Hollywood and Cryptocurrency: Is Bitcoin Ready for its Close-Up?
When Clark Gable unbuttoned his shirt to reveal a bare chest in “It Happened One Night,” audiences were in shock. It was, after all, 1934 and most men wore undershirts. But Clark Gable was one of the world’s biggest movie stars… and undershirt sales dropped 75% that year.
Or so legend has it.
More recent, verifiable examples include 1975’s “Jaws” which brought about a precipitous decline in beach attendance that year and a demonization of sharks that continues to harm the species to this day. There are other examples of movies impacting social behavior, all of which can be listed in the Life-Imitates-Art column. So one must wonder: What does Hollywood think of cryptocurrencies? And how will that perception manifest on the screen?
Indie Filmmakers Take the First Shot
Billing itself as the first film in history to be released using blockchain technology, “No Postage Necessary” is a co-venture by Vevue, a copyright tracking and video exchange platform, and the Qtum blockchain. The effort is pioneering on several levels. After a limited theatrical release, the film will be available worldwide via the Vevue app or at Vevue.com using cryptocurrency as a payment method. The Vevue platform will remove middlemen, like accountants and distributors, and allow for faster more transparent payments to creators and investors (not typically a strong suit for the business aspect of ‘show business’). Additionally, the romantic comedy/drama has a sub-plot regarding an FBI agent looking for missing Bitcoin. Thus, “No Postage Necessary” leverages storytelling and real-world utilization to raise awareness of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology—an impressive feat.
“KevCoin: The Movie” is a British mockumentary that was funded by KevCoin, an ERC20 token on the Ethereum blockchain—though an interview by Paul de Havilland with writer, director, and actor Jason Attar seems to imply the film actually cost £30k cash. Nonetheless, the ERC20 token is a central plot device in the movie, which premiered on June 27th to a packed house of indie film buffs and crypto enthusiasts in London.
Equally innovative, but not as comprehensive in touchpoints, is the psychological thriller “Braid,” the first major motion picture funded through an equity crowdsale using cryptocurrency. The “BRAID” token sale on the Ethereum Blockchain raised $1.7 million in two weeks. The movie premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival in New York.
Enter the Big Cats
At first, the idea of Hollywood announcing its first high-profile feature centered around cryptocurrency sounds exciting, especially with an A-lister like Kurt Russell. However, the story seems to indicate cryptocurrency as a tool for nefarious dealings.
Crypto centers on a young anti-money laundering agent investigating a complex web of corruption and fraud in his remote New York hometown. The agent quickly finds himself entangled in a dangerous underworld of money laundering populated by a mysterious art dealer, a crypto-currency enthusiast turned cyber-sleuth and a corrupt accountant doing the bidding of ruthless clients.
Crypto is not the first movie to be produced with cryptocurrency as a story point (though it’s the first with such big name talent). In 2015, for instance, Dope was released and included scenes with the online marketing of drugs using Bitcoin. But you see the trend: cryptocurrency is associated with money laundering, drugs or other illegal activities.
In all fairness, cryptocurrencies and how they work are still a complete mystery to most people. All they know is that it’s some kind of new technology that has some kind of value to some groups of people—a strange digital asset accessible only to an underground subculture with mostly negative news exposure. And that’s about as ripe of story-telling fodder you could ask for in Hollywood.
What Role Will Hollywood Play?
People fear the unknown, and cryptocurrencies have “What the hell is that?” currently written all over it. Not every movie about it can be a romantic comedy like “Not Postage Necessary” or a mockumentary like “KevCoin: The Movie.” But since Hollywood can have such an influence on public perception, especially on a technology that’s still in its embryonic stages, the balance of messaging will be a critical factor in either promoting acceptance or increasing trepidation.
It will be an evolving storyline closely watched by a growing community whose battle cry is “Adoption is Everything.”