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Martin Scorsese's producer Niels Juul sees NFTs as the future of film finance

Watch: Producer Niels Juul on the future of film finance | The Crypto Mile

NFT film financing could break the monopoly held by the big Hollywood studios and streaming platforms and bring much-needed originality, diversity and creativity back to the movie business, a major producer has stated.

Hollywood is facing a direct challenge from web3 start-ups that harness the power of blockchain technology, and the current status quo could face a wave of disruption in the way films are financed, distributed and exhibited.

This week's episode of Yahoo Finance's The Crypto Mile spoke to Niels Juul, the executive producer behind Hollywood films directed by the likes of Martin Scorsese and Michael Mann.

Juul has produced films such as The Irishman, Silence and the upcoming Enzo Ferrari biopic, starring Adam Driver.

25th Critics Choice Awards – Photo Room – Santa Monica, California, U.S., January 12, 2020 - Robert De Niro and Al Pacino pose backstage with their Best Acting Ensemble award for
Robert De Niro and Al Pacino pose backstage with their Best Acting Ensemble award for "The Irishman", which was produced by Niels Juul. Photo: Danny Moloshok/Reuters

With the advent of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), blockchain solutions and cryptocurrency transactions threaten to dismantle the traditional structures of the art world, global finance and the music industry.

But now the winds of change have turned towards the bastions of the film industry and many analysts forecast that blockchain technology will shape the future of how films are produced, distributed and exhibited.

With the formation of NFT Studios, a decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO), Niels Juul is a pioneer in bringing the innovations of NFTs and blockchain technology to the film industry.

The Hollywood producer explained how these innovations will change what it means to be a film producer, financier, distributor and consumer.

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With the rise of crypto-communities that rally around memecoins such as shiba inu and NFTs such as the Bored Ape Yacht Club community, Juul highlighted the importance of community-driven development of film projects.

He has developed NFT Studios as a decentralised autonomous organisation structure that could "allow community engagement like never before, with participating members shaping and creating the movies they want to see, as well as receive perks for holding the associated NFTs".

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 17: Niels Juul attends Los Angeles Fashion Week Powered By Art Hearts Fashion Fall/Winter 2022 on March 17, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Arun Nevader/Getty Images for Art Hearts Fashion)
Niels Juul at Los Angeles Fashion Week in March 2022. Photo: Arun Nevader/Getty

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The executive producer hit out at the big studios for suppressing creativity and the diversity of ideas in content creation, due to a risk-averse attitude and the fact that studio overheads have swelled to such a size that they only consider high concept 'sure bet' productions, or reboots of material that already has a fan base.

He said: "I've got a lot of producer friends of mine with amazing material and great scripts of movies of the type that would get made back in the day, like Kramer vs Kramer, or the Usual Suspects, or any of these great quality movies that today they have an incredibly hard time getting made.

"This is because the studio's overheads are just too big in order for them to 'waste time' on a 10, 15 or 20 million dollar movie.

"This is why there is a big need for disruption into the film financing model."

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The producer behind Martin Scorsese's hit films, such as Silence and the Irishman, says the monopolisation of streaming content by the big four platforms – Netflix (NFLX), Amazon Prime Video (AMZN), Disney+ (DIS) and Apple TV (AAPL) – is also a problem.

He added: "Even though I've worked with Netflix and Amazon, the four big streaming players are only focused on hunting for the greatest market share.

"So the decision-making of what content audiences can see is in the hands of just four companies.

"Ironically these companies are setting the cultural agenda of the world, so content creation has become a monopoly these days, not only a financial monopoly but more importantly, and more scarily, a cultural monopoly."

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He stated that as the 'big four' obsess over their bottom line at the expense of audiences experiencing a deficit of original and creative voices, a middle ground must be found.

He described the burgeoning NFT marketplace as providing a middle-ground where filmmakers, and creatives, could come together with audiences who want to finance the things that they want to see.

He added: "And to me, that is what's exciting about crypto, it offers a new opportunity, a new way of not only revolutionising the way things are financed but actually also moving the agenda a little bit culturally in a way that is not just being about the bottom line of the Excel spreadsheet."

