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EFM Horizon explores blockchain in motion


- BERLIN 2019: In continuation of a discussion which began last year, the EFM hub held an interactive session on the practical and direct challenges linked to this new technology

EFM Horizon explores blockchain in motion
Cinezen CEO Sam Klebanov presents its start-up application to the attendees at EFM Horizon (© EFM)

Without a doubt, blockchain is the new hot topic for all tech-driven markets, and, as expected, the second day of European Film Market’s EFM Horizon hub was dedicated to this very subject. Following up on the interest which first emerged during last year’s hub, an interactive session held on Saturday 9 February, and co-designed by FilmChain, sought to enhance the accessibility of this still-emerging technology.

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This hands-on event shed light on the use and the application of blockchain in its current, “traditional” form. Manu Guddait, the coordinator of EFM Horizon, opened the session by insisting that blockchain will have operational applications in film, but that there are still a number of challenges which need to be overcome.

Jordan McGarry, head of Talent Development and Production at Film London, was interviewed by FilmChain’s co-founders, Maria Tanjala and Irina Albita. As former curator at Vimeo, McGarry mentioned the importance of data and how the information it provides to the industry and creators allows them to answer certain questions, such as why certain films work or what people are watching. She stressed the importance of changing the current modus operandi, arguing that a culture which only promotes established sVODs can’t be the only way to bring new films to market. There are still films which are “waiting to be made” and the industry should connect these two mega-budget and micro-budget worlds.

Focusing on micro-budgeting, a question was raised over the efficiency of the industry for new filmmakers, who are forced to have greater control over all aspects of the process. Jim Cummings, who directed, co-funded, wrote, starred in and edited his debut, Thunder Road, while also taking care of distribution, is an exceptionally successful case. The main difference as regards the American market where Cummings was working, is that the EU provides support to emerging filmmakers to ensure sustainability in their careers. Even if the technology in question is still in an abstract form, blockchain could be a gamechanger in this respect, because it offers filmmakers the levels of control and, more importantly, the transparency that they require. McGarry also commented on the Microwave funding scheme that Film London is utilizing to support feature-length and short films of minimal budget. It is currently supported by the BFI and the BBC but aims to open itself up to other possible funders.

Manuel Badel of Badel Media presented the results of his research into blockchain technology. As the market is divided between sceptical distributors, who prefer a more mature and sustainable system, and optimistic, younger creators, who are focused on financial performance and generating revenue, blockchain has two main goals: increasing control and increasing efficiency. This will be achieved through its key features: Transparency, whereby distributors are given access to blockchain’s network of validated data, and Automation, which is generated via Smart Contracts stored within the technology. Other suggested solutions for these challenges are the transfer of value through disintermediation, micro-value exchanges, and a ledger which places digital identity at the heart of the conversation. Finally, new models are set to emerge as a result of tokenization - the process by which the uses and rights associated with an asset are “encapsulated” on a token, via a smart contract, in order to allow for the management and exchange of this asset within blockchain infrastructure. In short, it refers to the digitisation of rights associated with any media content.

At the close of the session, participating guests took part in a role-play, acting as blocks in a blockchain sequence and demonstrating the afore-mentioned features of the technology. Next, start-ups attending the event who actively use Blockchain - Cinezen, MinersINC, Resonate, Welt der Wunder TV, White Rabbit and of course FilmChain - had a chance to introduce themselves to the audience and give demonstrations of their existing products to smaller groups. Finally, each table was able to discuss aspects of the funders’ technologies directly with the latter.

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