The greatest empires over the course of history have come and gone — the Romans, Greeks, Babylonians, Mongols, Persians, Egyptians, Ottomans and, most recently, the British. Much in the same way that history has recycled the powers of the world, so do cultural and economic institutions around us fall to the same fate.
Like these empires that governed their corners of the world, Hollywood dominated its own — the film industry. Audiences have enjoyed the fruits of this cultural empire just as they have enjoyed perks produced from other exclusive clubs. It’s time, however, to open Hollywood to these audiences just as an effort is underway to open industries such as traditional finance to the general public. And the same tools that financial liberation fighters have used also apply to film: decentralization and blockchain.
The film industry
Film, as an art form, is designed to touch, inspire and move people, whether provoking deep thought regarding the socio-economic climate or providing comic relief. Yet unlike other art forms, producing quality film worthy of mass distribution requires digging deep into pockets, a privilege belonging largely to investors and benefactors. In the typical Hollywood setting, these investors and their associates on the production side often work together in a limited, exclusive club that consequently limits the inflow of diversity (not the racial or gender-based kind, but the artistic kind).
Consequently, the exclusivity leaves many creators in the dark, who are unable to produce, distribute and promote their projects effectively. That’s not to suggest every film ever conceptualized is truly worthy of the silver screen, but surely, more creative ideas are out there in the sea of film aspirations. Allowing a select few to dictate what scripts are worthy of production, however, is not the answer either, as it restricts the flow of creative ideas.
Consider if paintings were treated the same way films are, and a closed club of investors was to choose what paintings get commissioned. It’s a scenario we would struggle to fathom, but it’s precisely what the current paradigm entails to a large degree. Films may be more expensive, but that doesn’t necessitate exclusivity in deciding what’s worthy.
Changes in Hollywood: Were they enough?
Movements since the 1960s have attempted to break down the high walls of Hollywood, with limited success. Indie films are lauded for their triumphs outside of the Hollywood hemisphere, inspired by movements like the Independent Cinema Movement and its associated festivals. But even these advances weren’t enough to break through.
Even on the accounting side of things, most films don’t make money — as many as 80%, according to entertainment lawyer Shuyler Moore’s insights. Although film is technically an art form and not purely produced for profit, studios still have some financial objectives with each creation. So, if films flop so often, why allow Hollywood executives to be the bottleneck? Let the viewers participate in the same way the masses opened the gates for mass participation in other spaces. And this road is paved with decentralization at its core.
Over the last 20 years, we’ve witnessed decentralization across a handful of sectors, most notably with journalism and finance. As media conglomerates have grown larger and stronger, the debates between John Dewey and Walter Lippmann of the 1920s took center stage over whether journalism should be bottom-up or top-down. Tech developments and the rise of social media networks have empowered individuals to report the news themselves, thereby circumventing mainstream media conglomerates as the only true source of news.
Now, thanks to these major strides in tech, coal miners in Pennsylvania, clay sculptors in New York and teachers in Maryland can all discuss the issues of the day in digital public forums. They can share information and report on news just like accredited journalists can.
Even more recently, the financial world has witnessed the decentralized revolution take hold. Similarly to the media landscape, via the invention of blockchain technology merely a decade ago, citizens could now invest on a platform that rested outside of the powers that be — powers that induced an economic recession. This alternative ecosystem to the traditional legacy institutions, also known as decentralized finance, took off over $24 billion in total locked value invested between June 2020 and January 2021, according to DeFi Pulse.
Decentralizing the film industry
In a decentralized world where the film industry would be, creators could upload their project concepts on a blockchain platform and promote them by interacting with fans and investors. A new decentralized social media app that incentivizes engagement is a model for how a decentralized film platform could encourage fans to engage.
In the same way that decentralized social media platforms offer tokens to influencers when they receive fan engagement, so would a decentralized platform incentivize users to engage with film content on the platform. Fans could theoretically engage with creator projects, voting on which film concepts are most interesting and receive utility tokens for doing so.
Accredited investors could then evaluate the data on fan engagement and feedback and then determine what films to invest in. Via tokenization, retail investors could also be free to invest and receive dividends for their financial contributions. The possibilities are endless in the means to induce fan–creator relations.
In this kind of ecosystem, creators would be empowered to raise capital for the production from not just the traditional channels but from multiple sources. Ultimately, the fans who pay tickets to see the films would be the ones green-lighting projects.
Projects on blockchains may be in their infancy, but their capacity to create change for the better is what will empower many sectors of society for the long haul.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Ian LeWinter is the co-founder and president of Film.io. He has over 30 years of experience in the creative industry and has managed communications in the technology and entertainment verticals. He previously led branding and promotional initiatives for industry heavyweights including Toshiba, Intuit, Tenet Healthcare and Kyocera. As a founder, Ian developed and implemented strategy for ID, which included the identification, engagement and conversion of key influencers for entertainment industry clientele, such as Cox Communications.