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How director Stephen Fung is looking to merge cinematic storytelling with NFTs

SINGAPORE — Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are making inroads into the realm of filmmaking.

The blockchain assets exploded in popularity in 2020 for their novel application of certifying ownership of digital or real-world assets through blockchains.

We have seen films being funded through NFTs, as well as NFTs being made into films.

Now, Asian filmmakers are experimenting with even newer ways of integrating NFTs into creator and fan communities.

Hong Kong actor-filmmaker Stephen Fung speaking to attendees at the Sleepless In Singapore Token2049 Afterparty on 29 September 2022 at Projector X: Picturehouse at The Cathay. (Photo: Mecenia)
Hong Kong actor-filmmaker Stephen Fung speaking to attendees at the Sleepless In Singapore Token2049 Afterparty on 29 September 2022 at Projector X: Picturehouse at The Cathay. (Photo: Mecenia)

Last week, the Token2049 crypto event, which provides a networking platform for blockchain investors, creators, and entrepreneurs, saw various side events in the lead-up to the F1 Grand Prix in Singapore.

Hong Kong actor, filmmaker and now NFT creator, Stephen Fung, was at one such event on 29 September which brought filmmakers, creators and artists together.

Grid6 Studios, founded by Stephen Fung, Media Asia Group and Everest Venture Group, wants to combine cinematic storytelling and web3 ownership.

In April, Grid6 Studios announced the Departed Apes NFT collection, which consists of 8027 characters on the Ethereum blockchain which live in a parallel universe of the internationally acclaimed crime film Infernal Affairs. These characters are crafted by artist Logan Lubera, whose drawings were featured on Marvel Comics covers.

Departed Apes NFT is crafted by Marvel cover artist Logan Lubera, whose drawings are seen in superheroes series such as Spiderman, X-men and Iron Man.
Grid6 Studios announced the Departed Apes NFT collection in April 2022, which consists of 8027 characters on the Ethereum blockchain which live in a parallel universe of the internationally acclaimed crime film Infernal Affairs. These characters are crafted by artist Logan Lubera, whose drawings were featured on Marvel Comics covers.
Departed Apes is a collection of NFT characters who live in a parallel universe of the internationally acclaimed crime film Infernal Affairs. (PHOTO: Grid6 Studios)

Fung says the NFTs offer interactive opportunities for user-led cinematic storytelling. Owning a Departed Ape is merely a passport to a community of owners on a Discord group who play a choose-your-own-adventure-style game and participate in co-creating stories based on their NFT characters. Participants can vote to see their characters featured in films made by Grid6 Studios.

"What was successful in the first wave of NFTs might not be successful subsequently. So we're doing something to make it more interesting," said 48-year-old Fung.

"Ours is a parallel universe inspired by the Infernal Affairs world that's populated by ape characters. We've added storytelling to the mix — your character can enter the world and be an Infernal Affairs mole. It's like a video game, but it's also an experience."

Hong Kong actor-filmmaker Stephen Fung having an AMA dialogue with Mecenia co-founder Low Ser En at the Sleepless In Singapore Token2049 Afterparty on 29 September 2022 at Projector X: Picturehouse at The Cathay. (Photo: Mecenia)
Stephen Fung having an AMA dialogue with Mecenia co-founder Low Ser En. (Photo: Mecenia)

Web3 Film Studio

Mecenia, another Web3 film studio, seeks to forge stronger, more direct links between creators and their supporters, and therefore reward creators more for media properties that they build by cutting out corporate middlemen.

Mecenia will soon launch its first film, "The Shiba And The Whale", which it calls the world's first fully fractionalised animation.

Produced by Mecenia's co-founder, BAFTA winner Low Ser En, the 14-minute whimsical Studio Ghibli-style film will be split into 10,000 frames for its NFT launch. Every frame will be a collectible NFT.

Lim Liang Chun, Mecenia's other co-founder, said, "With NFT technology, fans have been given the power to immutably own digital assets that resonate with them emotionally, while Internet culture continues to facilitate co-creation between creators and fans. NFT projects will seed the next generation of media franchises, which will be Internet-native and capture value primarily through online means."

Organisers of the Sleepless In Singapore Token2049 Afterparty on 29 September 2022 at Projector X: Picturehouse at The Cathay: (from left to right) Blockbusters Lab co-founders Rubio Chan and Jamie Cheung; Conan Li, Blockbusters Lab's head of creative and community; Departed Apes creator Stephen Fung; Blockbusters Lab co-founder Kyle Leung; and Mecenia co-founders Lim Liang Chun and Low Ser En.
Organisers of the Sleepless In Singapore Token2049 Afterparty: (from left to right) Blockbusters Lab co-founders Rubio Chan and Jamie Cheung; Conan Li, Blockbusters Lab's head of creative and community; Departed Apes creator Stephen Fung; Blockbusters Lab co-founder Kyle Leung; and Mecenia co-founders Lim Liang Chun and Low Ser En. (Photo: Mecenia)

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