a decentralized digital database. The blockchain is the digital ledger used to verify transactions made for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Dogecoin and is the underlying code for non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, which can (roughly) be understood as legal deeds for digital goods or services. So you can buy an NFT giving you ownership of a limited edition of Sylvester Stallone-created digital artwork or an NFT that gives you exclusive access to Kevin Smith’s upcoming comedy-horror anthology Kilroy Was Here.

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Blockchain and NFT technology can be used to build full digital ecosystems, including decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs, where all decisions — the greenlighting of a film project, say, or cast approval for key talent — are voted on by the users/owners of the organization, which is then carried out automatically via digital “smart contracts” without the need for human intervention.

If that last paragraph left your head spinning, you’re not alone. The technology is complicated, and the hyperbolic nature of some of the crypto-industry’s boosterism — remember those cringe-worthy Super Bowl ads? — could lead you to conclude this is all just one big con. Certainly, the crypto industry is having a bad couple of weeks as the value of several digital currencies, including Bitcoin, has slumped, and the share price of cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase Global nosedived, wiping out billions in market capitalization.

But even within the independent film industry — a business infamous for attracting hustlers of all shades — there are plenty of serious players getting serious about crypto.

Earlier this year, Steven Soderbergh’s production company Extension 765 signed up to support Decentralized Pictures (DCP), a blockchain-powered filmmaker platform founded by Roman Coppola, Leo Matchett and American Zoetrope’s Michael Musante, pledging $300,000 in finishing funds for fiction features or shorts projects pitched on DCP’s platform. Ahead of Cannes, DCP announced a new partnership with the Gotham Film & Media Institute that will provide a $50,000 award in the form of finishing funds for selected documentaries. DCP, which is a non-profit, claims the use of blockchain technology makes everything on its platform — from submitting projects to community voting to data insights on audience response — decentralized, democratic and transparent.

“Our mandate is to focus on supporting filmmakers from underprivileged and underrepresented backgrounds, to give them access to an industry which from the outside can be very daunting and difficult to understand,” says Matchett.

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London-based film financier Goldfinch, which has backed projects like 2019 animated feature Bombay Rose and last year’s Twist, starring Lena Headey and Michael Caine, earlier this year launched FF3, a crypto crowdfunding platform for indie filmmakers that kicked off with The Dead of Winter, a horror-thriller project from Stephen Graves billed as a classic ghost story set against the homelessness crisis.

“At the moment we are just scratching the surface with the potential of this technology,” says Goldfinch COO Phil McKenzie. “Web 3.0 — using cryptocurrencies, the blockchain and smart contracts — can solve a lot of challenges that we face as filmmakers, as financiers, as distributors and as sales agents. It could change how we fund content, how we release it, how we make it.”

Using NFTs to crowdfund, by offering exclusive digital artwork or other crypto assets connected to an indie project, could be “substantially more effective” than traditional crowdfunding via sites like Kickstarter, McKenzie argues, because an NFT is a “true asset with real ownership” that gives fans a real stake. Using blockchain technology and smart contracts throughout the production and distribution process could allow companies to easily and transparently trace how funds move in and out of a project, “something the traditional film industry really struggles with.”

Some of the more ambitious crypto entertainment projects that go beyond supplementing financing or improving transparency include a DAO launched by crypto film company Film.io, which will let fans and creators invest in and help greenlight projects while earning Fan Tokens, the digital currency used on the decentralized platform, through their participation.

“This isn’t just about crowdfunding,” says Film.io co-creator Chris J. Davis. “It’s about providing our creators with a full-service kind of application to take them through every aspect of making a movie [and] connecting up with like-minded individuals who might have complementary skill sets. So if you need a lookbook or a poster, there will be people who are already part of our community who can do that and are looking for projects they can invest their time, energy and talent in.”

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The complicated legality around film financing — which is strictly regulated in many countries, including the U.S. — may scupper many, even most, of the crypto-backed projects being pitched in Cannes this year. The still-nascent NFT entertainment business has yet to deliver a success story to prove its case that this new technology can be truly revolutionary.

