Why doesn’t film have a creator economy?

If you’re a writer, a musician, a podcaster—or pretty much any kind of content-maker you can think of—there’s a good chance you’ve at least heard of the “creator economy.” Think of it as a buzzword for going direct, or transacting with your audience without any distribution or other middlemen. (If you’ve ever used Kickstarter or read a Substack newsletter, you’ve been a participant.)

In large part, this activity is driven by financial necessity. Creators have slowly come to realize that the major social media platforms, which primarily monetize content via advertising, are taking more than their fair share of value out of the equation. Less than 1% of online creators have enough viewership to quit their day job, while the vast majority are effectively giving work away in exchange for the hope of some algorithmic stroke of luck.

In stark contrast, the “1,000 true fans” math of the creator economy is allowing creators with a small but passionate fan base to generate meaningful income without wide reach. Instead of posting and hoping, they now have the tools to easily sell subscriptions, tickets, products and experiences. And instead of spending half their time mastering algorithms, they can spend their time making the work they want for the people who appreciate it most.

But this shift is not just about money, it also reflects a larger shift in culture. As awareness of the bargain we all make with social platforms grows, so is a reluctance to accept their standard terms of service:

But what if you’re a filmmaker who wants to “go direct”? It’s not so easy.

In spite of the recent explosion in demand for features and series from streaming platforms and cable networks, a handful of decision-makers still control what gets made and what gets seen. Outside of work-for-hire jobs with little creative control, filmmakers are hard-pressed to support their work without some form of traditional distribution.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising:

As long as distribution is the only game in town, filmmakers have little choice but to play ball.

There are some exceptions, of course. Many filmmakers use crowdfunding sites to finance projects and there are streaming platforms that allow self-distribution. But these tools are rarely powerful enough to offset the investment of time, money and energy that goes into making a film.

The search for greater economic and creative autonomy dates back to the early days of film, and has given rise to some of the most creative periods in the history of the medium. From Charlie Chaplin’s United Artists in 1919 to New Hollywood directors in the 60s and the indie movement of the 80s, there have a been a few moments in film where the “makers” have asserted control.

We believe the technology, economics and culture of web3 are creating the opportunity for another such moment—in an even more powerful way.

While there’s a fair bit of nonsense in its early application (you can fill in your own personal blanks here), web3 has introduced a number of advancements that should really matter to any filmmaker interested in going direct:

These advancements are giving the creator economy new teeth across categories. Mirror, for example, allows writers to sell collectible editions directly to their audience. Royal allows musicians to sell shares in streaming rights directly to their fans. And curated galleries like SuperRare have elevated the cultural status of digital art and turned 1-of-1 NFTs into an economically meaningful form.

None of these platforms value content based on broad popularity alone. All create shared opportunity for the creator and their “1,000 true fans.” And that’s all we need to make a functioning creator economy for film possible.

It’s early days, but there’s an incredible amount of innovation starting to happen in the application of web3 to film — from new financing, distribution and merchandising platforms to individual filmmakers and group collectives who are getting after it on their own.

In our small corner of the universe, we’re starting where most filmmakers do: short film. (On which, more in the next post.)



An art market for short film, launching Q4 2022. Learn more: weirdo.xyz.

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