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CANNES: Blockchain may not be the most glamorous new star at the Cannes festival but experts touting the technology say it will rock the world of film even if the red carpet crowd doesn’t know it yet.

For the first time, key players in the emerging industry have set up shop at Cannes’ bustling Film Market, a subterranean labyrinth where most of the world’s movie trade takes place.

In a series of workshops, six international start-ups are decoding the complex science behind blockchain and why it matters to both makers and consumers of movies.

“Blockchain is the future in film, there’s no turning back,” enthused Jonny Peters, the Australian founder of Gazecoin, one of the companies holding court at Cannes.

Barely a decade old, the technology is an ultra-encrypted process used to handle peer-to-peer transactions, for now mostly of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

But its partisans claim that blockchain has the potential to become cinema’s biggest disruptor in decades.

They want to break up what they see as an opaque financing monopoly controlled by a handful of big studios, while also tackling film piracy.

The revolution, if it comes, could be a “quantum shift” comparable to the advent of the internet, they say.

“Everyone is now talking about blockchain, and there’s a general consensus that it will become important in a good number of areas including in cinema,” Film Market director Jerome Paillard said.

Past can’t be rewritten

One main aim is to make it a lot easier for independent artists to draw funding.

“Many filmmakers struggle to raise funds because investors don’t feel like they know where their money is going,” said Daniel Hyman, of Swiss company SingularDTV.

Blockchain addresses issues like accountability and control because it “provides a window into how exactly money is spent”, he told a packed audience in Cannes.

Similar to a spreadsheet, a blockchain is a shared “ledger” or database, in which each entry is permanently recorded with an indelible time stamp.

Crucially, there is no central operator who controls the blockchain. Every participant has a real-time, DNA-like record containing all the transactions.

“The factor of immutability prevents the past form being rewritten,” SingularDTV founder Arie Levy-Cohen Singular said.

“That’s unique and new and this is THE breakthrough that underpins the invention.”

The advantages are manyfold, experts claim, from indisputable proof of intellectual property rights and protection of royalty payments to improved crowdfunding opportunities.

“In cinema where the rights chain is often very complex, this could in the long run provide an alternative to big systems like France’s public register of cinematography,” said Paillard, the Film Market head.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2018