There’s been a ton of buzz lately around NFTs (non-fungible tokens), especially in the art world and music industry… But will the technology ultimately impact the film industry? My assumption is YES.
If you haven’t heard of NFTs before, here’s an explanation from Peter Yang’s blog:
“A non-fungible token is a record that shows who owns a unique piece of content. Creators produce unique content such as images, videos, songs, and essays.”
Buyers can purchase a unique, authentic digital copy of any type of content, as if it were a physical item. In the future, if they want to re-sell it, they can do so for a profit – assuming the value of their item has increased.
NFTs are responsible for the Lebron James video that just sold for almost $100K, and the $67,000 video clip sold by artist Beeple, which was later re-sold for $6.6 million dollars.
They are also making a big impact in the world of trading cards and other collectibles. You can buy and sell them on any number of websites, like SuperRare.
At first when I heard about NFTs, it seemed counter intuitive – Why would anyone want to pay millions of dollars to own a piece of digital art that you could download online for free?
Easy. It’s an investment.
When you buy digital art through NFTs, you aren’t just getting any old digital download. You are getting an authenticated limited edition piece that is sold to you directly by the artist, with a permanent record of the authentication online forever.
Let’s say a painter wants to sell their latest masterpiece using NFTs. They might choose to sell a single digital copy for $250,000, making it one of a kind.
For the right art collector, this could be a great opportunity. For one, it gives them a direct connection with the artist, but more importantly – it could prove to be an incredible investment over time.
As the artist behind the work gains popularity, their authenticated digital art will inevitably go up in value too (just like their physical artwork). That $250,000 digital painting might be worth $1MM in a few years.
So what does all of this have to do with filmmaking?
In theory, it could solve a major issue filmmakers are currently facing with respect to the monetization of their work.
As most filmmakers are well aware of, there is a supply/demand problem with indie films. Too many movies are being made, and their currency is being devalued by the second. That’s why Amazon is able to pay filmmakers as little as $0.01/hour in streaming royalties.
So while it’s become easier than ever to make films, it’s harder than ever to make money with them.
The same thing happened to the music industry when streaming hit, only they were a few years ahead of the film business. And if you look to the music industry today, where are things headed for artists now? NFTs.
Just this morning I read an article on Rolling Stone about how Kings of Leon will be releasing their next album as an NFT, creating a huge opportunity for themselves and for fans. Filmmakers should be thinking along the same lines. As the article says: “The band’s revolutionary tokens will unlock special perks like limited-edition vinyl and front row seats to future concerts.”
Now imagine this…
You are a fairly well established filmmaker. You decide to make a 2 minute short film and sell a limited run of 100 authentic digital copies via NFT. Each copy of the film is sold for $1000.
Upon release, you immediately sell all 100 copies of the film for $1000. You’ve already profited $100,000 from your 2 minute short film.
If you’re wondering who in their right mind would pay $1000 for a short film, remember that what they are paying for isn’t just the film. It’s an investment in an asset that they believe will appreciate over time. They are really investing in you, not paying to watch your movie.
Skip to 5 years later. You just made a big studio film and have reached new heights as a director. The value of those 100 NFTs has now increased 10 fold. On the digital market, each copy of your short is now worth $10,000.
Here’s where things get interesting…
You get to collect a royalty percentage from your NFT every time it is sold second hand. That means when someone re-sells your film in the future, you take 10% of that sale (or whatever amount is specified).
Let’s say that in year 5, all 100 copies of your film are now re-sold from their original sellers at $10,000 a pop. That generates $1,000,000 in total sales, and your cut of it is another $100,000.
Now you’ve made $200,000 off of a single short film. And this momentum can theoretically continue for the rest of your life.
Keep in mind – this is just one very rudimentary example. There are plenty of more nuanced strategies as well.
Perhaps you pull still images from your movie and create a series of collectible posters. Or you release a secret director’s cut of your last film, exclusively as an NFT.
You could even include real-world perks in addition to the digital artwork. Just like how Kings of Leon are including lifetime front row seats to all of their concerts, you could do the same for your movie premieres.
The possibilities are really endless.
Obviously, your success with NFTs is directly correlated to the size of your audience. The more popular you are as a creator, the more value your limited edition work will be worth.
Since most people are buying NFTs as investments, they are essentially banking on you and your future as a creator. If your work is already getting noticed, and you’re starting to build a fanbase for yourself, it will be a lot more enticing for potential investors to purchase your work.
If you are just starting out as a filmmaker and haven’t yet starting building your audience, this is yet another reason why it’s so crucial to do so now.
It should also go without saying that none of this is a replacement for more mainstream channels of film distribution or sales… At least not yet.
As it currently stands, to reach mass audiences with your work you will still need to go through more traditional means. NFTs aren’t a replacement for distributing your film on Apple or Amazon, no matter how profitable they may be.
Rather, NFTs represent a new potential revenue stream for filmmakers. One that they have more control over, and that could generate far more profit than traditional distribution.
Maybe in the future filmmakers will willingly release their movies to the public for free, simply as a means of building up their audience. If they can then convert 1% of their newfound fans to paying NFT customers, they might just fund their next movie or two.
