Sam is a convicted computer hacktivist who’s not allowed to use the Internet. He still lives a double life, simultaneously working for minimum wage at a fast food joint while posing as a mailman to steal people’s mail. All his lives come crashing down on him in No Postage Necessary, a new film by Two Roads Picture Co. set to release July 6.
We had a chance at Crypto Briefing to check the movie out this week – why?
This indie film, written and directed by Jeremy Culver, is the first feature film to be released on the blockchain. More specifically, it’s launching on Vevue, a dAPP on the Qtum blockchain. Not only that, but the main catalyst for the movie’s main characters involves a large bitcoin theft from a black-market darknet site.
But is releasing a Bitcoin-based movie on the blockchain a publicity stunt, or does it have legitimate uses? And is the movie any good?
That’s exactly what we researched both before and after the staff’s movie night.
Hollywood and the Blockchain
(Pictured: A mail delivery operative – they all look like this. Spoiler: not really.)
The first question on your mind is likely “what’s the point of releasing a movie on the blockchain?”
It’s a fair question, and to answer it requires a little background on the movie and TV industry. The global box office is expected to generate $44 billion in 2018, and combined TV and video revenue will generate over $286 billion. Hollywood is a big business, but it’s not without its problems.
According to the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), pirated films and TV shows are downloaded approximately 5.4 billion times per year. This doesn’t include streaming websites or pirate channels accessed through media players like Kodi. Piracy will cost streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime approximately $52 billion through 2022.
Tracking video plays is difficult, and this inevitably affects how much money the movie studio, distributor, actors, production staff, and marketing agencies make on it. While most movie staff earns a flat fee, A-listers like George Clooney often negotiate a portion of the gross profits.
Piracy of big-name blockbusters like Marvel/Pixar franchise often occurs even before the movie is released. This problem led to most major studios focusing deeply on security, an issue we discuss more in-depth in our Golem/GNT coin guide.
The blockchain will theoretically improve tracking of how many plays a movie like No Postage Necessary gets, improving payments and decreasing piracy. Except it won’t –major studios like Fox combat piracy of movie screeners sent to journalists through legal measures more than technical ones. A watermark is placed on the film, so if you were to record your screen while watching it, your name will be on it, like this.
If I were to leak a movie like The Predator early, I can assure you Fox would have me in court facing massive fines and ruin my career and personal life within days.
Although information on the blockchain is more secure than data stored on a single source, nothing would have stopped me from running a program like Handbrake while screening No Postage Necessary. While the technology is great for tracking legitimate plays (and could even improve streaming quality), piracy will always find a way.
A Pretty Watchable Movie
(Multiple Spoiler Alerts)
Backend info aside, what’s important is whether or not No Postage Necessary actually works as a film, and on that end it does, and it doesn’t.
The main cast of George Blagden (“Vikings”) as Sam, Charleene Closshey (An Evergreen Christmas) as his love interest Josie, and Robbie Kay (“Once Upon a Time”) as his friend Stanley works well. Despite a 15-year age difference between them, the story is believable.
Culver has a good surface-level grasp on hacktivist culture, finding ways to insert references to Bitcoin, the Darknet, Silk Road (called Spice Trail in the movie), Monsanto, hacking, etc., into the movie. There are times it definitely feels cringey, but it works overall.
One of the points of contention amongst the CB writers was how the movie maintained a 1950s aesthetic while discussing this high technology. It can come off as a bit pandering.
For example, Sam’s plot to meet Josie (who he falls in love with after reading letters she hand writes and mails to her dead husband) involves setting up a fake car accident he can save her from. After pushing her out of the car’s path, she starts to chase it instead of simply pulling out her smartphone to record it like a real person would do. He then asks for her number, and she writes it on a piece of paper. Later, they call each other instead of texting.
The stark contrast between discussing advanced technology like blockchain while seemingly still being new to cell phones is hard to ignore. Also, neither Josie nor her father seems to mind that Sam was impersonating a mailman in order to sleep with her. They’re made to seem happy anyone’s even paying attention to them at all.
This romcom trope of women giving in to sleazy, dishonest men simply because they’re willing to put in some effort has no place in today’s post-#TimesUp and #MeToo world. It’s a bit insulting to both sexes. Young men are being taught to scam women into submission, while women are being taught to give in to their stalkers and other male abusers.
Aside from these minor flaws, it’s actually worth watching. Cryptocurrency is woven into the movie, but the focus is more on Sam and Josie’s “relationship.” It’s more accessible to the non-technical crowd than “Silicon Valley’s” blockchain discussions. There are several elements that you’ll need to suspend disbelief for, but that’s true of any Hollywood movie these days.
Overall, No Postage Necessary is an enjoyable movie released in a unique way. Whether or not blockchain tech picks up steam in Hollywood, the concept is being proven. This movie certainly won’t be taking over the box office, but it should fair well with those who actually watch it.
The movie will be screened at select theaters from July 6th. The Facebook page has more details.