‘Transformative period’ for emerging technologies in storytelling

Reggie Ba-Pe and Claire Yvonne Evans at GENR8.

A new era of emerging technology – like NFTs and the blockchain – means there has never been a better time to finance and tell familiar stories in a new way, according to creative entrepreneur Reggie Ba-Pe.

Ba-Pe, who is the co-founder of entertainment agency Club Media, was one of 15 panel speakers at Screen Producers Australia (SPA)’s GENR8 ideas forum and networking event on Wednesday at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS), joining industry professionals from a multitude of disciplines.

He brought more than 15 years of experience in music, media, advertising, touring, and youth culture in China and the Asia Pacific region to the event, having previously composed music for brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Ford, while also establishing l event promotion and creative agency in Shanghai, and opening an underground club in the city.

Now based in Melbourne, Ba-Pe creates content designed to reach a new generation of audiences, working with tools such as avatars, Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs), and the blockchain.

He said digital technologies were in the midst of “transformative period” within the production industry.

“There are new ways to finance content and finance storytelling, as well as distribute IP and experience content,” he said.

“A lot of it has come about with this new era of emerging tech, which is coming to a bit of a head with blockchain, AR, and the metaverse being built.

Nathan Anderson.

“I think it’s just a really exciting time to be looking into these spaces to see how we can harness this potential.”

New methods of financing content were explored in a session by New Canvas executive producer Nathan Anderson, who cited the example of US-shot animated series Stoner Cats, starring Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis.

Developed via Kunis’ Orchard Farm Productions, the project was funded via the sale of NFTs that depict different characters, with more than $US7 million raised from the initial drop of more than 10,000 tokens.

The episodes, which follow an older woman called Ms Stoner who lives with a number of mischievous cats, are exclusively available to those that have made purchases.

Anderson said the NFT focus meant the creators were able to get the concept off the ground using only the idea.

“This is very much a Kickstarter approach where they said, ‘Let’s launch this; we’ve got some big names behind us, so let’s get some cool cats and start selling them’,” he said.

“Then they’re using the proceeds from the fundraising to actually make the episodes.”

Ba-Pe told IF there was a “whole future that hadn’t really been explored” in regards to distributing and monetising digital assets.

“Let’s say they create another Toy Story movie, can some of those assets be repurposed in another way for an NFT community or a video game community?” he said.

“You’re allowed to do that with animation, but when it comes to traditional film and TV, I think it’ll be a little bit trickier because you don’t have the same kind of digital asset.

“However, I think there’ll be some exciting new ways of distribution, whether through blockchain or other sorts of emerging technologies, to reach the end user in a different way in a different format.”

Ba-Pe and Anderson were part of a program that featured six sessions, the topics of which spanned games, interactive, short-form, and immersive content.

There was also a case study of the upcoming SBS Digital Original series Latecomers, featuring writer/creators Emma Myers, Angus Thompson, and Nina Oyama, as well as director Madeleine Gottlieb and producer Liam Heyen.

As part of the event, SPA also announced the return of the Ones To Watch program for 2022, with registrations for the mentoring program opening on Monday, August 8.