The Vision for RUNNER with Bryce Anderson

Bryce Anderson has worked in Hollywood for over a decade. He’s a production executive at Clubhouse Pictures, and has worked on titles like Kate, Birds of Prey, and I, Tonya. Anderson also became interested in NFTs early enough to mint multiple Bored Apes, and rather than leaving Hollywood for web3, he’s been finding ways to bring web3 to the establishment, upending and rethinking IP creation, distribution, and audience participation in the process.

We spoke to him about how Runner came to be, how it intersects with his combined interests of conventional production and web3, and what new creation paradigms can offer conventional content creators.

The nation of Gon'Dwanna, on planet Omega
The nation of Gon'Dwanna, on planet Omega

Why was Runner such a good project for web3?

We were developing it as a piece of entertainment, which is what we do, right? So it was going to be a TV show or a movie. We weren't really sure what Runner was… we were just in that really early stage of the creative process where we were coming up with the rules of the world and what the story was going to be, and kind of figuring out what kind of platform it would live on best.

The thing that made me want to bring it specifically into web3 was the fact that it’s this entire world. So, rather than having characters that exist inside of our universe, it was its own planet, and that meant we could create citizens of that planet, and make something like an online community or an NFT Club where your character also becomes like a membership card. In terms of the long-term vision, this allows people to create their own space inside of a much larger story.

How did you get involved in NFTs in the first place?

I've been in crypto for a really long time, and I’ve always sort of followed it. I heard about NBA Top Shot, but I'm not a sports person. So it never really hooked me. Also — and I remember this really specifically actually — I read an article in The New York Times about the Beeple sale, the “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days,” that sold at Christie’s for $69 million. I sent the article to Bryan [Unkeless, the founder of Clubhouse Pictures], who’s a major art collector, and I said, “What do you know about this? This is amazing!”

From there, I just started diving into it. My first NFTs were open editions on Nifty Gateway, and I started trading things that way. It was an interesting way to explore crypto — which is largely traded on sentiment — while also exploring it from an art-collecting perspective.

That’s largely my job: figuring out cultural trends and capitalizing on them. It’s my job to build creative projects that will work within the current cultural moment in the film and television industry. So, that put me in NFTs around February of 2021. Which meant I was in the right place at the right time to mint Bored Apes. That really changed my perspective of how these communities function.

It makes you realize that allowing people to participate in your universe will most likely increase the value of the IP. It’s the same story with fanfiction — there’s this incredible creativity and output. Some fans have written entire books — hundreds of thousands of words long — just to post them on the internet for free for really small but really dedicated audiences.

That kind of dedication and that kind of community building and creative energy is really pure and really fascinating to me. The amazing thing about NFTs is they’re this way to allow people into the tent — and harness that energy they bring to it — for collective monetary benefit. Suddenly fans can participate directly and be rewarded for their loyalty. And creators can do direct fundraising to create or expand their projects.

From your vantage point, what do you think web3 offers production studios — or the wider Hollywood machine — that web2 doesn't?

What makes web3 so interesting is that it allows people to harness effort at a scale that was previously only possible through studios, which are these massive, monopolistic, centralized entities. I don't know if I see a super compelling entry into web3 for Disney or Warner Brothers or Universal. But I do see a super compelling entry into web3 for individual writers and directors and creators and people who typically work on a project-by-project basis.

The question is, instead of going to a single executive or a single centralized authority, can we now turn around and take something to the world first at a smaller scale? And in building with this web3 community, can we build this into a product that could rival — or even surpass — the sort of thing that a conventional studio would fund?

Credits for Clubhouse Pictures and the Runner team.
Credits for Clubhouse Pictures and the Runner team.

It’s clear why there's a lot of resistance to this from legacy media producers. If you own the IP, the licensing, the spin-offs, the merchandise, the idea that independents might steal your lunch is harrowing. But there's a lot of resistance from consumers, too. What do you think the solution is to get people to understand the possibilities? What is it about this model that they should be paying attention to?

There's a lot of talk about using NFT platforms as distribution platforms. I think that's really interesting. However, there's clearly a price point issue. And there's a complexity issue. A 14-year-old watching movies at home on their phone is not going to pay $1,000 for an NFT to watch a film.

The other issue is one of scale. Part of what makes media so powerful is that it's so widely accessible. One of the things that makes a Star Wars release a Star Wars release is that it’s available in every single movie theater in America at once. Everyone can go see it, and you get that natural watercooler conversation, and that discussion online, and that network effect. That’s weirdly at odds with NFTs, because NFTs are all about scarcity.

