Jordan Bayne is the shining inspiration behind web3's attempts to upturn the filmmaking industry, inspire under-represented voices, and leverage community-led IP to tell completely new stories. She speaks to Mark Fielding about the film3 movement, and why it changes everything for filmmakers.
In 2012, Jordan Bayne ran Permission Playground, a boot camp for aspiring actors. It was exhausting work. Participants would spend up to 15 hours a day in character. “If you want to be on set and emotionally hold a moment,” she explains, “you have to have endurance and physical stamina.” It was during these workshops that her students gave Jordan the moniker ‘the Soul Reader’. The filmmaker had an innate skill for seeing what motivated and inspired her actors, and what prevented them from reaching their potential. She helped them unblock. It was a gift that would guide her into NFTs and web3, ultimately leading her to the forefront of film3. But it took a decade.
Jordan stopped Permission Playground at the height of its success to focus on filmmaking proper. She started to move in circles where knowledge of crypto and, later, the nascent NFT culture were known. That said, the lightbulb didn’t go off immediately. “I’m a filmmaker and I was far more interested in writing my films, making my films, getting my films financed.” With an Oscar run for her 2011 film The Sea Is All I Know and the opportunities that usually go along with that, you would think that it would have become easier. It didn’t. “To have a film that had an Oscar run and have no doors open up, there is a compounding effect: either it will crush you or make you stronger.”
It made her stronger. And what the Oscars couldn’t provide, web3 could. “I started dropping into rooms on Clubhouse. I remember a conversation and it hit me like a ton of bricks: this is going to change everything for filmmakers.”
Compelled to act, Jordan founded the NFT Film Squad in February 2021 and immediately started leading Clubhouse rooms, rather than just attending. The Soul Reader was back. “When I started the ‘Elevating Women in the NFT Space’ series, I could hear what was at the essence of that and what women needed.” 1,300 people showed up every Saturday, with the show sometimes running up to nine hours. At the same time, Jordan asked four women — Corinne Weber, Landy Slattery, Elle Toussi, Sophie Ablet — to found the NFT Film Squad. It was small, but was already a tight community, and it formed the start of the journey to film3.
“It hit me like a ton of bricks. This is going to change everything for filmmakers.”
— Jordan Bayne
Week after week, the Film Squad hosted more rooms. “Drip by drip people would show up. Eventually we found David Bianchi (poet, filmmaker, and actor) and his NFT spoken short, I Can’t Breathe. He was the first person the Squad spotlighted. That was May 2021.” Organic growth had begun: J. Harry Edmiston, Simon Goldberg and Neil Schwary joined the conversation. So did Ian Grant, Jason Charnick and Crystal Shrader. “They were really adding to the conversation. They had conviction. I consider Ian, Jason, and Crystal the true first wave who came in after those first Clubhouse rooms.”
In December 2021, Julie Pacino tore up the template. The NFT Film Squad spotlighted her film project, Keepers of the Inn, the following January; it sold out soon after. “I had seen some other people try things and they didn’t feel right. Julie’s felt right.” Around the same time, Miguel Faus joined the Squad, which went from holding one space a week to four. Not long after, Miguel released his NFT strategy for Calladita; alongside Julie’s Keepers, the NFT Film Squad had showcased the first films to be funded and produced entirely by the web3 community and NFTs.
“An ecosystem was being built. A web3 version of the filmmaking industry. But it had no manifesto, no cohesive strategy. It didn’t even have a name.” History has shown how action over words, unwavering belief, and a committed few can influence the masses. Could Jordan Bayne and the NFT Film Squad instil passion and curiosity in fellow filmmakers, writers, and directors? Could they inspire the marginalised and the under-represented? Entice advocates of the legacy system with a fairer, more equitable structure? Could they sweep away the existing model and replace it with a new way to fund, produce and distribute films?
Filmmakers started showing an interest. Web3 livestreaming and distribution channel Beem came in, as did web3 funding platform First Flights. An ecosystem was being built. A web3 version of the industry. But it had no manifesto, no cohesive strategy. It didn’t even have a name. And when the industry descended on Austin, Texas for the SXSW film festival to explore the opportunities at the convergence of tech and film, that became apparent.
“After SXSW it became super clear we were building, but in a disparate way. A lot of the studios were going to come in with big money, big teams and no idea what the fuck they were doing. This was March 16th.”
