Columbia alumni create one of the first NFT feature films – the Columbia Chronicle
“The One Who Lives In The Hidden Lakes”, a mystery feature film about a “Hidden Man” which lives in the woods, is experimental in all aspects, including its distribution.
The film goes down in history by being among the first of an NFT film, which means that only one copy is sold as a non-fungible token.
An NFT is a digital unit of data that represents objects such as graphic art, videos, music, and movies, among other digital pieces. An NFT is bought and sold using cryptocurrency and is not– interchangeable, making them unique.
“Having an NFT in one establishes scarcity, so what we’re trying to do with this project is position our film not only as a film to distribute everywhere, but also as a unique, non-fungible work of art,” said Zach said. Lona, director and co-producer of “The One Who Lives in the Hidden Lakes”.
Lona studied fine arts at Columbia for two years before moving on to complete her undergraduate degree at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. He said he had known about NFTs for some time and had been involved in the crypto community since 2017, but that there was no obvious use of films for NFTs until February 2021, when he and co-producer Anthony Gibson realized the opportunity to “pioneer a new distribution model for filmmaking” in the cryptocurrency market.
“I think what we have here won’t be suitable for all movies, but it will work for independent, low budget, director-led films,” Lona said.
Lona said that once the NFT is sold, the film could be more widely distributed for streaming. He said the owner of the NFT’s “He Who Lives In The Hidden Lakes” will receive 50% of the film’s streaming revenue, prompting them to get involved in the process of promoting the film.
In addition to a percentage of the film’s revenue, the winner of the NFT auction “He Who Lives In The Hidden Lakes” will also receive a physical token, which is special because most NFTs are fully digital. The owner can scan the token with their phone and have access to the movie, trailers, and a poster signed by the main cast and crew.
Lona said the film was inspired by her interest in memes as an artistic medium, embodying her frustration with the “condition of alienation we find ourselves in in the modern and postmodern eras.”
“The theme of the film is how the members of a community come together to form a shared myth that spreads among them, much like decentralized narratives,” said Lona. “Each character in the movie has a different idea of what the Hidden Man is and that often leads them to the verge of obsession and madness, so he explores what happens when you are overtaken by a meme.”
Lona said the process of distributing the film as an NFT on the blockchain is called “coinage,” which allows the seller to mint their NFT for the number of editions they wish to exist. Lona chose the NFT to buy through Ethereum cryptocurrency because it said it has the longest lifespan of cryptocurrencies.
Lucas Lona, a 2019 Columbia alumnus in the Cinema and Television Arts program and brother of director Zach Lona, starred as rookie cop Garret Walden as his first acting role in a feature film.
Lucas Lona said that selling the film as NFT creates an intimate experience between filmmakers and buyers that is largely disconnected from the current climate of Hollywood and the big names in the film industry.
The brothers said the majority of the film was shot over 10 consecutive days in June 2019 at a forest preserve in their hometown of Bolingbrook, Illinois, with some additional footage in the Andersonville neighborhood.
Lucas Lona said the crew consisted of 10 people and there were around 20 people in total on set, including cast members.
The NFT auction for “The One Who Lives In Hidden Lakes” went live on April 14th and ended on May 14th. Who lives in the “Hidden Lakes” in Los Angeles.
“NFTs and the crypto space are going to explode even more than they have over the next 10 years,” Lucas Lona said. “I think this is really the future of really anything you can think of, so it feels good to get in early.”