In 2010, Kevin Tancharoen shot a short fan film that reimagined the Mortal Kombat franchise for YouTube audiences, hoping to catch the eye of executives at Warner Bros. After a disappointing pair of big-budget cinematic adaptations of the franchise, here was a look that matched the dark feel of the popular video game. Fans loved Tancharoen’s vision, and the internet went wild.
Studios, however, basically balked at the project. Sure, Tancharoen landed a minor web series, but that was a far cry from the well-financed film he was hoping to land.
Twelve years later, we may finally have a mechanism to ensure that the next Tancharoen doesn’t go unappreciated.
Thursday saw the launch of Film.io, which claims to be the first filmmaking Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO)—and founders say they hope to both break down barriers for creators, and let fans have a bigger voice in what gets made.
Here’s how it works: Creators pitch their works to the DAO. If the prospective audience member likes what they hear or see, they can upvote it, using Film.io’s FAN token, or stake the project. Prospective investors can also offer feedback on, or critique, the proposed work and share it with others, earning FANs in the process.
If that sounds kind of like Kickstarter, well, it is. Except that in this case, DAOs are not regulated. If a Kickstarter project commits fraud or can’t build what it promised, it can be held liable. A DAO is much more Wild West. Think of it as a blockchain bank account shared among strangers that operates on consensus.
“Just as Bitcoin democratized money, we’re at the forefront of a massive shift in the governance of the entertainment industry away from centralized power and decision-making,” says Bryan Hertz, cocreator of Film.io and executive chairman of Ingredient X, a film-and-software-development studio specializing in blockchain, Decentralized Finance (DeFi), and NFT technologies. “Film.io is a revolutionary architecture for content creation; and we believe today marks the beginning of a new era of filmmaking and it belongs to the fans and creators.”
The FAN tokens will be used to participate in the DAO. A second token—FILM—is what will be used to back projects, the founders say. That token (which has not yet been released) will be used for everything from crowdfunding to DeFi loans. Studios and larger investors, meanwhile, will be able to analyze the feedback to projects, giving them a potential reason to back the project.
Film.io officials say they plan to announce partnerships with distributors, studios, and film festivals in the coming months, a critical component for filmmakers. Right now, the emphasis is on raising awareness and beginning to gather insight on what, exactly, people who sign up for the DAO are interested in seeing.
“Fan validation is the new currency in determining project success,” said Don Richmond, cocreator of Film.io and chief marketing officer of Ingredient X.
The DAO is a reaction, of sorts, to growing criticism about the entertainment industry’s excessive sequels and remakes. Film and television studios typically gather their research post-production, meaning fans might not have a voice in what they want to see. (There are exceptions, of course. Creators of 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog delayed the film by several months to redesign the character after intense fan backlash following the first trailer. Film.io posits that with fan feedback during the production process, that issue could have been avoided.)
Film.io does have limitations, of course. Fan takes on licensed properties, like Tancharoen’s Mortal Kombat film, would need the proper permissions before they got anywhere; a process that can take several years and typically involves a fleet of lawyers. And, like any DAO, success is dependent on how many people decide to join.
Some of the early projects being featured on the Film.io site are certainly intriguing, though. Confessions focuses on an angel who was banished to roam the earth after committing a sin in heaven. This is Fake looks at disinformation and propaganda in the modern age. And SuperDoge is . . . well, an NFT animated series following the adventures of a Doge superhero battling the evil Fiat Cats, who control the financial system.