What followed was a collective effort, the combining of the NFT Film Squad forces. Phil McKenzie and Nick Sadler from First Flights, Mihai Crasneau from Beem, Miguel Faus, Tasa Fila (of R3wind, the content ecosystem), Cameron Van Hoy (from Flinch, the web3 film), and Julian Flores (now co-founder of the Film Squad) engineered a collective. “We had to get under the same umbrella. We’ve been the cultivator of this ecosystem, so, as communities, we decided to get under the NFT Film Squad.” But what about the fledgling industry at large? The web3 version of legacy filmmaking?
Jordan, Tasa, and Julian did something very web2 and created a WhatsApp group. It was there that Tasa suggested the name ‘film3’; they wrote it up in Notion with ideas and outlines there and then. As chief architect and leader of the space, Jordan sent out the first film3 hashtag in relation to this new movement, this new vertical, on March 20th. “Start the week with fire alpha from the leaders of the new world”, Jordan proclaimed: #film3 had begun.
“On March 23rd, this council came together in the OG Squad Twitter Space. I started the Space out by saying ‘we’re going to be talking about film3 today.’ That was the beginning.”
Why does all of this matter? Why are the origins of film3 important? As the space explodes — and it will; it’s too big an opportunity not to — there will be a lot of discussion about the term: who is film3, what is film3? Knowing the roots means that the term cannot be hijacked and the philosophy remains about ownership and community. With knowledge of the beginnings, film3 can give under-represented and marginalised filmmakers a choice they never had before: the choice to tell niche, fringe, difficult, dangerous, ambitious stories. The choice of opportunity and possibility where once there were only barriers and impediment.
The origins of film3 take filmmaking and storytelling beyond the handful of gatekeepers who green-light films. It gives a choice where there is no other choice. It’s for everyone involved in filmmaking. “Part of the film3 ethos is a sustainable living for everyone,” says Jordan, into her groove. “A more level playing field. More equitable for under-represented people and marginalised communities. Community, IP, ownership. These are the things that a filmmaker needs to understand. You have the freedom to hold your IP. Let’s say you fund your movie with your community, because they believe in you. That is your audience. Plus, you’re engaging them in the process, from the beginning, in a really cool way. They are built-in amplifiers, producers, and maybe even IP owners. Here, community is culture, community is the fuel, community is the change.”
But there is a hitch, an end-of-season cliffhanger: web3 isn’t ready for film3, technologically. “I don’t think film has come anywhere close to where it’s going to be in web3,” says Jordan, conscious of the obstacles. “Film doesn’t interest developers so much.” The NFT Film Squad learnt this back in that first spotlight with David Bianchi. “It was the first time we’d heard about file size and compression issues.”
To give you an idea of the limitations, OpenSea has a 100MB maximum file size; Rarible has 30MB; Mintable 200MB; Foundation 50MB; SuperRare 50MB. By comparison, even an SD feature film weighs in at 2,000MB. A 90-minute film shot in 4K? No amount of compression is going to work right now. File size is the biggest obstacle to the true expansion of digital ownership, feature-length blockchain movies, and film3.
But more often than not, technology catches up with ambition, whilst filmmakers do not always need to store the whole film on-chain to build community-owned IP. So the future for Jordan, the NFT Film Squad, and the architects of film3 is to continue pushing the boundaries of the movement. To speak of IP ownership, community-led projects, and stories from the under-represented. To water the grassroots, to tell as many filmmakers and aspiring filmmakers as will listen about the philosophy and opportunity of film3. To ensure, as Jordan says, that “those who come into the film3 movement are additive, not extractive.”
Big studios are going to come in and they are going to have to figure out how to move. Will they change and integrate their own style? Jordan expects so. “Just like they did back at the beginning of independent film. Back in the early days of Sundance when all the studios were like ‘woah look, indie film. We’re going to have a whole indie film studio now’.”
Just six weeks after Jordan first tweeted #film3, she was invited to speak on a panel on the subject at The Cannes Film Festival. Whilst there, she asked if they knew where the term film3 had come from. Everyone said no. The movement had taken on a life of its own.
Yet film3 has much more untapped potential, and it needs someone who can help realise it. It needs a Soul Reader.
“A lot of the studios were going to come in with big money, big teams and no idea what the fuck they were doing.”
— Jordan Bayne