Coined: The Story of Cryptocurrency
Coined: The Story of Cryptocurrency
Money is changing. This film shows how cryptocurrencies emerge, who uses them, and what they mean for all of us.
Money is changing. This film shows how cryptocurrencies emerge, who uses them, and what they mean for all of us. Read more
Help us fund a feature-length documentary about the people who create and use cryptocurrency. Wait, what's cryptocurrency? We're glad you asked. It's a new form of digital money that's based on math, consensus, and sharing. Bitcoin is the best-known form of this stuff, but there are many "coins" (known as "altcoins," meaning alternatives to Bitcoin). All money comes from a shared agreement: we decide it has value, and then it does. These new currencies are an evolution in that process, and computers are involved.
But technology aside, we're focused on the personal stories of the people directly involved in creating cryptocurrencies and building the communities that surround them. The media usually focuses on fear-mongering (“Bitcoin was used to launder money!”) or hype (“this changes everything!”). We’re cutting through the noise to tell more personal stories, which are just as fascinating.
We're a documentary team based in Portland, Oregon. Specifically:
Adam's films have screened to hundreds of thousands of people in theaters, film festivals, galleries, museums, and online. His most recent, Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters, won the Audience Award at the Austin Film Festival and premiered at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, the largest festival of its kind. Here are some smart quotes about EOO:
"…one of the best video game films of all time." -Destructoid
"…will delight fans of the highly addictive game." -Variety
"…there are intriguing characters and dramatic showdowns, and the film does a solid job of building up its central mystery…" -Wired
Chris has been in print for more than 20 years. He's also a widely published photographer and former professional sound guy. Here are some good reads:
- Rise of the Unipiper - The origin story of Portland's unicycling, bagpiping, cosplaying hero.
- He Took a Polaroid Every Day, Until the Day He Died - A man's life in pictures.
- Did Blowing into Nintendo Cartridges Really Help? - Answering our generation's greatest question.
We have already interviewed Billy Markus, creator of Dogecoin, the second best-known cryptocurrency (after Bitcoin, of course). We've also shot interviews in New York, Alabama, North Carolina, and Oregon—and that's just the start. Here are a few names to go with the faces you see in the video above.
We have to emphasize: that's a tiny sample of what we've already shot. We've got dozens of hours of interviews spanning four cities, and we're just getting started.
Humans have created currencies for millennia, but it’s rare that we see an entirely new form of currency created and adopted around the world within just a few years. This moment matters. Years from now, people will look back on 2014 as the year cryptocurrency went mainstream (Dogecoin was on broadcast TV, people!). We're here to capture that history as it happens.
In some ways, cryptocurrency is a reaction to the Great Recession; it intersects with an impulse people have to better understand and control how money works. The subjects of this film are regular people with a vision of a new economic reality based on consensus, community, and shared innovation.
Everyone has heard about Bitcoin, but it’s just the tip of the cryptocurrency iceberg. We’re digging into the stories of those who embraced Bitcoin technology and took it to the next level: those who invented new coins, built businesses around them, and created communities to support each other.
We're fascinated by cryptocurrency, and want to make a film that explores the questions it raises. What does the rise of cryptocurrency reveal about the nature of money and economic concepts that we previously took for granted? How will banks and governments react? Why are some people embracing cryptocurrency while others seem to fear it? Why did we blow $1,200 making a mining rig that heated Adam’s apartment this winter?
We're making a film that explains what this stuff is and why it matters. This doesn't mean it'll be boring, but it does mean this film will help explain cryptocurrency to anyone who doesn't know much about it.
We started production on our own dime in January 2014, and we project that we'll keep shooting through at least the end of 2014. Post-production and a festival run will take us through at least the end of 2015.
It's important to point out that while we've been shooting for almost half a year, the core story here has changed several times. Some documentary projects set out to shoot a very controlled situation—those filmmakers have the luxury of knowing exactly what they're going to get on camera, they just need to go there and do that thing. In our case, the story is evolving so fast that we just have to roll with it. We are storm-chasers, speeding along behind (and sometimes inside) a cryptocurrency storm. We hope that by showing you some footage we have so far, and our previous projects, you'll understand that the final film will be awesome, though we can't predict every aspect of what will be in it.
But let's be clear. This documentary has some very specific parameters:
- It's a feature film (not a short) that will screen in theaters, in festivals, and online.
- It is made by professionals who have done this before.
- It is both by and about cryptocurrency nerds. Adam and Chris have both mined various coins, built rigs, and studied this subject.
- It features regular people. We're talking to and about the people (like Billy Markus and Josh Mohland) who invent amazing things at home.
We've been shooting for five and a half months now. We have some things to show you.
We traveled to New York City in February to document the first Dogeparty, a celebration of Dogecoin and its culture. It ended with a surprise for the Bull of Wall Street.
We put together the rough cut below based on that trip. (Note: this is truly a "rough cut," meaning it meets our standards for a YouTube video, but not the real film...the real film will have color correction, a proper sound mix, and so on.)
We also flew to Talladega in May to document the Dogecar, a Dogecoin-wrapped NASCAR vehicle driven by Josh Wise and sponsored by the Dogecoin community. Here's another rough cut from that shoot:
We've already got over 20 hours of great footage, but we'll need another 100+ before we're finished—that's where you come in.
Is there a cryptocurrency story we should be covering? We’re listening. We have a solid idea of what we’re looking for, and our backers are invited to help us find it. (The short version: we want compelling narratives driven by people on the ground doing things. New coins, community-building efforts, major or innovative mining/pool activities, activists who are strongly for or against cryptocurrency are all fair game.)
