Welcome to our comprehensive interview series – Humans of Blockchain ™ where we get the best in the business to answer diverse questions.
This series will clear the air of doubt in the blockchain space today by focusing on bringing more transparency to the readers.
Our guest, today, Patrice Poujol, is the CEO of Lumiere, a Media and Blockchain Specialist / PhD researcher: CityU Hong Kong and UCLA Visiting Scholar.
Not wasting much time, let’s hear it out from Patrice himself.
1. Being from the Movie space, what made you visit the Binance Blockchain Week?
The real reason that I am here at the Binance Blockchain Week in Singapore is that I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for ‘Applied Computing and Interactive Media’ (ACIM), which is part of the City University of Hong Kong. We are carrying out a Public Policy Research, to explain to the Government, the private sector and individuals, how blockchain technology can impact and change the creative industries, and what are its current limitations. We also design a road map and assess potential scenarios for future developments and adoption. Essentially, I am here to take a feeler on the latest developments and also to take a particular angle on the Media and Creative Industries.
2. How do you think can Blockchain technology be of utility to the Movie Industry?
Lets take the case of TRON or NEO, a lot of these companies are not looking at financial distribution only, they are also working on Supply Chain, Music Industry and how it can be distributed, publishing, and so on. I am writing papers about these things, and I also published a book ‘Online Film Production in China Using Blockchain and Smart Contracts’ – Patrice Poujol.
While I was completing my PhD research and writing the book, a year and half ago, I realized Blockchain solutions, not necessarily crypto but solutions could be used to make the movie industry more transparent, to make it more effective, which means cheaper, faster and secure transactions. I will tell you about Lumiere – it comes from the brothers lumiere, who patented the first camera. Lumiere means ‘light’ in French and in Chinese, it is called Lumin, going with the definition, we are shedding light on the flows of capital in film productions.
3. What technology does Lumiere leverage on? What scope of work does Lumiere focusses on?
We have a technology that uses not only blockchain but other innovations composed together to make sure we can track the flow of capital as accurately as possible through our technology. So, you are actually saving costs. Now this is being developed and we have other modules. Lumiere is part of a larger movement called Motion.
Motion protocol has five companies based on decentralized governance, which means they don’t own any asset in the companies, likewise, they don’t own anything in my company. That makes sure we stay independent and we work with along a lot of other companies who work with us. My colleagues are tackling rights management, online circulation and theatrical distribution (Box Office – BO). On average, BO represents 90% of traditional film revenues in China.
One of the Motion companies manages rights, it has a working platform with a catalogue of over 200 films, it is called ‘Cinemarket’. White Rabbit, another Motion Dapp, are working to convert pirate viewings to small-paying/ fraction-paying customers. The Dapp looking at theatrical is called ‘Demand Film’. At Lumiere, we are planning to bring film finance and production transparency to the industry. Collectively, the Motion ecosystem introduces new solutions.
One of these solutions is already working, essentially our partner that distributes films in Australia and all around the world now, but they started in Australia. With this solution, they reduce the timeline for repatriating royalties to the creative agents and the right holders, which can take up to two years using the traditional way, however our partner is able to repatriate within days. So that’s a Demand Film working product.
4. What is the future vision of Lumiere?
In the near future, we are planning to take gap finance positions on selected films and contribute to securitize movie shares as well, because as a producer, it is traditionally challenging to close down the last 10-20% of your budget and as an investor, your capital is blocked for two years. We are in talks with companies which are trying to create a secondary market for this purpose where lets say if you invest in a movie, instead of having your money locked for two years, you can trade your participation in the film, hype up the film, and yes it becomes a bit speculative but at the same time it makes investments more liquid.
So, the idea is to make sure that people can trade against other assets in a legally compliant manner. We are also talking about potentially trading the tokens for gold, so that is more inclined towards investors, but if we do that, and assuming market liquidity follows through, the door for general investment may open wider for films, that way, instead of having institutional and accredited investors exclusively, individuals (crowds) can also pitch in and control a stake.
5. How do you think the role of audience in deciding the content creation will be game changing?
In India, you have very successful movie directors, there are many successful movie directors, but to give you one example – Rima Das, she was nominated to represent India at the Oscars for ‘Village Rockstars’ if I am correct. Very prolific, she doesn’t use a lot of money, doesn’t waste money away, and I think artists like her have the aspiration to work freely – they are fascinating.
I mean look at ‘Dangal’, now if you tried to pitch this to Hollywood Studio Executives, they would probably turn you down but it was a massive success not only in India but in China too. I think that’s the kind of creative work we are looking at, we are not a big studio, we are independent but independent too doesn’t mean like we are making a short film with our friends for fun. It requires skills and professional commitment from the creators. So I do like these films like I watch the Avengers, Black Panther, Venom but at the same time I also loved watching Dangal. These things are happening and it’s not just about the money, but it is still a business and ultimately we want to make sure people can watch what they really wanna watch.
We have five modules, three of those five have already been made, one already has clients, the two remaining ones are in the process of making. The last one which is securitization, we’re waiting to see the legal context, particularly in the US everyone is looking at the SEC now. But it’s true, we’re waiting for this. We don’t know what decisions are going to be made, which exchanges and projects are going to be licensed and widely adopted, and how rules on investors’ accreditations may evolve. There are a lot of hurdles around that. So, we have a hybrid model like we didn’t go through an ICO, we financed ourselves and we’re looking for traditional investors now to go ahead.
6. India being one of the hubs of Filmaking in the world, does Lumiere plans to expand operations in India?
I know a few people there. I’ve never produced a film in India – I believe that the bureaucratic system ensures greater stability but it might also slowdown progress at times. So, we have to be smart about how we enter the market if we enter it. We’re interested and are looking for Independent movies.
7. Have you also worked in film production on a personal level?
I spent 8 years in a bank where I looked at movie finance projects. So we offered banking solutions for films like Basic Instinct 2, Flawless, etc. So we did movie financing for films like Basic Instinct 2, Heist etc. Then for 8 years I did production consultancy. Recently, I was on a film called ‘On wings of eagles‘ where Joseph Fiennes was the lead actor. It was a fairly independent movie not like a $100 million budget.
8. What improvements can be done in the Independent Movie space?
Things can be made better i.e people working in the films paid faster and in full and the investors can make sure that every penny that they invest in a film ends up on the screen and that their investments are more liquid. And again, they would probably lower their risk exposure and get more money back if they use our solutions.
The whole thing if it works well should instead of having one central authority like Netflix which has turned into a studio and they decide on which films to produce which is great but we want to let people atleast in part decide what is made because after all these are the films they are going to watch.
9. There are a lot of stakeholders involved when a movie is made. How do you plan to accommodate the demands of all of them?
So, it’s a triangle, one side is the government, and we don’t want to go against the government policies and rules. The other two sides are the investors and the audience. So, we involve audiences. We also are working on a model defining how people work on a shoot. The beauty of decentralization is that it can reduce the negative influence of ‘capitalism gone wild’ and eventually develop into a another production model. So, we want a harmonious model in which what is made is decided by all the stakeholders.
10. Do you think that complete decentralization is the way forward?
I think that if we’re going too decentralized, we’re going to lose a lot of things. To start with, I don’t think the financial giants and the governments will agree. And then second, in a revolution, there are a lot of casualties and we don’t want to force our solution because we want a gradual adoption. We also have to think of people involved in various roles, e.g. even if sometimes the distributors are not fair, they still have jobs, kids, families etc. So, it’s complex when we say ‘let’s change the system or replace it’. It should be a transition more than a revolution and I think it’s better for everybody if we do it smoothly and intelligently.
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