This is all so new and entirely speculative, but I’m super excited to see where it will take us.
What are your thoughts? Could NFTs be a game changer for indie filmmakers?
Leave a comment below.
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Mandy FabianNovember 17, 2021 at 4:30 pm
This might be a dumb question but are you saying you can sell a digital copy of a film as an NFT and still have it available to the public in some way, say, on a Vimeo platform? Or are those things mutually exclusive?
Noam KrollJanuary 12, 2022 at 7:54 pm
Absolutely – how you set up the NFT is completely up to you.
AlexOctober 23, 2021 at 12:11 am
This is very interesting i’ve seen a few new companies starting to go into this space. Have you seen Levelller Media https://leveller.io/ They are saying it’s the First Fan-Owned Blockchain and NFT Entertainment Studio.
Under a real film it looks like “The Inventor,” a adventure film about Leonardo da Vinci. Written and directed by Jim Capobianco, writer of the Pixar hit film “Ratatouille.”
Noam KrollJanuary 12, 2022 at 7:49 pm
Will check that out, thanks for the heads up Alex!
Mike Shubic (@MikesRoadTrip)September 13, 2021 at 7:01 pm
Something just does not add up here. How can there be value in these NFT’s? If you the buyer of the NFT owns the digital rights, okay, I get it, but it doesn’t sounds like that is the case, so I don’t see how it can go up in value.
Noam KrollOctober 20, 2021 at 7:46 pm
I think it can be assessed on a case by case basis. Some NFTs will be poor investments with no real value… Others will offer utility or collector potential, which will hold value in the future. We’re still at the very early stages, but there is a lot of potential.
KyleMarch 16, 2021 at 5:01 pm
Is this how terminator starts?
Noam KrollApril 28, 2021 at 7:09 pm
DesktopCommandoMay 27, 2021 at 12:25 am
Funny you should say that – Heres the Terminator film as an NFT, only the owner of the NFT can see the whole film (it is a free youtube film, however its just to prove the point)
Noam KrollOctober 20, 2021 at 7:18 pm
Bobby PeruMarch 11, 2021 at 8:29 pm
Thanks for the clear explanation of different ways in which filmmakers can take advantage of NFTs. Sorry if the next question is dumb, but still trying to wrap my head around this: Say I find an NFT of a short film on an NFT marketplace. How do I watch it? Can I stream it via the marketplace where I am purchase it? Is is downloadable and playable on, say, Quicktime?
OmarMarch 16, 2021 at 7:43 pm
It works the exact same way as a normal video. You would sent a digital copy or link to download it and a NFT certificate (like a QR code that takes you to the host webpage) will store the NFT on it. When that QR code is scanned, it will take you to the webpage that will show your name as the owner and how many films that have NFTs were made. Think of NFT as a digital certificate of authenticity. Hope that helps!
MarcelMarch 18, 2021 at 11:28 pm
on which NFT Marketplace could I sell a 15 min shortfilm?
LuisApril 1, 2021 at 2:20 pm
Mintable using zil
Noam KrollApril 28, 2021 at 7:12 pm
Noam KrollApril 28, 2021 at 7:09 pm
That’s the best way to do it for sure!
Noam KrollApril 28, 2021 at 7:09 pm
It’s a good question, Bobby. As far as I know, it really depends on the NFT. Since the NFT is just a token, a creator can use it however they’d like. They might pair it with a private vimeo link, or even a public video or physical media. It’s really up to the creator.
paulMarch 7, 2021 at 12:36 pm
This is very interesting and indeed, as you say, could lead to increased value of digital media through engineered rarity much as limited editions do in the art world. I’m guessing that it would work more like first editions with books rather than an art print as the quality difference between the limited work and the mass produced version would be non existent, much like with books. You can’t have a finer grade of .MOV file in the same way that many limited edition art prints use quality papers and long lasting, stable inks etc.
Maybe if you combined these limited runs of a film with a tiered release then things could get really interesting as collectors would then get the first look at a film before the mass audience, increasing the sense of rarity and value even further.
Fascinating idea with loads of potentially industry changing potential. A bit like my VHS tape of Top Gun allowing me to retire early when I sell it in five years – here’s hoping!
Noam KrollApril 28, 2021 at 7:08 pm
Well said, thanks so much for this, Paul. And here’s hoping that Top Gun tape is in good shape!
Nic JusticeMarch 6, 2021 at 2:02 pm
An important note is that right now the audience that is capable of buy and NFT is rather small (rapidly growing) but the hoops to jump thru to buy that Kings of Leon record is likely for people who already can spend cryptocurrency.
I think it is pretty exciting as any new technology is but it is all a huge experiment right now.
Noam KrollApril 28, 2021 at 7:07 pm
Agreed. Great points… Hard to know where it will go in the future, but will be interesting to watch.
LeslieMay 3, 2021 at 11:37 pm
Hey, I know that guy! Wassup, Nic!
I’m thinking of turning my movie into an NFT. Your name is on it, so… LOL