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Will cryptocurrency fund the next indie film hit?

Braid, a horror flick at the Tribeca Film Festival, is brought to you by blockchain. As with a lot of crypto ventures, its adherents see a revolution.

A woman walks across a trippy purple lawn in the movie Braid.
Braid, a psychological horror film screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, was financed by selling crytocurrency tokens. 

Mitzi Peirone thanks God for cryptocurrency. 

Peirone's Braid, a psychological horror flick screening at the Tribeca Film Festival this week, touts itself as the first feature-length film funded by cryptocurrency. 

She considered more traditional ways of raising her budget on her own: pleading with family and friends for donations (and feel guilty about it, she said), or pitching a traditional studio, which requested she "dumb it down." 

"I was facing either seeing my creative freedom taken away and having to compromise on the story, or not having enough money to make it," Peirone said at a festival panel Monday discussing blockchain and cryptocurrency in film.

So she instead offered blockchain-based tokens that promise a slice of the film's future profits. 

"Thank God we did," she said. 

Blockchain is an encryption technology best known for underpinning bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, like Ethereum -- the crypto platfrom that Peirone's team used to raise money. By selling tokens with the goal of raising at least $1.4 million for their production budget, the filmmakers gave token investors the right to a proportional share of 30 percent of the film's future profits. 

Peirone said Monday that the campaign hit its goal in two weeks. 

Braid's token offering occurred in June, which mostly predated the latest explosion of cryptocurrency hype. For context, Braid's campaign reached its goal a month before Floyd Mayweather was bragging about how he was going to make a "$hit t$n of money" with a token sale on his Instagram account. Bitcoin's trading value had yet to crack about $3,000 but would go on to top $19,000 in December

But the idea, the filmmakers have said, is to create a profitable indie filmmaking industry, where creators can finance their films outside the studio system and retain artistic independence. 

"If we can enable independent artists to truly follow their hearts ... instead of having to fall back into pre-established algorithms of storytelling that we've heard and seen over and over, we can establish an entertainment industry that we want to see," Peirone said Monday. 

One of the biggest misconceptions about funding the film with cryptocurrency is that it's not paid for with "drug money." 

"Our biggest challenge, considering my movie is about two drug dealers, was people automatically associate cryptocurrency and fraud -- that you are doing something shady," she said. 

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