“At the moment people are rightfully skeptical, it is very much ‘buyer beware’,” says Peter Csathy, chairman of CreaTV Media and a prolific commentator on the digital media industry. “People should be very cautious. Be afraid, be very afraid. But just because you’re afraid doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start experimenting. … There’s going to be a lot of crap out there, a lot of people just trying to do money grabs. But ultimately, you will get some real success stories. Because this technology, the tech that underlies this, that’s real.”

Doubters should also remember that in 2002, amid the wreckage of all those Cannes dot-com failures, another company went public, betting the internet would revolutionize the entertainment industry. Its name? Netflix.

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Nollywood production house Nemsia Films announces the first commissioned slate deal with Amazon Prime Video

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Nollywood production house Nemsia Films has closed the first exclusive slate deal for three commissioned feature films with Amazon Prime Video, having already produced a successful repertoire of world-class content such as God Calling, Before 30, and Journey of an African Colony.

“We are very excited to collaborate with Nemsia Films on this pioneering slate deal, which will complement our growing lineup of local Nollywood content for Prime Video customers,” said Ayanna Lonian, director of Content Acquisition and head of Worldwide Major Studio Licensing Strategy, Prime Video. “This slate deal supports our goal to showcase Nollywood at its best, by telling authentic homegrown stories in a range of genres to Prime Video customers around the world.”

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“At Nemsia Films, it is our belief in ‘no gravity for the mind’ that has led us to work with Prime Video, one of the leading streaming services worldwide, capable of delivering our stories further than we ever imagined,” said Derin Adeyokunnu, co-founder of Nemsia Films. “We are tremendously excited about the collaboration and what the future holds for Nollywood.”

Nemsia films was co-founded by Derin Adeyokunnu and BB Sasore, with a strong belief in its ethos – “no gravity for the mind” – which, in addition to their major accomplishments, has seen them become a hub for developing young and emerging talent across every facet of Nollywood. Nemsia creates visuals that have pushed the envelope in African storytelling, from concept to delivery, with the entire production chain, including top-end visual effects and post-production, sitting in-house. Adeyokunnu serves as managing partner and executive producer and Sasore is the creative director, writer, and director of most of their work.

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The first feature in this deal will be Breath of Life, written and directed by BB Sasore and produced by Eku Edewor. Breath of Life tells an inspirational story about life and destiny where one must live to fulfill their purpose and cannot die until this is done. The other two films to come from the deal will be announced later this year.

About Prime Video

Prime Video offers customers thousands of popular movies and TV shows, including Amazon Original Series such as The Boys, The Wheel of Time, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Grand Tour and the upcoming highly anticipated series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, as well as critically acclaimed Amazon Original movies like Coming 2 America, The Tomorrow War, and exclusive Nollywood movies such as Superstar, Progressive Tailors Club, Bad Comments, Badamasi and much more.

Along with Nemsia’s commissioning deal, Prime Video has previously announced exclusive licensing agreements with leading Nigerian production studios, including Inkblot Studios and Anthill Studios, which highlights a commitment by Prime Video to deliver Nigerian and African film to a global audience of more than 200 million Prime members.

Customers can stream or download and enjoy anytime, anywhere via the Prime Video app on mobile, tablet, Smart TVs, game consoles, or online at PrimeVideo.com. All available to watch as part of a Prime Video membership, which is available in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide.

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COVID-19 Rules Violation: Court Throws Out Suit Challenging Funke Akindele Others’ Conviction

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The Federal High Court in Lagos has struck out a suit seeking to set aside the conviction of popular Nollywood actress, Funke Akindele, her husband, Abdulrasheed Bello popularly known as JJC Skillz and 236 others, who were prosecuted for violating the state’s lockdown in 2020.

Justice Akintayo Aluko held that the suit disclosed no reasonable cause of action and was also incompetent.

