Would You Pay £10 To Own A Digital Frame Grab From An Obscure British Film?

A British movie maker is offering every frame of his 2013 production as NFTs.

If NFTs have not already jumped the shark and been exposed as an easy way to part a fool from their money, then the announcement that all 130,000 frames from a film that no one cares about are available for sale as digital files might be the point when sensible people sit back and see just how naked the Emporer is.

Have you heard of Lad: A Yorkshire Story? Probably not. According to the press release, this 2013 film was “overlooked by distributors upon its initial release”, which I think translates as “did not get picked up for release by anyone” and has since wallowed on YouTube and Amazon Prime where it has apparently had over 500,000 streams to date. Not bad, I guess, though to be fair I have no idea what is a good or bad figure for something sitting in the free-to-view section of Prime Video.

In any case, the idea that the film is so beloved that people will pay money to own a digital frame grab of the movie – and that these fill then become a tradeable asset in the future – seems a bit of a stretch. Perhaps Lad: A Yorkshire Story is on the verge of becoming the next Star Wars where fans will scramble to own a piece of it, paying through the nose for a uniquely numbered digital still image, but it feels unlikely. The film has some positive reviews and a decent IMDb viewer rating average, but it doesn’t really scream ‘cult movie’. I’m aware that people buy frames of 35mm film, framed – but at least that is a physical object that you can put of the wall and these collectables – themselves inherently worthless given just how many exist – are at least nicely packaged.

The website selling these helpfully describes what an NFT is for the uninitiated:

In economics, a fungible asset is something with units that can be readily interchanged – like money.
With money, you can swap a £10 note for two £5 notes and it will have the same value.

However, if something is non-fungible, this is impossible – it means it has unique properties so it can’t be interchanged with something else.

It could be a house, or a painting such as the Mona Lisa, which is one of a kind. You can take a photo of the painting or buy a print but there will only ever be one original painting.

Of course, a photo or print of a painting is a clearly identifiable reproduction of an original and unique work. A digital frame grab seems a rather less discernably different thing from another frame grab though. What do you do with a digital still, exactly? Is simply knowing that you ‘own’ it enough even though you can hardly display it or impress other people with it?

In this case, you pick your frame by watching the film and pausing at the moment you wish to own – and then, as long as it hasn’t already been claimed, it’s yours for a tenner. What you then do with it is anyone’s guess but I wouldn’t suggest that this will be an investment that you’ll subsequently retire on. Regardless of how sustained a concept NFTs are, there is still likely to be a hierarchy of value and just as your grandmother’s oil painting of a bunch of flowers is worth considerably less than a Picasso from the same time period, so a single digital image from some unknown British rural drama seems unlikely to become something that will be fought over by global collectors in the future.

And as we are told, you don’t even get to keep the frame on your own computer. To again quote the website:

When you ‘mint’ an asset (image, video, text, code etc) it is packaged and stored on a blockchain and uniquely linked to a transaction to your wallet. Anyone can view the asset if they know the address but they cannot own it. As long as you keep your receiving wallet secure then you own the NFT asset.

Nevertheless, we wish film director Dan Hartley all the best in his efforts to finally recoup some of the money spent on his film. Just because we find it ludicrous, that doesn’t mean we don’t support indie creatives doing whatever they can to scrape a living. If he somehow manages to sell 130,000 frames at £10 a time (bearing in mind that, by the very nature of movie narratives, several of the frames are likely to be essentially a black rectangle), he’d make considerably more than the film cost to make – $160,000 according to IMDb. If people can make money from NFTs while it lasts, then good luck to them. God knows, we’d do so ourselves if we thought we could.

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  1. Could be worse, not sure if links are allowed so just in case a search for Bored Ape NFT should find the details but the summary which does nicely highlight the futility of it all. Multiple NFT’s designed by a computer picking random colours sold for $250 on launch now ‘valued’ at $300000 with one sniped by a computer at a low price, due to a typo and impossible to reverse transaction due to the unregulated nature of the crytp currency used to buy and sell the things.

    1. I rather admire the shamelessness of it all – because if people with more money than sense want to pay huge amounts for these things, why not help them do so? We really ought to get in on the game before it all falls apart.

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