It has become a common refrain that cinemas are dominated by big franchise blockbusters. But whereas this used to be an eccentric concern, now it is an accepted fact. At the same time, we see a more diverse range of talent on and off-screen. Web3 has something to say about both.
A report by UCLA found that women and people of color have made substantial gains in the film industry over the past decade. Non-white actors playing leading roles and receiving writing credits have quadrupled since 2011. The number of people of color sitting in the director’s chair had also tripled over the same period.
The percentage of women in leading roles had also doubled during that time. But the most heartening statistic was that female directors had increased fivefold in 10 years. A statistic that is less than surprising for many film buffs. Talents like Greta Gerwig (Ladybird, Little Women) and Chloé Zhao (Eternals, The Rider) have become titans of the industry in the past half-decade.
But, with the rise of socially-conscious film-making, there has been a corresponding rise of blockchain-based projects with similar goals.
Using Blockchain to Make a Difference
Astrolucha, a utility non-fungible token (NFT) collection designed to help fund films, TV series, and other media for marginalized groups, is one such project. They feel that better representation is needed. In 2021, official statistics said 19% of the U.S. population is Latino/a. It does not take a statistician to see that it does not match what is seen on screen.
“Astrolucha came into existence from the deep desire to see more diversity in entertainment,” says Moisés Zamora, one of the project’s co-founders. “I wanted to create a solution to a decades-old problem: why can’t people of color be the heroes of their own stories?”
Zamora is also the creator of the Netflix series Selena, a biographical series of the charismatic Queen of Tejano music, Selena Quintanilla. A widely acclaimed series that helped cement Quinanilla’s place in the canon of Mexican-American music culture.
Its intellectual property and aesthetic are based on the concept of the luchadors. Professional, free-flowing wrestlers who also double as colorful superheroes. From that concept, they have created a trading card game and intend to develop a live-action series. “Hollywood loves IP, so that’s what we’re doing – IP creation,” he says. “We want to make sure we’re set up for success, so creating a DAO and a community that’s incentivized to collaborate and help each other will help us succeed.”
In their talks with BeInCrypto, it is clear their project’s goals are more reformist than revolutionary. “Astrolucha’s goal is not to replace Hollywood, merely to expand it, and to give Latino/a and other marginalized creators more opportunities.”
For context, last month, in a shock move, former Disney CEO Bob Iger made a surprise comeback. His shortlived predecessor, Bob Chapek, presided over a period of commercial turbulence. Nevertheless, in 2021, Disney films accounted for 25% of the entire film market share in the U.S. and Canada. Because, despite a global pandemic, owning one-quarter of one of the world’s biggest movie markets just wasn’t enough. Of course, there were other reasons why Chapek was canned. But it is profoundly telling that even that metric wasn’t good enough to save him.
Disney share of the US, Canada film market. Source: Stastica.
But, in the spirit of Web3, there are projects whose mission is to level the playing field. The inherently decentralized nature of blockchain can be used to democratize film. In contrast to studio mega-producers like Marvel’s Kevin Feige, film industry DAOs can provide a healthy counterweight.
Of course, the nature of film attendance – butts on seats – is a form of democracy. But we can go further, according to the co-creator of Film.io, Lauren Magura. For them, a decentralized funding structure is an opportunity to build an inclusive decision-making fan and creator community. “Blockchain technology enabled us to develop our proprietary Vault Lock technology that protects your original ideas by recording all entries to your project on an immutable public record,” she says. “Blockchain also ensures fairness and transparency by its very nature, ripping away the curtain that has obscured the film-making industry for so long.”
However, with traditional top-down industry structures, some creators will always maintain a distance from their viewers. By democratizing film via blockchain, we can see films that better reflect their audience,” she says. “Humans are creatures of routine… If a dominant gender and/or race is calling the shots, we are going to see a dominant gender and/or race on the screen.”
Giving Talent Its Fair Share
Although whilst many blockchain projects share similar goals, they are certainly not the same. Austin Worrell, a co-founder of KINO, had a meandering route into the film industry. Classically handsome, he tells BeInCrypto he grew up wanting to be a film actor. However, whilst he was still young, his family business suddenly and violently imploded. “There were a lot of lawyers involved; I remember that very clearly. But I remember thinking, why didn’t the lawyers fix this?”
Driven by a sense of injustice and angered by the mist of the legal system, Austin chose to become a lawyer himself. After studying at Miami University and the London School of Economics, he co-founded ElonGate. A philanthropic Web3 company that took its name from a Musk-based meme. Five hundred thousand people invested, and they soon reached a half-billion market cap. “That sort of gave me the amazing firsthand realization of the power of this new era of digital presence online.”
After a mix of passion, years, and experience, KINO was born. A core critique of the project was that only some workers saw rewards from a film’s success. Others worked just as hard, unglamorously putting the hours in, without seeing any residual income. “You’ve poured your heart and soul into creating this amazing story, and a select few ended up getting percentage points and ownership.”
Big star or emerging actor, cameraman or production designer, blockchain can give you ownership, he says. Somebody needs to defend the middle class of Hollywood. By using a trustless economic system, we don’t have to rely on the goodwill of the powerful. “Blockchain gives the ability for that transparent, immutable, accessible ledger.”
For Many, Web3 is the Best Solution
For everyone BeInCrypto spoke to for this article, unsurprisingly, blockchain was fundamental. In the past decade, crowdfunding has become a popular grassroots way to fund projects. Why do it this way? After all, involving yourself in the Web3/crypto space can be controversial at best. Why not make it easier for yourself and swerve this space altogether?
For many, principles are more important than optics. “The very ethos of the blockchain speaks to solving these problems,” continues Lauren of Film.io. “All metrics of support and funding are stored on a transparent blockchain ledger, offering immutable protection and a transparent record of your project’s growth.”
Tech and principles aside, there is an infectious and palpable ambition in this community. A wide-eyed and sincere belief that good work and good principles can produce great things. “In five years’ time, I want to see a KINO film at award ceremonies,” says Austin. “In some ways, it’s not really about the technology; it’s just another way to make great films.”