Last week we sat down with Frank Ramos, founder of NFT movie platform Movieplex. For those of you who missed it, here is a link to rewatch. Want the highlights? Keep scrolling!
Darkblock: What’s your story?
Frank Ramos: I grew up in Miami, Florida, went to school in Boston at Harvard, then came to Los Angeles. Started off doing more finance related stuff and then one day was able to work with some movie studios that wanted to get on this new platform called the ‘iPhone.’ So I was really early on. One of the first apps outside of Apple was for a film studio. The second I finished it, I was hooked.
Over time I built up that base to working on different types of applications like e-commerce, worked in the music industry on streaming services, then got to actual streaming of videos. I was lucky enough to work on the Disney plus project and these really large, streaming platforms. And then we are back to today with entering the web3 world. The killer feature for web3 is content.
Can you tell me about the Hacker House and your experience there?
Yeah. So this whole idea for Movieplex started at launch house. We had a month-long hackathon in this beautiful mansion in Beverly Hills. It was sponsored by Solana, they brought in a bunch of hackers, and what I ended up creating was an early MVP of Movieplex. It’s an NFT marketplace with video content. I was trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between traditional streaming and web3. Once I was able to get there, we had some great conversations with some folks in the film industry here in LA. People contacted me and said ‘hey, we have a couple of films…can we put it on your marketplace?’ and I said sure. We made that film into an NFT and launched it at the Cannes Film Festival.
So it was a roller coaster of building an MVP, getting very little sleep, getting a lot of work done, doing this wild demo, and eventually winning the hackathon. It was a fantastic experience and I have the same feeling I did when I first started with mobile. It’s like, oh, I’m really early on. It hasn’t been figured out, but this is the right place at the right time.
What’s your why?
Now that we’ve gotten past the MVP phase, we are looking at our positioning in the world. We are asking ourselves, ‘Why does Movieplex exist? Who are we as founders? Why does this matter?’
I’m a fan of film. I didn’t just build these large streaming platforms, I am an avid consumer of it. I subscribe to every single [streaming platform]. I also have an AMC platinum membership. I love all the aspects of film, but the most interesting discoveries that I have made have always been independent films. It’s kind of like discovering an independent band right before they get famous.
We wanna be one of the methods that people think about when they wanna get their work out there. You know, NFTs, crypto, all that fun stuff, that is just the delivery mechanism. We want to abstract that. We want to be the place you discover interesting content.
What does digital rights management (DRM) mean in the NFT world?
I think in the past, because the medium itself was physical, it wasn’t necessarily digital. It didn’t transport very well. When it was done previously, it was just too broad. The new way of doing it [DRM] will be inside of an NFT. The NFT can prove that you are the owner of the piece of content. It’ll just be for that person. With Darkblock, the creator can add onto the NFT. So let’s say the film director wants to do a live show, they can add a Q&A for those who have purchased the film.
Portable ownership and verifiable ownership is really, really important. I hate having conversations about NFTs and the value of a JPEG. That’s just the first thing that caught on. In reality, the future of NFTs and everything that’s related to that will be content, whether it’s full games inside, a ticketing method, or a loot box prize. People are pushing back against that sort of thing, but it’s an inevitable march. At some point, it’s gonna reach critical mass and people will say, okay, this is how it’s offered.
Who is your target audience?
We want to help support independent filmmakers that might not be able to get a deal at a major movie studio. If you don’t have a method for filmmakers to monetize efficiently, they won’t be able to support themselves…you hear this all the time, ‘I wish I would’ve gotten a hit because then I could support myself/create more music/more films.’ Why not create a venue that could make that a possibility?
What’s your value prop? Why not other platforms?
Say you have a horror film that was interesting. If you try to put it onto most streaming platforms, they might not allow it. It might have too much nudity, too much gore, or any of the reasons they stop people from uploading content. More so, if you have a core group of fans that are interested in that genre/work, Movieplex is a direct way to connect.
The wonderful thing about using the blockchain is you get paid out instantly for your work. If you had your content on the big streaming platforms, they do net 90. They take a long time to pay you. On top of that, they extract a heavy fee. For YouTube, you get pennies on the dollar. Streaming services might get you view numbers, but in reality, having a good social media presence and a core group of followers is really what you want. There’s something there that’s still missing from a lot of the platforms and we want to be in between there, to fill in that gap.
Any other qualms with our web2 models?
We wanna live in a world where you buy the thing that you like, and you don’t have to necessarily depend on a service to hold it for you. All the streaming services as you see, they consolidate. They’re growing and they’re pulling content from one place to another. If you enjoyed that specific film on one streaming platform and then it’s gone to another streaming platform…you missed that content.
A lot of people that I talk to think in a very American, centralized way. In reality, there’s different content available in different countries. People are doing weird VPN things that make it seem as if they’re in different countries to view specific content because those are the kind of deals that Hollywood has.
What if you were an artist and you couldn’t get something out and then all of a sudden you provided to the whole world and you started getting fans in places that were unexpected. A great example is Squid Game; it was definitely a local/regional thing in Korea that grew out of control. They spent about $12 million to produce that film. For Netflix, the film created almost $800 million in revenue. Yet, the person who created it didn’t get to partake in that revenue because of the current streaming model. Again, it’s very upfront. They pay you for possible future sales.
What’s your first step?
We have a feeling and an ethos that it all starts with good content and good content comes from independent film/independent sources. It doesn’t necessarily come from the large Hollywood studios. How many times do you watch a piece of content and you’re like, ‘man, that ending was really bizarre’. The reason it doesn’t land is because they have a whole team of people that try to please a bunch of different audiences. It’s not impactful. The reason Squid Game was so interesting and the ending was so strange is because the director himself was able to create it. So yeah, we think that the independent folks are coming with the best content.
Big thanks to Frank Ramos for joining us and sharing his story and vision for Movieplex. Stay up to date on the project here (website) and set your reminder for next week’s Office Hours (Every Thursday on Youtube Live). As always, send us your thoughts, questions, and suggestions on twitter and discord!