Anthony Hopkins’ tech thriller Zero Contact will premiere as an NFT – here’s why that’s such a big deal
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Are NFTs the future for film premieres and distribution? They’ll have a big role to play with fans, believes Cameron Chell.
Stockhead caught up with the CurrencyWorks executive chairman to discuss his project VUELE, the NFT film Zero Contact, and more.
Hi Cameron, tell us a bit about VUELE [pronounced View-lee] and how it ties in with CurrencyWorks. What are they both?
“Sure – VUELE is the world’s first direct-to-consumer full-length feature film NFT viewing and distribution platform. It sits on the CurrencyWorks blockchain. You can think of CurrencyWorks as an incubator – we build tech-based projects, including cryptocurrencies for other businesses.”
Will Zero Contact be the first feature film to release as an NFT [non-fungible token]? Isn’t Kevin Smith of Clerks fame doing something similar?
“To my knowledge, this will be the full first full-feature NFT. It’s certainly the first star-driven film coming out in an NFT format.”
What are the advantages of releasing a feature film as an NFT?
“There are two primary things. It’s a new incremental-revenue opportunity, and it’s a new fan-engagement model. We’ve structured VUELE not to try to use NFTs as a competitive alternative to existing streaming or theatrical releases, but more as an adjunct.”
And it’s a different and unique way to premiere films, right?
“Correct. If you want the very first opportunity to see this before it even gets to theatres, or before it hits the red carpet, then you’ll want to participate in the in the NFT drop for that – maybe because you’re a diehard Anthony Hopkins fan, or whatever the case.
“And the other big side of it, too, is that it provides the NFT holders with additional content related to the film.”
So a bit like special-edition DVD extras in NFT form, and with early access in this case?
“Yeah, so it might not be the exact same movie that’s in theatres – it might have a different twist or some alternative scenes, for example. As well as interviews with the actors or writers or directors and so on.
“It can give you not just early access, but special access. From a fan-engagement perspective, it means creating an opportunity to build a special collection that’s tradable.”
Is part of the idea for VUELE to create a marketplace for film NFTs? Is that the ambition?
“Very much so. If you want to algo trade your NFT if it’s gone up in value or you’re just done with it, you can go sell it off, or look for something else that fits into your collection. It gives you that marketplace, and a community around it that allows you to interact and show off your collection.”
What about the big names in content? Do you see them pouncing on this kind of business?
“I think there’s going to be lots of different players and competitors out there and all doing interesting things with their own twist. But the big content producers like Disney, they’ll eventually have their own VUELE for their stuff, I think that’s how it will potentially play out, but I still think that’s years away as they don’t need to move that quickly.
“I kind of view us as the Netflix of the NFT space. Not that we’re in competition with them at all, but that’s the grand ambition. We’re really looking to go mainstream, and to build scale we’ve decided to focus on star-driven feature films, even though we’re approached about documentaries and independents daily.”
The Netflix of the NFT world… not the OpenSea for film?
“OpenSea is fantastic and the Wild West and that’s where the dollars are, or the ETH, but then you have something like Dapper’s NBA Top Shot, which is a very curated community. So taking the analogy in another direction, I’d see us more like the Dapper, or NBA Top Shot of film.
“We’re a hybrid – we’ll work with and utilise the incredible community that OpenSea has built, to do some of the major drops. But we’re looking for our trading activity and community activity to happen on VUELE.”
Do you see film NFTs gaining strong collectible value?
“For sure, partly because there will be different, unique categories of NFTs. In the case of Zero Contact, there’s one particular NFT which is a one of one, containing incredible content extras and experiences. I can’t give full details on it just yet, but it will have greater value than, say, the next 50 NFTs in the series.
“As for the collectible element with films, absolutely. As a creative art it completely plays into it. We have an innate need as humans to collect – it helps us identify with our past and childhood and maybe special events. This is a very cool way to be able to satisfy that that human requirement. NFTs provide the opportunity to create something really unique around the film experience.”
How many of the Zero Contact NFTs will VUELE be releasing?
“Initially there will be 11. The one of one, which is the ultimate NFT, and then 10 others below that with varying degrees of uniqueness and appeal. Then there will be, what I’d call more consumer-type NFTs but still offering something unique. There might be 1000 of those, for example.”
You said VUELE sits on the CurrencyWorks blockchain, but does that have any other core underlying tech?
“Yeah, our blockchain is built with Polkadot Substrate technology.”
What led you past Ethereum and other competitors to Polkadot?
“We just have a lot of confidence in Polkadot’s cross-chain capabilities. For a trading environment, it’s so important to have interoperability between different blockchains.
“Of course, Ethereum is where most of the NFT-trading action is happening right now. And there’s a big future for it on Ethereum. We’re huge Ethereum fans, but we’re considering things like gas fees and certainty around the tech roadmap.
“With Polkadot, we feel we landed on the level of certainty we needed in an underlying tech stack for our blockchain.”