So I think what we need to think about is a hybrid model, where diehard collectors can buy NFTs from a project and keep them or trade them or be rewarded… but it can also go out on traditional media channels like a streaming service, so it can be engaged with by anyone, and by people who don't even know that there’s an NFT component in the first place.

In my mind, the metaverse is more inside of the real world than inside of the internet. The metaverse, in this case, allows content to exist inside of the real world inside of these traditional media channels, despite the fact that it was created in web3. I'm really interested in taking web3 content in that direction — taking old-world content into web3.

With Runner, what prompted the decision to start with NFTs and comic books, rather than with an animated series or a movie first, and then NFTs down the line?

It's a practical choice. I think the first one is price point. An animated series is really expensive. And it requires contractual agreements where you give almost all of it away. In the world of NFTs, we can go out and create something that we can then give to the world in the hopes that people come in and help us build it to the next level beyond what I think it could become if we had just gone and made it as a traditional piece of media.

RUNNER, the comic book. Available at June 1, 2022.
RUNNER, the comic book. Available at June 1, 2022.

Runner also seems, from the outset, to go beyond the confines of a 90-minute movie or a 22-episode animated series. The world-building is so broad, and the scope is so huge that there's this obvious potential to do multiple series or multiple movies, so it seems a little strange to start with those kinds of restrictions on it.

That's a good point, yeah. The Runner TV show that we have planned is a single story. But the universe that we've created with Runner can encompass an unlimited number of stories. When I think about this property five or 10 years from now, yes, I want a show and comic books and collectible toys… but I also want the lunchbox, the brilliant adult reboot, the manga tie-ins. I want to dive into every avenue that is available to us. The best way to do that the most efficiently was to start with the entire world, and to do that, it made the most sense to start with NFTs.

How is this project different from other productions you've worked on?

The way we're strategizing and thinking about it, and the way we're inviting people into a dialogue about it. We’re saying, “Come into this world. Pick up some of this clay that we've provided. Make something we never expected and throw it back in our direction.” For me, that is the best possible outcome of this project. It’s really exciting. And It's a little bit scary.

It's especially scary to places like Hollywood studios that like to control every single line or camera angle. But this is the sort of mechanism where a certain kind of creativity has been able to flourish online, and a certain type of person has been able to find their community online. There's something really powerful to that, and it’s what I want this project to tap into.

What attracted you to working with Metaversal?

It boils down to a great introductory conversation we had. We were told Metaversal wants to work on creating great stories. And we wanted to figure out how to bring narratives to blockchains. The moment that sealed the deal for us, I think, was when I asked Yossi [Hasson, Metaversal’s CEO] how he felt about opening the IP? His immediate response was that the network effects of allowing people into the process are exponentially greater than the potential benefits of hoarding all of the treasure for yourself. That’s when I knew we were meant to work together.

BRYCE ANDERSON started his career and bought his first Bitcoin as an assistant at United Talent Agency. He then worked in creative development at Warner Bros. on movies including LEGO BATMAN, THE MEG, and MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. He joined Clubhouse Pictures upon its inception in 2015 and hasn't accomplished anything since.

BRYAN UNKELESS and his Clubhouse Pictures banner have a track record of producing high quality content for large audiences. Clubhouse has produced BIRDS OF PREY and I, TONYA, BRIGHT, DOLLFACE, and KATE. Previously, he spearheaded development and co-produced the record-setting phenomenon THE HUNGER GAMES series.

CEDRIC NICOLAS-TROYAN is an award winning Hollywood film director born and raised is the southwest of France where dreaming of Japanese animation, super heroes, and making movies was not the obvious choice. Now, he has the opportunity marry his love for Anime and comics with decades of storytelling experience. Cedric is known for KATE, THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR, and SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN.

BLAISE HEMINGWAY is a writer/producer of movies, television, VR, books, comics, and plays. He spent several years on the Disney Animation Story Trust, so you can blame him for all those movies with the songs your niece won’t stop fucking singing. You may have seen his most recent movies, VAMPIRES VS THE BRONX on Netflix or CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG for Paramount. Blaise is also a father of two who collects sneakers and tattoos in a failed attempt to make his kids think he’s cool (they don’t). Despite his myriad accomplishments, Blaise can’t seem to get his cats to shit inside their litter box.

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