Julie Pacino: Can NFTs redefine film financing and production?
Filmmaker, Julie Pacino (yes, the daughter of that very famous actor) recently appeared on a fascinating interview/podcast. In it, Pacino shared insights on how she was able to fund the production of a film entirely through the sale of NFTs. Pacino argues that this is a potential way to break through the traditionally difficult funding models that Hollywood operates on.
“Independent filmmaking is really, really hard. First of all, it’s really expensive to make a movie. Even a low budget movie is quite expensive,” Pacino said on the podcast. “There are a lot of gatekeepers and gatekeeping that goes on in the film business, in Hollywood, even in the indie, independent film circle, film festivals. It’s very political and it’s very gatekept.
“That’s coming from me, after I’ve already gotten my foot in a lot of doors.”
The film is called I Live Here Now. It will be a horror film, and has a synopsis on IMDB that reads: “Follows a young actress who runs away to the Madonna Inn after discovering she’s pregnant and dealing with conflicting demands on her body by Hollywood, but she finds the hotel itself has an even darker interest in her body.”
Pacino was struggling to get the finance to shoot the film, and so took a large collection of thousands of her photographs, and minted them into a collection of NFTs for sale on OpenSea. Through that she was able to raise over $1 million, meaning that the film can be produced entirely from those NFT sales.
It wasn’t easy, Pacino added. She needed to reduce over 30,000 photos to arrive at the final NFT collection of a little over 3,000, and that process impacted on her health. “I went to the hospital. I’m not even kidding. I delivered the assets and then I got so sick. I had to go spend the night in the hospital,” she said on the podcast.
However, that was pressure she was putting on herself, Pacino was quick to add. Future filmmakers will be able to do similar things with NFTs, without the same health risk, and ultimately the point here is the film was funded and the most engaged fans got new works of art for their collection. “It was the hardest, most ambitious endeavour that I’ve ever embarked on because I wanted to make sure that the photos that I was picking were good,” she said.
Involving the community in production
It’s not just that NFTs will be disruptive to how independent films might be financed in the future, Pacino said on the podcast. Not only will they pull financial decision making out of a small group of producers, but they will allow the fans to be an active part of the creative production of the film too.
“Any holder of one of these NFTs gets to be involved directly in the creative process of making this movie via biweekly town halls that we have,” Pacino said. “So I’m able to talk through my creative process with the holders in the community. That is the most exciting part for me, because as a filmmaker, if I were to buy into a project like this, I’d want that.“
In taking this approach, Pacino said that she was inspired by the activities and club-like atmosphere of the highly successful Bored Ape Yacht Club. “That’s a model that works within the NFT world, is you create this exclusive club-like experience,” she said. “And it’s very easy to do that… especially for a movie like this that’s so creative and has this very like Alice in Wonderland feel to it. We’re going to just take that and run with it and make this like an in-real-life thing, called the Keepers Of The Inn, everyone that has one of these, you’re a member of this inn and you get special perks because of that.”
Ultimately, Pacino said, it might take some time before NFTs become anywhere near a mainstream way for filmmakers – even independent filmmakers – to finance their work. But in breaking ground and being the first, she hopes that it will inspire others to try.
“We are the first narrative feature film to be completely financed by NFTs,” Pacino said. “And that came with an a-ha! moment when we realised that we can really change the game and we can start to fix some of the things that we’re annoyed about most within the Hollywood system.
“I feel like I’ve achieved something incredible. I’m super proud. Yes, I worked very hard for it. But I also feel like this is just now the beginning, like I’ve gotten the first step out of the way, but now it’s up to me and my partners and my community, frankly, to make this movie really good. Once that’s done, then I think we’re working with a case study that can really change the tides.”
For the full interview (it’s incredibly in-depth and touches on all kinds of interesting themes), click here.