Crypto, Films, and Taking Back Creative Power: An Interview with 21 Million Executive Producer David Lofts
by Liam J Kelly
The move towards initial coin offerings in creative industries hasn’t necessarily caught mainstream attention. Although it is turning out to be a profitable vehicle to generate funds, it still sticks as unnecessary. Do artists really earn anything by releasing an album alongside a cryptocurrency?
From Politics to Bitcoin
Cutting through the hype and looking at the concrete ways this technology can help the arts, BTCManager got a chance to speak with creative director David Lofts. We wander through his political beginnings in England where he attempted to fund his campaign via the Bitcoin community. While eventually collapsing his campaign, Lofts then moved to support the Labor Party and is currently exploring the disruptive ways cryptocurrencies and technology can help take back the creative industry.
Lofts and his partner Nick Ayton are now lancing a film project called “21 Million–Children of Satoshi,” all of which will be funded via their “21M” token. While the token has surged to $2.50 on Cryptopia since the end of the ICO, the partnership only holds ten percent of the 75 million issue and are locked in for “18 months from the issue date.”
Outside of the personal project, Lofts is convinced that it’s only a matter of time before the monoliths of the movie and music industry step down.
Interview with David Lofts
When and how did you hear about bitcoin and the tenants of decentralization?
I first became aware of Bitcoin in early 2014, by way of Max Keiser. Max was an early evangelist, and I was involved in Left Wing British politics at the time. George Galloway’s show Sputnik used to follow the Kaiser Report on RT–George was my Party leader.
So my first real involvement in the Bitcoin movement was an attempt to fund my campaign as Respect Party MP for Hastings & Rye from within the BTC community.
An early political ICO if you like!
When I [realized] my campaign was only likely to get around [five percent] of the vote I pulled out and put my efforts behind the [Labor] Party candidate in order to try to oust Amber Rudd (Now Home Secretary and a rabid One-Percent-er), but sadly it wasn’t to be.
It’s not all bad though, as it got me fully engaged in Bitcoin and the concept of [decentralization], although I didn’t fully appreciate the huge impact that [decentralization] could have on business, particularly the music business, and the world at large, until the following year.
Was the immediate reaction to consider the entertainment industry? I’m specifically referring to your background as a writer and musician.
Absolutely. I was blown away and totally inspired when I saw what Imogen Heap was trying to do by [decentralizing] the music industry with Mycelia and Ujo Music and I’m thrilled to be actively involved in Imogen’s project today. The idea that artists can take control of their own destinies with Blockchain is the biggest leap forward for creative people since the dawn of the 4-Track cassette Portastudio and the Camcorder!
There are a whole range of Blockchain opportunities for the creative community, from freelance graphic designers to musicians (Music Coin is one of my current [favorite] projects) and the LiveTree crowdfunding platform and Blossom – both of which I’m actively involved in as an investor and an advisor, which may well turn out to be the world’s first proper [decentralized] Video on Demand platform, possibly even ahead of Singular DTV’s Ethervision.
Creative people generally tend to get exploited and abused by big corporations like Spotify and Google. Blockchain gives us the opportunity to take back control!
For example, 21 M is using a fantastic Blockchain crewing agency, Big Couch, to provide crewing services.
What makes cryptocurrencies so advantageous to funding projects like “21 million?”
It’s not so much the cryptocurrency, it’s the underlying technology that makes it so attractive. And it’s the use of the technology to control Rights Management and attribution for the creative people involved that makes a project successful.
Some projects have failed abysmally – take the Braid movie project for example. It targeted an ICO raise of $1.7 million and closed its ICO at around $95,000, even with the Ethereum luminary Joe Lubin as part of the core team. I suspect the fact that it hit its raise target after the ICO closed has more to do with Mr. Lubin’s personal wealth than the project’s veracity.
The main problem was that it just wasn’t using Blockchain. It was a horror movie that had nothing to do with Blockchain or Crypto. ICO was just a crowdfunding method, and the community is smarter than that.
If you have a genuine Blockchain use case attached to a project, you have a chance, although the ICO environment has now thankfully matured a little.
But if you’re just pandering to Blockchain, the community will see straight through the hype.
How would you explain the project to people who’ve never head of it before?
21 Million is an action/drama TV series that sets out to tell the Bitcoin story and position Bitcoin & Blockchain as a force for good.
