One of the co-partners behind the NFT Film Squad, Julian Flores admits he “knows zero about making films.” Instead, the entrepreneur and marketer speaks to Mark Fielding about the strategies that web3 filmmakers can use to deliver better experiences than Hollywood, and how he's helping Cameron Van Hoy and Miguel Faus on some of the world's groundbreaking film3 projects.
Julian Flores admits he knows nothing about making films. That declaration is pinned to his Twitter profile. But his expertise as a founder, scaling a business, and running teams brings much needed experience to an NFT film community that risks being overshadowed by more agile and marketing-savvy players. And even though he might not know how to scout locations or inspire actors to give their best performance, movies are his passion. Now he’s using his experience to help write the next act of film3.
He’s working around the clock these days. Director Cameron Van Hoy made him Assistant Producer at Flinch, where he’s building a decentralised film franchise. Miguel Faus hired him as advisor for Calladita, one of the first films funded entirely by NFTs, which has just wrapped up filming. In fact, if there’s a film being made, chances are Julian’s input will have been wanted. I ask him how many films he’s been involved with. “I’m aware of and been around eighty, maybe a hundred, projects across film3.” That’s about all of them.
With the inaugural Film3 Summit just behind us, it was the perfect time to speak with one of the leading architects of the movement and see how the NFT Film Squad, the leading light in web3 film, aims to bring more under-represented storytellers, filmmakers, fans and community to film3 – and above all else, get films made.
In 2021, crypto talk had been turned up to eleven. The full Marshall stack blaring across Twitter. Millions thrown around like confetti at a wedding. As a responsible marketer, Julian needed to know what was going on. “The full gamut, from a revolution to a scam. I wanted to learn everything.”
At the same time, he was in the midst of his own creative renaissance. He’d written 40 thousand words of a three-part fiction series and was feeling adventurous. “Now I get NFTs, what can I do in the publishing realm? If I’m going to write this book, how can I build a community around it? Could I use NFTs as part of the storytelling world and create real life experiences for holders?”
“I’m aware of and have been around eighty, maybe a hundred, projects across Film3.”
— Julian Flores
His enthusiasm was jacked by a Twitter Space. Serendipity took the reins and everything changed, a familiar plot twist to the web3 story for many. He found the film3 architect Jordan Bayne talking with Julie Pacino. The following week Jordan was hosting Calladita’s Miguel Faus, discussing how blockchain and NFTs were going to change cinema. The publishing dream was subsumed by something far bigger. Lights, camera, action.
“It was a moment. A realisation,” he says. “I’m never going to be behind the camera, but I love this art form so much, and I’d found an opportunity to be a part of it. But not just buying a collectible, or the DVD. I can experience the behind the scenes in real life, I can own it, and maybe get my name on screen.” And best of all? “No permission is needed.”
The first step was to get involved, to offer help, time, and insight. “Jordan and I started to discuss developing the community.” He collated a list of films and the people involved, sent messages to every project, introducing them to the NFT Film Squad Spaces. In March, in the wake of South by Southwest - where the major studios had outlined their entry into the space - everything came to the fore. It was time for film3 to evolve: it needed a manifesto, a public declaration of philosophy and ambition before Hollywood plundered the movement.
With Jordan as chief architect and Jordan working on the business side, they set to work. It was at this time that the phrase ‘film3’ was first used. From there, it became about building out the Squad and its role in the ecosystem.“By April, we were completely in sync and working on [events at] Cannes and NFT NYC.”
Julian came to cinema via velociraptors. “My mind was blown in 1993 by Jurassic Park.” Cue John Williams. “I was ten years old, I went five freaking times. I thought it was the greatest thing ever.” Inspired, his dad took over from Spielberg and an informal movie education followed. The lessons came with additional resources. DVDs now had behind the scenes, extended versions, director’s cuts, audio commentaries, production stills, cast and crew bios and alternate endings. “I’m the guy who would watch the extras and the bloopers more than the movies.”
