At the Malta Film Week, experts discussed how NFTs can change film, branding and storytelling

The upcoming technological revolution will offer new spaces to tell and sell stories, but will also bring many challenges and some risks

From left to right: Anthony David Gatt, artist Zack Ritchie, and University of Malta lecturers Joshua Ellul and Ioannis Revolidis (Photo: © Malta Film Commission)

Last week, on Day 4 of the inaugural edition of the Malta Film Week (24-29 January), the ballroom of the Phoenicia Hotel hosted a panel titled “DLTs in the creative industries,” moderated by Anthony David Gatt. The first part of the event saw the participation of University of Malta’s lecturers Ioannis Revolidis and Joshua Ellul, alongside artist Zack Ritchie.

In his contribution, Ritchie stressed the advantages given by NFTs’ transparency and certified ownership, features that allow them to become unique goods, create status symbols and brands (or to strengthen already established ones), setting up virtual and real communities around them, and the opportunity of earning additional revenues through royalties. “NFTs are somewhat better than autographs, they’re closer to badges,” he said, hinting at the exclusive nature of these items and mentioning the example of the Gift Goat, a gifting experience curated by Gary Vaynerchuk and the VeeFriends team.

Revolidis claimed that NFTs go beyond the standard centralised model imposed by tech giants such as Amazon, Google or Apple. He said that when we buy immaterial goods online and push the button “buy,” we normally gain access to a license agreement, but we do not really own these. NFTs, he argues, might change things since they allow users to prove they exercise control over a given item. He also expressed concerns about the legislative problems that may arise while regulating NFTs – for example, in terms of taxation and copyright. Who owns the film? What kind of economic privileges can the rights holder keep after selling a given film(-related) NFT? Will contracts be fully automated? These are just some of the questions the industry will be forced to answer. According to Revolidis, the future will be a most likely hybrid one, wherein the majority of the processes will be automated, but still regulated by some type of light-touch legislation.

Speaking about potential applications of the blockchain in film, Ellul highlighted how important it is to make its concept clear to the wider masses. He also mentioned the need to bring in external auditors or other players who can make it trustable to the public.

In the second part of the panel, Gatt welcomed on stage Stella Friaisse of Female Switch, who talked through her innovative “gamepreneurship” approach, and entrepreneur Olivier De Bono. The latter highlighted the fact that the real strength of NFTs is “certified ownership” and added that the metaverse can be a great place for new and established brands to sell their products, including film industry players: “In the near future, I can see Touchstone or Warner Bros promoting their films in the metaverse. […] The fact that the metaverse allows you to own the architecture opens up endless opportunities.”

“When it comes to the film industry, new models are required and we need to think creatively,” said Luca Arrigo of The Metaverse Cooperative. He then presented one of his projects, nonfungiblestory.io, wherein holders of NFTs can gain access to a star-led virtual social engagement platform that promises “to bring fans closer than ever before to their favourite celebrities and world-famous brands.” The world’s first Non-fungible Story (NFS) is set to be directed by Spain’s Koldo Serr and will star Álvaro Morte, best known for playing the Professor in Netflix hit Money Heist. Holders can access four different tiers and different benefits – from early access content or discounts on merchandise to the opportunity to serve as an executive producer of future shows.