A new start-up is aiming to produce the first-ever feature film to be fully funded by NFTs, in a bid to break up the "old boys' club" of the movie industry.
NFT Studios will issue non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to fund the production of comedy-drama A Wing and a Prayer, based on the true story of Brian Milton, the first man to circumnavigate the globe in a microlight aircraft. The joint US and UK production is eyeing an April 2022 shoot in Malta and London, and aims to be the "first feature film intended to be solely funded by minting NFT tokens."
The brainchild of Hollywood executive producer Niels Juul, NFT Studios is part-funded by $1 million in backing from UK PLC NFT Investments; its productions will be funded by NFT drops based on the films on its production slate.
"The NFT drops come with executive producer-like perks, like going to the set for a day, meeting some of the talent, getting swag like props, and going to both physical and digital premieres," explained Jonathan Bixby, executive chairman of NFT Investments and co-founder of Bitcoin mining firm Argo Blockchain.
The tokens will also give backers a share in the film's profits, said Bixby. "Fundamentally, the idea is to share on the upside of the residuals of a film on a long-term basis."
Building a film community
The aim, explains Juul, is to "democratize the process" of film-making, and get "an engaged audience that are also our investors in the movie at the same time." He argued that NFTs and crypto represent the start of "a new era" in filmmaking, distribution, and funding. "It's another step in the direction of shortening that distance between the creators and their audiences."
"There's an old boys' club—or girls' club, for that matter—in Hollywood, that is going to get a wake-up call on this," said Juul.
NFTs represent a shift in the ownership of intellectual property from the centralized studios to a community of fans, argued Bixby: "If you think about what we're doing, we're owning the IP from its inception, that ownership is then translated to the people that are going to benefit from it, the fans and the community."
The Film industry and NFTs
The film industry has not been slow to seize on the potential of NFTs—cryptographically unique tokens that can be used to prove ownership of content such as art, music, or video.
Film studios have released NFTs to tie in with blockbusters including Dune and Spider-Man: Far From Home, while a recent spat between Miramax and director Quentin Tarantino over the latter's plans to launch NFTs based on his film Pulp Fiction illustrate the importance that Hollywood players attach to the emerging technology.
Meanwhile, as NFT projects such as CryptoPunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club boom in popularity, their creators have rushed to secure representation for potential film and TV projects. And some pioneers have even attempted to distribute films as NFTs.
For NFT Studios' part, they're focusing on getting A Wing and a Prayer off the ground. But they have grander ambitions. "I have about nine projects that are sitting in the pipeline waiting for these sorts of opportunities," said Juul. "Some of which are broader commercial product, some of which are topical, and some of which, frankly, also have a nice social agenda to them. We'd like to have movies that have a positive message in the world; if we can do that at the same time as we can create communities, so much the better."