Saturday , May 18 2024

NAB 2024: Movie Making – Tradition Meets the Blockchain, and that Naughty Girl from ‘American Beauty’

Movie production and distribution are in flux. With streaming, artificial intelligence and the institutional lethargy created by COVID, many of the old rules of filmmaking no longer seem to apply. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, which ran in 2024 from April 13-17 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, traditionally presents many sessions on movie making. This year, there were relatively few.

One session, “Building a Production Company,” provided a business-school-based outline of how to start a movie making business. At the other extreme, “Decentralized Pictures and the Future of Fair and Transparent Filmmaking” provided a radical, viewer-driven, blockchain-powered alternative approach.


A passion for cars and cameras launched A.J. Bleyer on his filmmaking career. While in high school he began shooting automotive videos with his buddies. He got a “real job” after finishing his education but left that at age 22 to pursue filmmaking full-time. Five years later he became one of the Directors Guild of America’s youngest directors. His company, Advent Films, has worked with the Fast & Furious franchise and many car companies. He shared what he had learned along the way with NAB attendees.

Advent Pictures follows traditional business practices

Bleyer said that the first step was to build a brand identity and to market it. He cautioned that you should not become obsessed with the name. “The name will not be the make or break,” he said. “Pick one and go with it.”

To build legitimacy, Bleyer advised, “Focus on clients.” Featuring your clients on your web page will give people confidence in your ability to follow through with what you promise.


The next step, according to Bleyer, is networking: “Go to events like the NAB Show, or even birthday parties.” He emphasized the importance of giving and getting business cards. He suggested noting small personal details about the people you meet, like “what cheese they like.” That you remember this next time you meet them will make them feel special.

Advent Pictures has brought home awards

He shared a lesson he said he learned from Sir Richard Branson. Ask for a 15-minute meeting to discuss potential projects. If someone offers you a career-expanding opportunity to do something you’ve never done, “Say ‘Yes,’ and then figure it out.”

Bleyer also suggested building relationships with brands you love. He became a brand ambassador for Fuji Films, and that led to his invitation to speak at NAB.

Running the Company

“Do your research on the client, on their work, and on the subject,” Bleyer recommended. He said that when it comes to bid negotiations, ask what they are looking for, ask if they have a number in mind, but don’t get pressured into giving them a number on the spot.

A.J. Bleyer turned his passion for fast cars into a career as a filmmaker

“Bid high and work your way down,” he said. “Anything is possible with enough money and time. It’s not my job to tell a client what they can and can’t do. I need to tell them how to do it. What they want is right, but the way they want to do it sometimes isn’t.”

Then you need a crew. “Be one of the good ones,” Bleyer recommended. “Care about them and let them hire their own filmmaking teams. Develop good people and give performance notes right before you hire them again.”

In summing up, Bleyer quoted Theodore Roosevelt: “’Comparison is the thief of joy,’ Roosevelt said. Panic and anxiety never help you. Learn from your mistakes and celebrate your wins.”

The Blockchain Alternative

The NAB session “Decentralized Pictures and the Future of Fair and Transparent Filmmaking” explained a new alternative to the traditional way of getting a script from idea to finished film. The session began with a screening of Holy Smokes. Isabella Ares and Gabby Fiszman created this short comedy through this new filmmaking process.

The Decentralized Pictures panel explained the new process

Normally, I don’t like films that glamorize drugs and mock Christianity, but this film was so good I couldn’t help but laugh and enjoy it. The film features a really funny performance by Mena Suvari (American Beauty, American Pie).

Suvari joined Ares and Fiszman on stage with Decentralized Pictures’ Producer Liz Destro, Board Member Michael Musante, and CEO Leo Matchett. Musante is also VP of Production and Acquisitions for American Zoetrope.

What’s New?

The way scripts have turned into movies was pretty much been the same for many decades. You needed to get by people informally known as “gatekeepers.” These include script readers who sometimes have 100 scripts to go through in a week. If they like something, and think an audience exists for the idea, they write a summary which goes up the chain. If someone likes the summary, then the script might be read again, and then a recommendation might be sent further up the chain.

Holy Smokes was funded through the Decentralized Pictures website

Decentralized Pictures, a nonprofit organization founded by American Zoetrope (The Godfather Trilogy, Lost in Translation), has turned this process on its head. It has created an online platform (DCP) where scripts can be submitted and reviewed by a community. The platform uses a cryptocurrency, FILMCredits, to encourage participation and support film ideas. Instead of a closed-door process, film proposals get supported by potential viewers.

How It Works

People pay to have their film listed, then reviewers critique the ideas. Reviews that other people like are rewarded with FILMCredits which can be used to pay for future submissions or donated to support film projects.

Musante explained, “If a reviewer writes a review on DCP, and it gets upvoted by members of the community, that adds weight to the vote and also increases the share of the rewards pool that reviewer gets. So, we’re incentivizing people to participate in a thoughtful way.”

The Decentralized Pictures website walks you through the steps to get started

If a film idea reaches a certain level of support within the user community, Decentralized Pictures may, through its partnership with American Zoetrope, share it with industry partners to arrange financing for the film.

Films, such as was the case with Holy Smokes, could be produced as a short, to give the concept visibility as the seed for a feature film.  

Musante added, “It’s a new path. I don’t think you’d find any filmmaker who would say, ‘I’m happy with the number of opportunities that are out there.’”

If you would like to vote on films, write reviews, or submit film ideas, you can find out more about Decentralized Pictures here.

For more information about the National Association of Broadcasters and future NAB Shows check their website.

About Leo Sopicki

Writer, photographer, graphic artist and technologist. I focus my creative efforts on celebrating the American virtues of self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

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