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Steven Soderbergh Presents Blockchain Award to NFT-Funded Film ‘Calladita’

Innovative film funding took center stage at the Film3 on the Mountain conference, held during Sundance.

4 min read

While Web3 has yet to fully catch on outside of the cryptocurrency space, the burgeoning Film3 category had a big moment under the spotlight in Park City, Utah, on Saturday when "Calladita,” a new film from director Miguel Faus, became the first winner of the Andrews/Bernard Award.

Established by renowned director Steven Soderbergh and the Decentralized Pictures platform, the three-part award provides a total of $300,000 in finishing funds for noteworthy films and shorts, for up to three filmmakers. Faus, the first winner, received a $100,000 check.

“Winning this award from Steven Soderbergh is a dream come true for me and the whole Calladita team and community,” Faus told Decrypt, adding that he believes Film3 is the future of independent cinema and is the reason "Calladita" exists.

Calladita” is a portrait of the Catalan high bourgeoisie, with a mix of realism and satire.

“The film touches upon themes of class differences and injustice from a profound and sophisticated perspective, moving away from easy clichés and caricatures,” Faus wrote in the film’s description.

Unlike traditional films, the team behind "Calladita" financed the film using NFTs. This practice picked up steam in 2021 and 2022, with other filmmakers, including iconic directors Spike Lee and Kevin Smith, turning to digital collectibles to finance films and drive engagement.

“This movie started as a crazy idea in my mind that maybe I could fund my first feature through an NFT collection, and a few months later, thanks to 500 degens on the internet who believed in us and minted our NFTs, we got to make the movie,” Faus said. “To have it now awarded by a legend of independent cinema like Steven is a dream come true.”

With NFTs, film productions can mint unique digital assets and sell them to collectors, investors, and fans. Now, instead of only buying a ticket, movie buffs can own a piece of digital movie history while directly funding the next Hollywood blockbuster.

“What blockchain allows us to do is not only fairly and transparently determine who is most deserving of the financing we offer,” Decentralized Pictures co-founder Leo Matchett said during a panel discussion at the Film3 on the Mountain event, held alongside the Sundance Film Festival. “But it also has this incentivized behavior mechanism built into it.”

Joining Matchett for the panel discussion, moderated by Decrypt Studios’ Alanna Roazzi-Laforet, were fellow Decentralized Pictures co-founder Mike Musante and Rebecca Barkin, president of Neal Stephenson's metaverse company Lamina1.

“The use of the tokens goes back to how do you get people to vote," Musante said. "How do you get them to spend the time to review the projects? So we created a token that is the incentive to get people to vote.”

Launched in the summer of 2021 by Mike Musante and producers Roman Coppola and Matchett, with a $50,000 documentary funding award from The Gotham Film & Media Institute, Decentralized Pictures is a blockchain-based platform where filmmakers can submit movie pitches, paying a submission fee in the project’s native token, FILMCredits (FILM).

In April 2022, Soderbergh funded the $300,000 grant on the Decentralized Pictures platform. At launch, Soderbergh told IndieWire that he was interested in seeing if blockchain film financing can really work. For “Calladita,” it did. The NFT sales brought the film around $750,000 so far, not including the $100,000 it just got in finishing funds from DCP.

While the world may not be ready to buy a monkey JPEG, the idea of direct funding and supporting their favorite creator may be the spark that launches a Web3 and Film3 revolution, creating a direct connection between filmmakers and their audience.

Editor's note: On January 24 at 8 am EST this article was updated to reflect that Faus won just the first part of the total $300,000 film award. 

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