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Spike Lee: Bringing democracy to filmmaking with NFTs

WABC News anchor Sade Baderinwa and Spike Lee at the conclusion of Lee's talk at NFT NYC 2022.
Moderator Sade Baderinwa and Spike Lee at the conclusion of Lee’s talk at NFT NYC 2022. (Photos by JD Lasica for Amberfi)

 

For me, the absolute highlight of the NFT NYC conference, which attracted 15,000 attendees to Times Square June 20-23, was filmmaker Spike Lee’s talk at Radio City Music Hall.

Why? Because Spike didn’t get weighed down by the plunging price of cryptocurrencies, which cast a shadow over much of the event. Instead, he returned to the roots of why artists, filmmakers and creators of all kinds continue to be excited by the promise that NFTs and blockchain hold out for the creative community.

During his appearance Tuesday with journalist Sade Baderinwa, an anchor of ABC7’s top-rated Eyewitness News, Lee shared his vision about democratizing the film industry. NFTs have the potential to disrupt the film industry – at least at the edges – by offering filmmakers a way to go directly to their fans to finance a film.

“The biggest barrier for any young filmmaker is finance. Where are you going to get the money?” Lee said. “People who believe in you can now finance films through NFTs.”

Technology + NFTs promise big changes ahead

Lee recalled his motivations for going to NYU film school when he was starting out. “The only reason I went to film school was not for the degree, it was to get the equipment and to get access to the crew and the facilities.”

Today, technology is changing the entire paradigm, he said. “People are making feature films, they’re editing on their laptops — the technology has brought a democracy to filmmaking. But it’s still all about the storytelling and how you tell the story.”

Spike alluded to the recent downturn in the space by saying, “All these big crypto companies are laying people off and the gold rush is collapsing upon itself. So I would say to everyone, do your due diligence, do the research and don’t bet the house. I don’t want to see you passed out on the street.”

Today’s storytellers may decide not to go down the same path he did — “Not everyone can afford a quarter million dollars in student loans,” he noted — so Spike has pledged to fund a series of short films from the proceeds of his new venture, The Visible Project. When it launches, the drop will consist of a collection of 3,945 generative NFTs derived from Spike’s debut film She’s Gota Have It. Holders of the NFTs will get voting rights in Visible Project decisions, access to in-person and digital events, and unlockable content.

The Visible Project’s goal, as the site says, is to democratize the content greenlight process for creators and film fans, and to create a valuable use case for NFTs that allows filmmakers direct access to financing and community. “Through Visible, legendary creators offer revolutionary access and ownership of career-defining IP to their fans, and create a new financing mechanism for stimulating independent film. You, the token holder, choose the projects you want to see made, then play an active role in the creation, production and celebration of chosen projects.”

The Visible Project will be a collaboration between several leading lights of cinema. I can’t wait to see how it plays out — and I hope to be lucky enough to snag one of those NFTs when the collection drops.

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