Now that the dust has settled on last year's proverbial NFT gold rush, related news other than making loads of cash off it are starting to get more spotlight. “The Electrician,” which its creators describe as a “generative art campaign,” is one such NFT project about to make headlines. Its final form will be a graphic novel set in a not-too-distant dystopian LA, completely funded and generated by the people who purchase the NFTs composing it. It is the first project of its kind, spearheaded by a team who’s worked on some of Hollywood's biggest franchises including Avatar, Transformers, and The Mandalorian. Over 10,000 NFTs will make up the entire graphic novel, from what the characters wear, to the decisions they make.
For Jon Barinholtz, one of the writers of the project, the idea of a generative NFT art project extends beyond the intrigue of the technology itself. “The collectable side of NFTs is cool, but I wanted to put something together that could tell a story and build it with a community of like-minded creators,” he elaborates. “[Much] of the entertainment business is behind a curtain. We want to open that curtain. Just the fact that it is nebulous and people don't know what the exact steps are makes it intimidating, but it shouldn't be. We're big fans of meritocracy; the best idea should win.”
The novel will follow the story of “The Electrician” as he navigates a climate-changed and corruption-ravaged LA that has been turned on its head by greedy real estate developers and massive income inequality. Of course, the similarities to the reality of LA today are something that Bainholtz wanted to make obvious. “We wanted to give the novel a heightened version of what LA is now. You have these pockets of extreme wealth, and then you drive a block and see an encampment of hundreds of people living out of tents, and you have to ask yourself, ‘What the fuck is going on?’ Obviously, we've seen it get worse over the last two years here, and right now seems like the perfect time to tell the story of a community coming together to topple the people in charge.”
Aside from just waxing about the issues that LA and many other cities face, the team is donating a portion of campaign proceeds to Hollygrove and Uplift Family Services, two charities with wide reach in the metropolitan LA area. It’s a philanthropic element of the project that’s in line with their past ventures including Glue Factory Show, a highly successful NFT that also donated a portion of proceeds to charity.
Considering the credentials of the people involved, it might seem paradoxical to have their graphic novel written by an unknown audience whose only claim to legitimacy is purchasing an NFT. But “The Electrician” aims to be at the forefront of the next phase of the internet, where users have direct control over the direction and ownership of the content they consume. “As you move into Web 3.0, I think you're going to see a lot of projects go to the people to find life. I’ve described it as a reverse Comic Con,” Barinholtz continues. “Instead of creating a product with a small group of people pitching it out to buyers, putting it on TV, and acquiring a fanbase, we're taking a fanbase, making the material, and then going to buyers and being like, ‘Well, now give us money for a TV show because you already have your army here, you already have the built-in fanbase.’”
There are obvious challenges to the format, like inviting hundreds of people into a virtual writer’s room to make decisions about the novel, but they’re issues that Barinholtz welcomes. “We're excited by that. We want that. The way that normal writers’ rooms work is that you have a showrunner making the calls on everything. But I think the really successful collaborators in our business all work the same way, which is the best idea wins. That said, it is not always going to be from the professional people in the room, right? It's going to come from our community. That's part of this learning process.”
Time will tell whether this user-generative NFT format takes off or not. But regardless, the idea of increased media participation isn’t going anywhere, and moving forward, we can expect to have much more say, and even direct involvement, in what it is that we consume.