Making Movies in the Metaverse

What is a headless community brand, how does it create movies, and what role do NFTs play?

Welcome to another edition of In Transit. Our band of people exploring the fringes of entertainment and technology continues to grow. 

Thanks for being here. 

Special shout out to Axel B. for referring a friend to join us. Thanks! 🤝 (if you refer three more, I'll let you pick a topic to write about!)

PS: Do you have a friend who digs the same topics as we do? In that case, I'd be grateful if you referred them to In Transit: 

Making Movies in the Metaverse

What is a headless community brand, how does it create movies, and what role do NFTs play?

Key takeaways

  • Nouns is an NFT-based community that operates innovatively through a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO).

  • It grows via daily Noun NFT auctions, with proceeds going into a community treasury.

  • Nouns is funding an animated movie created chapter by chapter with industry talent.

  • This represents a new, transparent, and community-driven approach to producing entertainment.

  • Disagreements over fund usage and direction led to a fork, splitting the community and treasury.

One of the fascinating future promises and capabilities of web3/blockchain technology is its potential to impact and change various parts of the entertainment industry. I've written about it several times:

These pieces focus on how the existing entertainment industry players can leverage this technology. There's an equally exciting perspective to explore: how this tech creates space for entirely new entertainment entities to sprout, grow, and impact culture.

Today, we'll explore the headless brand producing an animated movie one chapter at a time.

Meet the Nouns

Nouns is an NFT-based community founded in August 2021. It was created to explore new ways of community governance and funding using blockchain technology.

Nouns are easy to recognize with their signature framed glasses. The community continuously grows in size and funding every day. This happens via an auction:

  • Every day, a new Noun NFT is auctioned on

  • The winner receives the Noun of the day as an NFT they now own

  • The proceeds from the auction go into the community treasury

  • The winner of the auction is now eligible to vote on proposals

Bud Light Owns a Nouns Ethereum NFT—And May Use It in Super Bowl Ad : r/ethtrader

The Nouns community is organized as a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), the NounsDAO. It's a community-driven entity where all decisions are made by its members through voting, governed and orchestrated on-chain.

At its height, the Nouns treasury tallied more than $50M.

It's up to the community to decide how to spend this treasury. This happens through proposals that anyone in the community can put forward, and the rest votes.

This is worth a pause of awe because it's incredible in its own right. Think about it: a group of hundreds (Noun #924 is on auction as of writing this) of people globally coming together to raise funds and distribute them to various projects.

The Seeds of a Movie

At the end of last year, a proposal was put forward and voted through with a 20 ETH budget (≈$ 25,000). The initiative was to bring in an artist (with previous experience at Disney and Pixar) to create a two-minute animated story to introduce the World of Nouns.

On the back of this, another proposal went through in March. This time with a budget of $ 125,000. The goal was to build on the work of the previous proposal and expand into a 3.5-minute first chapter of Nouns: A Movie.

The team working on this project has experience from productions like Black Panther, Doctor Strange, UP, and The Lego Movies. Hollywood-grade talent exploring an alternate path.

Here's the first chapter of the movie, released in June this year:

The quality of storytelling, music, and stylistic animation is high-grade. I got immediately immersed in the story and the world of Nouns. And I was really impressed.

Two weeks after the first chapter's release, the community voted through the following proposal to fund Chapter 2. This time, with a budget of $375,000 and a 12-minute runtime.

They released Chapter 2 last week:

Around the same time, the biggest movie proposal so far passed:

A $1,125,000 budget to produce chapters 3-5 with a total runtime of 33 minutes.

The expected production time for this is 240 days.

It's also worth noting that the movie is produced by Atrium, a decentralized, crypto-powered network of independent artists and creators. Some of these artists have serious Hollywood accolades.

An Alternate Path

The Nouns movie is a playbook in the making. They are treading a gravel pathway outside the major highway, the traditional Hollywood pipeline.

It's transparent, capital-efficient, and iterative, chapter by chapter. Increasing cost and decreasing risk for each chapter.

The production team also held "casting calls" to find characters from other vibrant NFT communities to integrate into the movie. This is a smart move to increase support and buy-in from the broader NFT culture/community.

It's an example of how web3 and blockchain technology enable something that would have been incredibly difficult to orchestrate through traditional means (global, anonymous community, huge sums of money transferred, etc.).

It also represents a way of increasing community participation in entertainment and storytelling without crowdsourcing the whole story (which I believe would be a terrible way to produce content).

A Fork in the Road

Writing about the Nouns DAO and the uncharted territory they're exploring would only be complete if we also mention the drama that split the community.

Over time, there was growing dissatisfaction in parts of the community. It was based on differing visions for the future of Nouns, governance decisions, and how they spent money.

Arguably, some weird proposals were funded:

  • Spent $90,000 to name a rare frog species

  • Attempt to launch a 3D-printed Noun into space for $175,000 (failed, and money was returned to the treasury)

  • A $30,000+ project to produce Nouns Wet Wipes for retail sales to increase brand awareness (wtf?)

All the controversy ultimately led to a fork. "Forking" means creating a new project that branches off from the original one, like a fork in the road.

The Nouns fork occurred on September 15th this year, resulting in an outflow of $27M from the community treasury as large swaths of community members chose to join the forked Nouns project instead.

This drama shows the volatility of DAOs as governance structure and the potential challenges of headless, community-driven organizations. 

The best practices and norms for sustainable community-building and governance in the format of a DAO are still being established.

It's still early days for internet-native IP and blockchain-enabled entertainment. There are bound to be some hiccups and f*ckups along the way.

But when you look closely and filter signal from the noise, there are sparks of a new path emerging. Nouns are one such example, even with the mentioned drama.

There are others, too, that I look forward to exploring in future posts.

Thanks for reading another edition of In Transit. 

Please subscribe if you want to catch future posts early. 

You can follow me on LinkedIn for more frequent, bite-sized content. 

And if you have any feedback or an idea you want to discuss, you can reach me at m[at]