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Akindele and her husband were convicted on April 6, 2020, by the Lagos State Magistrates’ Court in Ogba, days after they held a crowded house birthday party contrary to Lagos State’s social distancing order.

But a Lagos-based lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje, approached the court, challenging the constitutionality of the Lagos State Infectious Diseases (Emergency Prevention) Regulations 2020 pursuant to which Akindele, her husband, and 236 other residents were convicted and sentenced.

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Joint respondents in the suit are the Lagos State Government, Attorney-General of Lagos State, Commissioner of Police, Lagos State and the Inspector-General of Police.

Ogungbeje also sought, among others, an order compelling the Respondents jointly and severally to tender a public apology in three widely read newspaper publications to other persons/Nigerians arrested, arraigned, tried, convicted and sentenced.

But the Lagos State Government and the AG opposed the move through their counsel, a Deputy Director, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mr. Adebayo Haroun.

They filed a notice of preliminary objection against the suit on July 10, 2020.

According to them, Section 8 of the Quarantine Act, 2004 allows the governor to make the regulations where the President of Nigeria had not made such regulations.

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They contended that the Regulation was made for public safety, public good, and protection which is larger and far greater than that of an individual such as the Applicant.

In his judgment delivered on June 2, 2022, a copy of which was obtained by Channels Television’s judiciary correspondent, Shola Soyele on Friday, the court agreed in part with the government.

Justice Aluko observed that the regulations disclosed in its preamble that the governor made the regulations by virtue of the powers conferred on him by the Lagos State Public Health Law of Lagos State, 2015 and in particular section 8 of the Quarantine Act and that Sections 8 provides that if regulations under section 4 of the Act was not made by the President, power to make such regulations may be exercised by the governor in respect of his state.

The judge held: “This means that the regulations made by the governor on the 27/3/2020 is valid within the context of section 8 of the Quarantine Act having been made at a time when the president had not made his own regulations. The Lagos State Infectious Disease (Emergency Prevention) Regulations, 2020 is therefore subsidiary legislation validly made pursuant to section 8 of the Quarantine Act.

“Contrary to the argument of the Applicant, section 17 of the Regulations actually created certain offences ranging from failure to comply with a restriction order, prohibition, or doing anything contrary to the provisions of the Regulations.

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Section 17 (2) of the Regulations provides that any person who contravenes the provisions of the Regulations shall be liable under the Quarantine Act, Public Health Law of the State, and any other existing law to fine or imprisonment or both in accordance with the extant laws.

“It is of note that section 5 of the Quarantine Act provides for penalties or punishment against any person who contravenes provisions of the regulations made under the Act.”

While commending Ogungbeje for “seeking to protect citizens’ rights from violations”, the judge noted that the suit had “no support of the law.” Justice Aluko added: “In total, I hold that this suit has disclosed no reasonable cause of action against the Respondents.

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Tiger to Auction Pro Gear from Red Star Pictures

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Tiger Group is gearing up to auction surplus equipment from Red Star Pictures, a longstanding supplier of rental lighting, grip and production equipment to the entertainment and live event industry.

The June 2 online auction will feature gear surplus to the ongoing operations of Red Star and will include digital and film cameras, lenses, lighting, grip, electric, filters, and AV accessories. Equipment will be offered in more than 450 lots from top manufacturers including Arri, Black Magic, Canon, Moviecam, Panasonic, Rokinon Tiffen, Xeen, and Sony.

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Specifically, over 50 digital and movie cameras from Arri Alexa, Canon and Panasonic, as well as a large quantity of LED lighting from Arri, Kino and LTM will be up for bid. A variety of camera accessories, and grip and electric gear will be offered as well.

“We are extremely pleased to have been selected by Red Star Pictures to assist in managing their surplus gear,” said Jonathan Holiday, director of business development, Tiger Commercial & Industrial. “Red Star has enjoyed exponential growth in building its rental business through acquisitions over the past five years and by offering a high level of service to all its valued customers in the industry. This sale offers an excellent mix of gear and a great opportunity to purchase from a well-established, quality rental company.”

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