Why non-fungible tokens (NFTs) suddenly made sense to me
Until now, the blockchain train had left the station largely without me. I had heard all the arguments, and was like, 'yeah, I guess so, but it wouldn't do anything for me.' In other words, I had no pains that would have been solved by any of the applications being presented. But every technology eventually finds its killer app for its users, and for me that was NFTs or non-fungible tokens.
NFTs address two very real pain points in the art world:
An NFT creates an electronic record in a blockchain that is considered highly trusted. An artist 'mints' an NFT with an electronic copy of their art work embedded with it, generally a fairly small size file (think 30 meg), which means that even filmmakers can take advantage of the technology if they have smaller works or smaller file sizes they can render. The artist also builds into the token a royalty rate (maybe 10% or whatever you like) that will flow back to the artist each time the token is resold. This part is actually huge, because it takes the scenario off the table of a starving artist selling a work for a few bucks only to watch it fetch millions at an auction a few years later, with all the proceeds going to the seller rather than the artist.
As a filmmaker trying to understand what NFTs were all about, I first came up with the analogy of script registries, where you send in a file (such as a screenplay) attesting to the fact it is your work, the registrar then date-stamps it, and stores it for you so you can prove ownership if you ever need to, issuing you a cool numbered certificate. But then I thought, what if those certificates were wholly electronic, and contained the actual screenplay, and what if they then could be traded and sold on marketplaces as unique collectibles? That was my aha moment.
I decided to try one. It took me a long week of reading, YouTubes, trial and error and maybe a couple of hundred bucks to finally get one minted, with a few funds left over to buy other people's tokens for my own collection. I am the first to admit there are way better people than me to explain the nuts and bolts of how to do it, and I encourage you to find the latest articles and videos that abound that will help you figure it out. I wasn't a native to things like Etherium wallets, so the learning curve was more challenging. Suffice to say, it's not the kind of thing you can do half-right - if you succeed in minting an NFT and getting it up for sale on a site like Rarible, you will have figured it out, and the next one will seem easy!
My first NFT was for one of my early micro short films, "Mr. Sadheart's Small Day." It was a fun and perhaps easy choice to make, because the file size was right, and the film is about a character going on a train ride to an unknown destination. How perfect is that? Also - and this is another hidden value in the token - Mr. Sadheart ends up being an inciting factor in a later series of 30 art films by me called collectively "The Seeker and The Artist." In those films, the Seeker, a damaged piece of code, develops an obsession with a little piece of film floating around cyberspace about a lonely figure on a train - yep, you guessed it, it's Mr. Sadheart. A cool piece of trivia.
But why? Who would buy these things and collect them? I've learned that just because we ourselves may not be the market, it doesn't mean that market doesn't exist. The fact is, for many collectors, these little things are cool, affordable, unique and collectible. Who hasn't collected something at some point, right? It's no different than sports cards, and gives the current owner a little piece of art history. And who knows, maybe there could be a big payoff someday if the artist's work becomes exceptionally valuable. Bottom line, it was fun to try out an NFT, even if it was a learning challenge, and I recommend you give it a try if it interests you! Feel free to check out me and my tokens on Rarible here.
Robert David Duncan, award-winning director, actor, writer and producer with a passionate interest in art, storytelling and the whole amazing journey called life. Founder of Fat Punk Productions and Festival Director of the Miniature Film Festival.