But the death throes started in 2005. “I fell out of love with movies because the experience wasn’t there anymore.” Or maybe life took over? “I went into business, became an entrepreneur, and found I could do the most good in marketing.” That’s what he did for fifteen years — until the narrative changed and Julian strode into the middle act. “I love storytelling. As a marketer, launching new products, building a company, pitching investors and raising capital. It’s all done through storytelling, through visuals and words.”
“Could I use NFTs as part of the storytelling world and create real life experiences for holders?”
— Julian Flores
His work started with Flinch and that web2 mainstay of web3: Discord. “There were a lot of smart people but they didn't know how to build a process or a policy. There was a lot of flying by the seat of your pants.” Now he had direct access and the ability to contribute. “I brought personal experience to the table.”
That meant talking to people, finding out what they needed, and turning it into the next thing. “For Flinch I was organising ideas. Here are ten, here’s how you put them into operation.”
“Film3 and NFTs bring those DVD extras to life.”
— Julian Flores
Miguel Faus wanted a web3 marketing strategy for Calladita. “In web2, if I want customers to buy a new thing, I’m going to place ads and copy and blog posts in a hundred different places. Create a hundred little threads. But that doesn’t work in web3. There’s no scale yet. The tactic of building a message and amplifying it across a bunch of channels doesn’t exist right now.”
Web3 has no traditional marketing funnel. You have one megaphone. “It’s one vector. It’s almost all happening on Twitter.” But as much as things change, they stay the same. Web3 hasn’t changed human psychology (much), and the underlying principles apply. Storytelling still matters: Web3 marketing is about building relationships and unique experiences. It’s about belonging and speaking directly with fans. The individual over the many. It’s harder to get right, but creates tremendous opportunity.
In 2008, Kevin Kelly, the founder of Wired, wrote a totemic essay about 1,000 True Fans. The principle was simple: if you have 1,000 true fans who buy everything you create, you can earn enough to live comfortably as an artist. At the time, this was more an aspiration for the internet than a reality, an artistic strategy that the giants of web2 made almost impossible to execute. Web3, with Twitter as today's main channel of discovery, has made it a reality. Creators can curate their message and experiences around direct connections with fans, retain control of their IP, and avoid losing a huge cut to platforms in the middle.
That said, there are still limitations, especially for film3. Competition for attention means getting a 1,000 fans is only the start, whilst engaging them is no simple matter. “When you have a thousand fans, you have to invest a lot of time and nurture those relationships. You have to engage with them constantly.” And there is another problem: there isn’t enough film3 to go around yet. “We don’t have a thousand true fans for a hundred different projects. Not everyone can raise the funds necessary to build a team and create a project from NFT sales.”
“There’s no scale yet. It’s almost all happening on Twitter.”
— Julian Flores
The first NFT filmmakers, Julie Pacino and Miguel Faus, raised the better part of $800k each for Keepers of the Inn and Calladita, respectively. But they are also outliers. Today, the obstacle of requiring Hollywood connections has been replaced by a new gatekeeper: a following on social media. It’s simply not replicable at this time; at least not by many. What’s the alternative?
Julian thinks strategically. “How do we stage the project to first get a founder’s circle involved? Then, once we get them involved, how do we give them some value and then expand to the next circle of folks? How do we create the next milestone in the project?”
Movie milestones, sequentially built communities that grow at each point on the roadmap, leading up to an NFT drop rather than following a drop built on hype alone. Ultimately, it comes down to one thing: “how do we build something together over six months and then lead up to the fundraising part?”
If film3 is to really disrupt the legacy model and the ruling class of Hollywood moguls to get films made that otherwise would never reach the studio, then not only does film3 need a place where communities can come together to create, contribute to, and own the next story, it needs someone who knows how to get them together. And that person doesn't necessarily need to know how to make a film.
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