Director Martin Scorsese poses with actor Robert De Niro backstage after receiving the Sonny Bono Visionary Award for The Irishman, at the 2020 Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala in Palm Springs, California, U.S., January 2, 2020. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Actor Robert De Niro poses backstage with director Martin Scorsese after receiving the Sonny Bono Visionary Award for The Irishman. Photo: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Speaking on this week's episode of Yahoo Finance's The Crypto Mile, Niels Juul explained the role of a producer being mostly about chasing financing for a film.

He said: "Effectively 85% of my time is chasing the money, so as the independent movie finance market has dried up considerably over the last five or 10 years the studios started only concentrating on big Marvel franchises.

"The independent film market got demolished, almost."

He then explained that the scarcity of original independent film content was one of the impetuses to set up NFT Studios, using the power of blockchain technology to try and redress the imbalance.

Jull added: "So in answer to this, we were looking for new ways of financing when friends of mine said 'have you heard of NFTs'?

"I thought this could be a new way of financing movies and a way of creating a community that could rally around a movie.

"So then my partners and I started to explore new ways of doing film financing through NFTs and created NFT Studios."

Another producer who believes NFTs will be incorporated into the business model of entertainment companies is Teresa Potocka, Founder and CEO of Sensethefuture Pictures

Speaking to Yahoo Finance Potocka said: "The deal struck between Lionsgate and Tom Brady’s NFT platform Autograph, and Twisted Pictures underlines the potential of NFTs for owners of intellectual property who can partner with tech platforms to develop their existing IP.

"This partnership paves the way for the horror movie franchise Saw to be turned into an internet game with bespoke non-fungible tokens among prizes.

"Since 2004 the Saw franchise has grossed more than $1 billion at the global box office and it launched the career of director James Wan and writer-star Leigh Whannell.

"Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures will release the next instalment of the horror franchise theatrically on Oct. 27, 2023.

"The production and management company Anonymous Content behind series The Alienist, Mr Robot and Catch-22 became the first to option the NFT for film and television when it signed a deal with former Major League Baseball player Micah Johnson in April 2021 to develop his young black astronaut character Aku."

Cannes, France - May 24, 2014: Great Auditorium of the exit door at Cannes in France, the famous red carpeted stairs and crowd of people waiting at the gate output.
Cannes, France - May 24, 2014: Great Auditorium of the exit door at Cannes in France, the famous red carpeted stairs and crowd of people waiting at the gate output.

Potocka added that at the recent Mipcom content market at Cannes, web3 video streaming platform MContent added the premium documentary series ‘The Web3 Wonderland’ to its slate.

She added: "MContent, launched this year under founder and CEO Umair Masoom, and is the world’s first so-called “Watch2Earn” platform which embraces blockchain, tokens and the metaverse.

"The series is the latest MContent web3-focused factual series commission following ‘Blockchain Life’ a co-production between MContent, Insight TV and Villain Studios.

"The company’s previous original productions also include documentaries and series such as ‘Beirut After the Blast’, metaverse dating show ‘Game Of Love’, ‘Hacking FiFA’ and F1 fan documentary ‘Pit2Paddock’."

Phil McKenzie, Chief Content Officer at MContent said ”We are excited to build on the success of ‘The Blockchain Life’ in commissioning ‘The Web3 Wonderlands’. With the help of Decrypt, the leading web3 media studio, we will raise the bar of the stories we tell from the decentralised community during its most dramatic period”.

Decrypt Media said: “Storytelling and preserving web3 lore is a critical part of building the future of the blockchain industry. Decrypt Studios is so pleased to join with the filmmakers to contribute to ‘The Web3 Wonderland’ and looks forward to continuing to promote web3 education and documentation at this exciting moment in our shared journey.”

19 october 2018 - Los Angeles, California. USA: Hollywood Sign between Palm trees from central Los Angeles
19 october 2018 - Los Angeles, California. USA: Hollywood Sign between Palm trees from central Los Angeles

Pre-sales NFTs that lower the barrier of entry into film financing could democratise the filmmaking process.

The transparency and immutability of the blockchain could give power back to the artists and creatives who produce the content and also bring efficiency to the production process by making the multiple intermediaries in film industry supply chains redundant.

Tokenising movie pre-production and selling NFTs that can give anyone ownership and a profit share in a film could turn the whole film industry on its head.

NFTs of motion pictures could also have a collectability factor and allow owners to become part of an exclusive community of people who own part of a film, they could also have a secondary sale value.

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