We have our eyes on a bunch of altcoins. We're looking closely at Vertcoin, Darkcoin, Devcoin, Anoncoin, and Ripple. We also see potential in some of the wackier coins like FedoraCoin, Murraycoin, 42 (a Douglas Adams-themed coin), and RonPaulCoin. This is a rich world; it's a matter of finding the best stories within it...and frankly, a coin could be released tomorrow that would take up half our screen time.
As we shoot, we'll release photos, updates from the road, and even some raw footage to backers via Kickstarter. We’ll update you at least once a month throughout this thing, explaining what we’re up to and where we’re headed next. We're looking for your help both in funding the film and in being on-the-ground spotters of important new stuff.
Here are a few samples of what things look like behind the scenes:
Making a professional documentary isn't cheap. We have the basic gear to do our shoots (cameras, lenses, audio), but we need to pay for:
TRAVEL - We plan more shoots in (at least) New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland. If we exceed our basic budget, we'll add more locations.
CREW - While we've shot a lot with our core two-man crew, funds to pay small location crews are necessary.
ANIMATION & SOUNDTRACK - The film will include animation to explain some core cryptocurrency concepts (like the blockchain) alongside expert interviews. We'll pay pro animators (including producer Vince Clemente) to do this right. We're also working with Portland hacker-jazz pioneers Megalo to make the soundtrack.
EDITING - We'll edit the film ourselves. This is a months-long process that we've done before; we need a small budget to give it our full attention during that time.
DISTRIBUTION & PUBLICITY - Getting the film into festivals, theaters, and home video is expensive. We've done this with two feature-length documentaries so far, so we know what this takes. Making a movie is one thing; getting people to watch it is equally important. We have budgeted appropriately.
GEAR - Our basic budget assumes we use the pro gear we've got, but the scope of this film requires some rentals for special occasions. When we need to step it up for a special event, we'll bring in even higher-end gear (for film nerds: read "4K") to capture crucial moments. We're also buying some extra drives for data protection.
The breakdown looks like this:
We're asking for your financial help to make our vision a reality. We're also asking you to join our team in a broader sense—cryptocurrencies are by their very nature communities, and this film is no exception. We want you to help us spot stories that may be falling through the cracks. In return, we promise to deliver a kick-ass film.
Most of the rewards are pretty self-explanatory, but we want to emphasize: all downloadable rewards are DRM-free, region-free, and available anywhere in the world. We're partnering with VHX to offer downloads of both Coined and Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters for backers at the appropriate levels. You'll receive a voucher code to redeem to receive your download(s).
Here's a peek at some of the higher-level rewards:
The CTWC Tetris Cartridge
At the $100 level, you get an NES Tetris cartridge played at the Classic Tetris World Championship. We have a nice pile of these, and they'll be signed by Adam Cornelius (director) and Robin Mihara (star) from Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters. We'll film the signing, just for kicks. Above are three examples of these cartridges, pre-signing.
Note that because these are vintage Tetris cartridges, they do have some wear and tear, but they are all playable (...and they have all been used in championship play). Set your own max-out record in style!
Signed Chris Higgins Books
Want signed first editions of Chris's three most recent books? Sure you do! Chris wrote the title essay for Breakfast on Mars, wrote a rad essay for The Magazine: The Book (Year One) about The Classic Tetris World Championship (called Playing to Lose), and wrote The Blogger Abides. He'll sign all these and ship 'em to you. Plus, super-secret bonus, he'll go through his extensive library of mental_floss back issues to find his old work there, sign that TOO, and include it. This is about a week's worth of reading, folks!
Note: the mental_floss issues may not be 100% perfect (some shelf wear), but will be pretty solid. Everything else is in mint condition.
The CTWC Poster
The ultimate Ecstasy of Order super-fan reward: this is a promo poster from the first Classic Tetris World Championship, featured in Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters. It's signed by the main competitors featured in the movie: Jesse, Matt Buco, Trey, Jonas, Harry, Thor, Ben, Dana. Adam and Robin will sign it too, if you want. As far as we know, this is the only poster in the world with these signatures. Has mild wear and tear, plus small mounting holes top and bottom.
"Coined" Mining Rig
We'll work with Gregg Abbott, Portland food cart owner-slash-mining-rig-maker, to design and build a Coined mining rig. This process will be filmed for the movie's bonus features, showing the same basic steps Adam and Chris went through in December 2013...but with an expert along for the ride. We'll sign the rigs and ship 'em off to you—get a piece of movie memorabilia that happens to be functional!
NOTE: If you can pay your way to Portland, Oregon, come on over and build with us! Please contact us first if you have any questions. Be aware that these rigs are designed and built with education and movie-making in mind; this is not resale of a fancy rig. If you want a fancy mining rig, go buy one from a pro. If you want to see how hobbyists do it and own a piece of signed, onscreen memorabilia, back our project.
Risks and challenges
Like any documentary film project, the primary risks we face are:
1. Access to people and their stories. We already know that a big part of this film is Dogecoin, and we have lots of Dogecoin related footage already. But to make the film sing, we need several more big stories like this. We're confident that we can secure these stories and bring you a compelling film that weaves them together (finding and telling stories is what we do for a living), but if we're talking about risks, this is #1.
2. Technical problems. Computers burn out, hard drives crash, etc. We have plenty of ways to mitigate these problems. Chris is a former IT guy with tons of experience here, and Adam has made several feature films without losing his footage. We've got this covered.
3. Delays. If you've ever backed a documentary (or any creative project), you know that things can take longer than expected, or a new story might arise that changes everything. Because we have already shot part of the film and have done this stuff before to completion, we believe our timeline is realistic, but part of the project is speculation: what will happen in the coming year? It could change the course of the film, and possibly the timeline.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)