Coming soon to a theater near you: blockchain

By | 3 minute read | April 24, 2018

Mitzi Peirone's “Braid” is the first film to get full blockchain-based funding.

Mitzi Peirone was excited to start making her first feature film, a psychological thriller set in a creepy mansion. But like any filmmaker, she first had to figure out how she was going to pay for it.

None of the traditional funding options, however, looked good, Peirone said at a panel at the Tribeca Film Festival, where her film, “Braid,” made its debut. The most obvious route was to go through a production studio. When she approached one, however, she was told she’d have to simplify her script to get a green light. The alternative was to ask her family and friends for money, but Peirone said they probably couldn’t provide enough to sufficiently fund the film anyway.

“I was facing either seeing my creative freedom taken away or not having enough money to make [the film],” she said.

And then, in 2015, Peirone discovered another option: blockchain.

Last summer, Peirone launched a token sale on blockchain-based equity crowdfunding platform WeiFund with the goal of raising at least $1.4 million for her film. Token holders would recover their investments, plus 15 percent interest and a proportional share of 30 percent of the film’s profits. Both parties would agree to a decentralized, immutable ledger tracking all financial transactions.

“We had to fight off a lot of skepticism,” she said. “Anything that goes against regular business models is always a risky thing.”

The risk paid off. The crowdsale, Perione said, hit its goal in two weeks.

A blockchain-based equity crowdfunding model, Peirone said, is a win-win for businesspeople and artists alike. In this model, people who contribute money to films are not just donors providing favors, but investors who have a financial incentive to help the project succeed. Filmmakers meanwhile, can get funding without making undue artistic compromises. And with blockchain, all parties see more transparency and more efficient spending.

“Every single person in this industry plays a very important role. But the problem with all these people is they’re all operating in silos. And that’s where money is constantly being taken away from filmmakers and creatives who deserve it,” said Daniel Hyman, the VP of Entertainment Finance and Development at the blockchain-based digital content distribution and management platform SingularDTV.

“Braid” is the first film to get full blockchain-based funding. But it won’t be the last to use the technology, Hyman said. In June, another indie film, “No Postage Necessary,” will be distributed through Vevue, a peer-to-peer video network app running on the Qtum blockchain platform. It will also be available to purchase using cryptocurrency.

“There are many advantages to blockchain distribution, including immutable proof of intellectual property rights, transparent royalty payments, and, since all data on the blockchain is resistant to duplication, we can now envision a world where films are no longer pirated,” Jeremey Culver, the film’s writer, director and producer said in a release.

As a tool for decentralized information sharing, blockchain has many exciting applications across the media and entertainment industry. In the music world, for instance, leaders like Benji Rogers are advocating for a decentralized blockchain-based ledger that can solve problems of ownership, payments and transparency in the industry. IBM, meanwhile, believes blockchain can transform everything from telecommunications to advertising.

“The whole point of blockchain… is to make the supply chain visible to all the participants so everyone can get compensated for what they contribute,” Peter Guglielmino, the CTO for IBM’s Media & Entertainment Industry, said at the panel.

While blockchain is just beginning to change the film world, Peirone is eager to share her experience with the technology, in the hope that fellow filmmakers will follow her example and bring change to the industry.

“If we can enable independent artists to truly follow their heart, to follow what they think is worth portraying instead of having to fall back into established algorithms of storytelling we’ve seen over and over, we can reestablish an entertainment industry we want to see,” Peirone said.