Zero Contact‘s plot doesn’t involve crypto, but Anthony Hopkins plays a “tech titan” called Finley Hart. Is he across crypto at all? Does he own any Dogecoin?
“Ha, I haven’t spoken with him specifically on it, that’s been Rick’s job [Rick Dugdale, VUELE co-head and Enderby Entertainment CEO].
“But he’s been very supportive of what we’re doing with it all, he loves innovation and loves how the film was shot – the gutsiness to do it during COVID, all of that type of stuff.
“Without saying any more than I can say, I predict this won’t be the only NFT initiative that you see Anthony Hopkins involved with.”
Can you tell us a bit more about the partnership with Enderby Entertainment?
“Yeah, VUELE is joint venture between CurrencyWorks and Enderby, which produced and directed the film. And that’s an ongoing partnership. Rick and I have been friends for quite some time, and we’ve been talking for years about where and how blockchain will impact the film industry.
“Enderby is super key to this, because getting that first film, especially with Anthony Hopkins after he’s just won the Academy Award, it really drives the credibility. Rick produced and directed the film, so he brings all these assets to the table.”
So you own the rights to the film?
“Well that’s the other really important part about this. Getting the first film done is really complex, what with the personality rights, the IP rights and branding rights and figuring out all the different players and where they fit. So what we did in this case is, we just bought the film, and so own all the rights.
“And that’s why we’re able to do what we’re doing with this, because it’s never been done before. It’s a very luxurious spot to be in.
“We can make all the mistakes we want, all the screw-ups, and then come out of it when we talk to studios with: ‘Okay, this is what we learned, this is how it unfolded, and this is what we bring to the table.'”
Are Hollywood studios watching how this NFT release pans out?
“I haven’t talked to every studio out there, but it feels like every studio has talked to us, and has eyes on how this is going to work. There’s definitely genuine interest in it.
“And, you know what’s interesting about this is that Dapper Labs [of FLOW blockchain and NBA Top Shot fame] did a financing round, two rounds ago, and I think they did it at a $2.3 billion valuation and raised about $300 million. And purportedly over half of that money came from Hollywood. The other half came from a combination of VCs and the sporting world.
“So when we got that stat, we knew straight away that Hollywood was going to get this.”
Maybe our heads are stuck in this space too much, but are we at the beginning of an NFT revolution here?
“I see them as part of the blockchain revolution. So, like how email was the first killer application for the internet… for blockchain, the first killer app was cryptocurrencies. And I think the second killer app is NFTs in the form of digital collectibles.
“But NFTs will end up being much broader than that. They’ll drive down into contract management, legal documents and so much more – the sky’s the limit.”
VUELE doesn’t play into the decentralised, cut-out-the-middleman crypto narrative so much, does it?
“You know, that’s not something that’s resonant for us, although we’ve been criticised a bit too much for that. But we’re not purists in that regard. I’m more in love with the efficiency of blockchain as opposed to the philosophy of crypto and cutting out the middleman and that stuff.
“A lot of the crypto community is very anti-establishment, railing against the man, but the way I see it, most of the regulations crypto’s concerned about… they weren’t put in place to control, they were put there as consumer protections. That’s my account of the history.”
SEC Chairman Gary Gensler would agree with you.
“Or I’d agree with him. The reason that stock exchanges have so many rules, and the reason that there’s the Consumer Protection Agency and act, and money-transmitter licences, KYC, AML, and all the rest of it, was to protect the consumer and give them confidence that they can actually transact in this way.
“We’ve always taken the view that crypto is gonna go mainstream, but it’s also going to move more to the centre in order to get there. And that’s just the economic reality of what I think will happen.”
Got any other film or video projects in the pipeline?
“Yeah, we sure do. We have a line-up of star-driven film projects that we’re working on already – building the right content and marketing and all the rest as a follow up to this.
“Certainly part of what will hopefully be the success of VUELE is not just having the right content, but enough content. So we’re very active in that regard.”
Are there any plans to tokenise? Will we be seeing VUELE on CoinMarketCap any time soon?
“No, it’s not on the roadmap at this point, not that it hasn’t been in discussion. It’s a more likely discussion for CurrencyWorks, but probably not in the next year or so.”
Is there anything else you want to tell our readers about before we sign off?
“Well maybe just that CurrencyWorks is a publicly traded company – CWRK is the symbol [current market cap: 31.17 million, +27.91% YTD]. We certainly think it’s a billion-dollar opportunity.”
The VUELE one-of-one NFT will be sold via an auction process, planned at this stage for the second week in September, with other NFT drops to follow. VUELE will be the first place Zero Contact will be shown, and the only platform on which to view the NFT film and content.
You can find out more about VUELE, Zero Contact and how to buy the NFTs here.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. Stockhead has not provided, endorsed or otherwise assumed responsibility for any financial product advice contained in this article.