What’s Hollywood doing about Web3?

Post pandemic, the stock market, technology industry and the arts have all been swept up by the wave of Web3. The major discourse seemed to begin once Facebook changed its name to Meta in October last year. 

The main discourse that surrounds societal talk around Web3 is what many consider the root of all evil; money. Statistics like the following, attracted media attention; “by the end of 2020, the total market revenue for NFTs was $300 million. One year later, it was a $41 billion business” according to Chris Jacquemin, WME partner and the agency’s head of digital strategy. 

On our Web3 newsletter here at Wishu, we have written extensively about the opportunities Web3 and NFTs will present for creatives.Web3 tech will pave the way for artists to be paid for their work directly from individuals, which in theory will remove the need for middle layers of production and distribution. The digital ledgers created by the impossible-to-replicate computations that form the blockchain will be the ultimate arbiter of who owns what — and they create a digital string that will theoretically allow artists to receive royalty fees tied to any sale of their assets for all time.

The key word that sits centre stage amid this discussion? Decentralisation. Music artists won’t need unfair advances from record labels, stylists won’t need to rely on unpaid work and artists hope to become more autonomous through this model. 

Following on from this, there’s no doubt Web3 has applications that Hollywood needs to comprehend, if only to understand how the next generation of consumers hopes to be entertained and engaged. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are digital identifications that are recorded in a blockchain. They certify an owner’s authenticity and rights to a specific piece of digital content such as an image or a video, or a specific animated character in a franchise such as Stoner Cats or CryptoPunks. NFT holders get fanclub-like perks that might include wider access, early screenings and in many cases the right to create their own iterations of the character or asset they own. That ethos, not surprisingly, is a direct clash with the tight control that Hollywood studios have long enjoyed over content.

Mike Winkelmann is a graphic designer from Charleston, S.C., who hit the jackpot in the NFT market with his digital creations, marketed under his professional name, Beeple. “People are starting to demand more transparency and ownership of their virtual self. And this is the very, very beginnings of that with NFTs,” Winklemann says. “Where people look at this and say, ‘Well, this isn’t a fully formed ecosystem that brings immediate extra utility and value to my life.’ Well, of course it’s not. Neither was the internet in the beginning; it was very hard to use.”

The flip side of being wary of large institutions is relying on the collective power of the community. Relationships stoked through online discourse on specialised social media platforms such as Twitch and Discord are significant and can be meaningful even to name-brand talent.“I see IP being generated in a completely new way,” says Tricia Biggio, CEO of Invisible Universe. The animation studio, which just closed a $12 million round of funding, is working with partners such as Serena Williams, Jennifer Aniston and TikTok dynamo Dixie D’Amelio. At present, Invisible Universe straddles the Web2 and Web3 worlds, since the company relies on big platforms to distribute its short-form animated content. But the horizon is wide, Biggio emphasises.

“Much the way we have been using TikTok to build community very quickly to curate IP and get ideas for the creative, I think we can do that in a Web3 way to build an affinity for our content,” Biggio says. “Web3 is speaking far more to what it means to collaborate creatively, what it means to own an asset and [to what extent an owner] gets to be involved in the creative.”

WME’s Jacquemin cites similar themes in pointing to the potential he sees in WME client Pixel Vault. The Web3-centric content operation is growing by leaps and bounds, thanks not to ticket sales or Nielsen ratings but to hot NFT auctions and microchip-processing power gains. Jacquemin and his team firmly believe Hollywood needs only to strip away the jargon to embrace Web3 as another form of doing business, however radical it may seem today.

“Just like streamers became an alternative to traditional networks, [Web3] is another iteration of a platform,” Jacquemin says. “The economics are quite substantial for some of these projects. This is not spending $5,000 to make a YouTube video. These are companies that want to work with traditional filmmakers and writers.”

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