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Introducing Bitcoin: The Movie

Op-ed - Introducing Bitcoin: The Movie

Roughly two months ago, the Bitcoin community was first shown a trailer for “The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin“, a documentary following the travels of 35-year-old computer programmer Daniel Mross as he explores the merchants, entrepreneurs and others in the Bitcoin community all across the world. In June, a couple in Utah announced a project to live only on Bitcoin for ninety days and make a movie about their adventures, and have already raised $70,000 for their efforts. Now, a group led by producer Andrew Wong and filmmaker Marco Vitale has announced that the Bitcoin community will be seeing not one or two, but three Bitcoin documentaries in the twelve months ahead. The film’s title: “Bitcoin: The Movie.”

The movie is now in the early stages of production, and the project is actively seeking funding on Kickstarter; so far, the project has received $10,000 of its $100,000 goal. Wong’s Kickstarter page descrives his own intent behind creating the film as follows:

I have been an avid computer gamer since I was a kid. Growing up with video games, I know a thing or two about digital currency. Even though I went to business school, the reality is that I never connected all the dots between virtual money and the real world impact it could potentially make. Well, that gap was bridged when Bitcoin caught my attention a year ago. The recent major events in Cyprus and China have further opened my eyes and changed my perception about cryptocurrency. Fast forward to today, we are here and now. You’re reading this. And you know my crew and I want to make a movie about Bitcoin.

The documentary’s stated intent is to explore the “socioeconomic impact of Bitcoin around the world”, and the Kickstarter page lists five sub-headings: look into consumer and merchant behaviors around Bitcoin around the world, educate the public about Bitcoin, study Bitcoin’s socioeconomic impact especially in emerging markets, understand why Bitcoin users are getting involved in Bitcoin, and help build Bitcoin’s infrastructure. From viewing the trailer, the fourth goal, that of understanding why Bitcoin users are finding the currency so attractive, is perhaps the most important. The trailer tells the stories of three Bitcoin users around New York City:

  • Patrick Che, the operator of XCubicle, a “hybrid tech shop” specializing in walk-in and mail-in electronics repairs
  • Dan Lee, the owner of Oxford Kitchen, a restaurant and organic grocery store
  • Lena Sklyut, the owner of the Old Fulton Creperie

The three business owners all have different reasons for supporting Bitcoin. Patrick Che is excited about Bitcoin’s potential to rein in political systems. “It prevents governments from printing a lot of money, and preventing governments from abusing their power with a currency through which they can control the entire population,” Che says. Lee, on the other hand, is a pragmatic merchant. “It’s actually cheaper than processing credit cards, there really aren’t any chargebacks on the merchant side, and you get funded pretty much the same day, usually within the same hour. So when oyu look at it that way, those are actually pretty good benefits for a merchant,” he replies. And Sklyut places herself in the middle. “I’ve heard about Bitcoin from a friend of mine who is really into technology, and they told me that Bitcoin was the currency of the future,” she tells the viewers, “so I figured I want to be one of the people accepting that and supporting the future.”

New York City is only the start of the film’s objective. Ultimately, Wong would like to take his crew to travel to Bitcoin sites all around the world; the problem is, the crew needs money to do so. If the Kickstarter campaign reaches $100,000, the crew would be able to travel to four countries. At $150,000, the amount goes up to seven countries, and at $200,000 a total of ten countries would become possible. The film itself is expected to come out by July 2014, and will be submitted to the Sundance Film Festival.

Films like this documentary, and the Rise and Rise of Bitcoin scheduled to come out at the end of this year, are representative of a side of Bitcoin that has been rapidly growing since the beginning of 2013: the human side. While in 2010 Bitcoin was simply a project to write software for, and 2012 a currency to develop businesses and financial services around, in 2013 we are now beginning to see widespread interest in the Bitcoin community. The observation holds outside the world of film too; the couple’s 90-day Bitcoin challenge is as much for themselves as it is to produce a show for the world, and in May Forbes reporter Kashmir Hill herself undertook the “Bitcoin diet” for a week. Now, she has become one of the more prolific reporters about Bitcoin in the mainstream media community. One of the more attractive, and practical, potential uses of Bitcoin has always been as a sort of worldwide traveler’s check; once the Bitcoin community sufficiently grows, Bitcoin users would be able to make their way around the world, and simply exchange their bitcoins for local currency as needed, and make friends everywhere they stop at the same time. Now, it seems like Bitcoin is not simply facilitating trips; rather, for many Bitcoin is a trip’s primary purpose. Twelve months from now, this may well be the way that Bitcoin takes its next major step into the mainstream.