We wanted to tell the story before Hollywood got hold of it and cast Tom Cruise as Satoshi and Bruce Willis as Hal Finney and made them out to be some kind of terrorists or bad guys to be hunted down by Trump’s White House lackeys.
On top of this our Blockchain use case is at the forefront of everything we’re doing.
21 Million will pay cast & crew in fiat currency in the same way as a normal production would. In addition to that, everyone involved gets a share of the 21M coin we hold for cast & crew. So if the director gets [five percent] of the overall crew budget, he (Actually ‘She’ – but more of that later) gets [five percent] of the token issue.
Same goes for the actors, and even the catering team.
This way, when people pay to watch our content, a smart contract distributes the GROSS REVENUE (Not non-existent net profit) to every token holder.
Our contributors get 50 [percent] and the cast [and] crew get 30 [percent] shared between them – forever. That’s how Hollywood should work, but instead it rips off the artists, the writers and the crew in favour of giving people like Harvey Weinstein all the money, and the seeming impunity to get away with whatever the hell they like. This has to stop, and I’m completely stoked that I’m leading the charge, along with my partner [Nick Ayton].
While I’m on the Weinstein tip, it’s also worth mentioning that we’re pioneering equality & diversity in everything we do. The idea that a male actor should earn more than a female actor for delivering the same number of lines is an absolute anachronism. It’s a joke. The same goes for a white camera operator in London getting paid more than an Asian camera [operator] in Mumbai. Skill are skills. We won’t do that. And I’m also really proud to have a very heavily biased female team, with some truly great women creatives in pretty much every senior role on the production team, including our Director.
Part of this was because the story is very heavily character driven, and I believe I’ll get more sensitive and accurate character portrayals using women than men.
The Hollywood model sucks. It’s time it changed!
The funding of “21 Million” runs similar to an ICO, through the “21M Coin;” what cryptocurrencies do you accept in exchange? Why did you choose these for exchange purposes?
Technically we were funded by a traditional ICO, and we sold our 21M tokens (ERC20) for Ethereum. The choice wasn’t really ours, it was down to the platform we used to manage the sale for us – a process which we found incredibly stressful. So much so that Nick [and] I have now set up our own ICO funding platform, Chainstarter, to help other founders launch [and] manage their ICOs more efficiently.
Something interesting too that I noted was the decentralized nature of the story line. Could you explain that a little bit more? Do you think this could serve as a model for other film projects? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this model?
[Decentralization] in production is all about fairness and realism. Hollywood will go to Mumbai or Kabul and make them look like Hollywood. Everything’s whitewashed.
We’re using local people wherever we go because a crew in Moscow will give us Moscow. Russian people will see the Moscow they know and hear the language they know too.
I’m generally appalled by the bad Russian translations I hear in films & on TV. The actor says one thing in Russian and it’s translated to something else entirely!
We want to be genuine, and to use local knowledge to paint a picture of countries as they really are – not the way that some studio mogul or executive producer wants to show them to the rest of the world.
It’s as much to do with being genuine as it is anything else, but I also feel that teams of creatives in different world markets should get the opportunity to have their work seen on a global stage, and a ‘Western’ production can often do that, if it’s willing to, where domestic output from Kabul or Beijing will only ever be seen locally. We’re trying to provide a world stage for diverse creative talent.
This means devolving responsibility for what we look & feel like to a degree. But control is only an illusion anyway!
I don’t see a downside!
Outside of the film and TV industry, how could artists in general benefit from cryptocurrencies and the ICO funding scheme?
There are a whole range of emerging businesses that are already doing great things. Art galleries are now attributing share of future sales revenues back to originating artists by using Blockchain to ratify and contract rights [and] royalties from future sales, the live music economy is being overhauled by Blockchain – Viberate and Imogen Heap’s Mycelia [organization] are doing great things here.
Even I, in my small evangelical way, have turned a few people on to crypto [and] Blockchain, including my friends YOUTH (The 21 Million Music Supervisor) and Pink Floyd bassist Guy Pratt, who I’m helping with ICO funding for a film project that will hopefully follow the 21 Million Blockchain distribution model.
A genuine Blockchain use case is essential, and as more and more creative people get engaged and understand how liberating Blockchain can be for the creative arts, the sooner the monolithic dinosaur labels and corporations will have to move aside.
If anyone in the creative arts wants help with a blockchain project or an ICO, I’m only too glad to help – assuming I have the bandwidth!