An independent film shot on Missouri’s Lake Lotawana is earning premier attention — becoming the world’s first piece of cinema to sell on the blockchain, potentially overhauling the way Hollywood connects with moviegoers, its creators said.
“One thing that I’m very passionate about in life is cinema,” said Trevor Hawkins, the Emmy-winning local filmmaker who wrote and directed the film “Lotawana” — billed as an adventurous tale about a young couple eager to rewrite the rules of modern life by abandoning it in favor of living on a sailboat.
Back to KC
“I got a master’s degree in film directing in San Francisco and when I said I was moving back to Kansas City, people thought I was throwing in the towel — but most of those people, now, don’t work in film,” said Nathan Kincaid, producer and assistant director “Lotawana,” noting outside perceptions of what’s possible for creative careers in the plains states.
“Technology changes everything. You don’t have to live in LA or New York to be a filmmaker. That is 20th Century thinking.”
Kincaid and filmmaker Trevor Hawkins hope to continue making projects in the region for as long as possible, they said.
A self-funded project — set to debut this fall in theaters and via streaming — the movie stars Nicola Collie and Todd Blubaugh and was produced over six years time; finalized amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it was another global headline that brought the film more attention than Hawkins could’ve imagined: the rise of non-fungible tokens or NFTs — unique, digital certification assets that are stored on the blockchain and can’t be interchanged.
The tokens pushed conversations about blockchain technology into the mainstream this spring.
“We happened to be sitting on this recently completed indie film,” Hawkins said of where his team found itself amid such viral discussions, recalling a nudge by Tucker Adams, the film’s first camera assistant, to explore the emerging conversation as a marketing tool for the film.
“[Adams encouraged us to] think outside the box with the movie. So, like the rest of the world, we just started Googling what the hell an NFT was.”
As Hawkins and his team — which also includes his wife, Cori Jo Hawkins — worked to understand the complex space, they realized they were in the right place at the right time.
“The blockchain is allowing artists to upload the original pieces of artwork they created — and that’s verifiable via the code on the blockchain — and the entire world will forever know that this was the very first one created,” Hawkins explained.
“The counterintuitive part is that most of the time when you purchase an NFT, you’re not actually purchasing the rights to the artwork … you’re only purchasing a chunk of code on the blockchain that says that you’re the original owner of that code when it was minted — so the artists can still turn around and hang it in a gallery if they want.”
With Lotawana there’s much more up for digital grabs, he added. Rights to the film and stake in its world premiere were put up for sale last month on OpenSea.io.
“When somebody buys one of our copyright NFTs, they are given a share of our movie. If somebody buys one of our world premiere NFTs, then along with that, they are given a ticket,” Hawkins said, noting the strategy makes the exclusivity of a movie premiere accessible to moviegoers around the globe.
“We created kind of a historical moment out of it. It was a risk to make the movie and it was a risk to get it out in the world this way,” he added, noting he mortgaged his home (which sits on Lake Lotawana) to make the film — with no promise of success.
One thousand shares each of the copyright NFTs and world premiere NFTs have been made available on the blockchain marketplace. Rights shares sell for $1,000 a piece — making fans and supporters co-owners of the film. Premiere shares sell for $100.
Interested in owning a piece of “Lotawana”? Click here for details.
“A monotonous life has pushed the unfulfilled Forrest (Todd Blubaugh) to a voyage of self-discovery by living amongst nature aboard his sailboat, Lorelei, on an alluring Missouri lake. Soon he catches wind of the rebellious and free-spirited Everly (Nicola Collie) and their idealistic dreams align.”
“This thrilling and thought-provoking romantic journey follows the wanderlust couple as they are confronted by the challenges of their unconventional chosen path. Can they survive, reconnect with nature and rewrite their own rules of modern existence, or will they discover that society operates the way it does for a reason?”
Click here to watch trailers for the film or to learn more about its plot.
The NFT decision has set Hawkins and his partners up for future successes, they said, allowing them to stand out in a crowded, ambitious space and landing them meetings alongside people with whom they never imagined they’d connect.
“Our next goal is to turn around and do it again,” Hawkins said, noting his second film, “Lunker,” is already in the works with Kincaid having reviewed the script and filming expected to take place locally.
“We feel like we’ve already won because people are talking about our movie.”
A documentary about the making of “Lotawana” is also expected. The project could include a deep dive into the NFT process that put the film on the map, Hawkins and Kincaid mused.
As the pair looks toward the future, they’re hopeful their bold approach to blockbusters could revolutionize the movie industry; especially for independent filmmakers.
“No one could have anticipated this NFT thing would have come up,” Kincaid said.
“Very early on we were entertaining pre-sale offers from distributors and [we] huddled up and thought, ‘We should really try to find a way to make this with our own money … and by that I mean Trevor’s money,” he laughed.
“We started to weigh the pros and cons. Yeah, you can get the money from someone else, but what comes with that? What are the strings attached to it? We started to see we would have full control — and that allowed us to get done the things that we needed to get done.”
And in a space where memorabilia is a high-dollar business, movies and NFTs just make sense, Hawkins added.
“Hollywood and the film industry has an endless supply of mega fans, myself included,” Hawkins added, specifically noting he’d want to own a piece of the Jurassic Park franchise if he could.
“The movie industry is going to see a payoff in this NFT space. And that’s why we have future NFT drops [planned]. We’re going to have things like original scripts, behind-the-scenes photos, more frame grabs, songs from the soundtrack; we’ve even got props from the film.”
Figuring out to best sell each piece in a digital world is a new challenge for Hawkins and his team, but they’ve eagerly pressed play in hopes of giving back to the film industry in the long run, they said.
“If we can actually become a success story and fund our next film [doing this] that’s the best thing we could ever ask for,” Hawkins said.
Watch the trailer for “Lotawana” below, or keep scrolling to check out a video interview with director Trevor Hawkins by Kansas City PBS’ Flatland.