InterviewsCecille de Jesus
Lumiere: A transparency project to promote equality, fight corruption
Lumiere has the platform to push for the right things, but its creator acknowledges that there will be a lot of resistance to the revolution.
Sifting through raging ICO projects at the TOKEN2049 Conference in Hong Kong last month wasn’t easy. Luckily, there were still a few worth taking a second long look at.
Patrice Poujol spent eight years in film finance and capital markets, another eight years in film production, and three years working on his postgraduate research—a peer-reviewed study which will be published as a book with Springer International Publishing this year. The culmination of his PhD project to integrate blockchain into film production has now taken a distinct form: Lumiere.
Referring to ICO’s and exchanges—which are the quickest way for getting rich quick in the space—Poujol asserts a big distinction: Lumiere was the result of years of research and was made specifically for a real problem, one that he himself has firsthand knowledge of.
“We’re not trying to speculate, we’re not trying say to people, ‘we’ll give you the Moon.’ But we’ll give you this—but this is a few billion (in savings),” Poujol laughed. “It’s three years’ PhD period of research. It’s not just me waking up one morning, having a shower and saying, ‘hey, [I’ll build a project].’”
Currently, Poujol says that there is a big disconnect between blockchain technology and film, and they’re trying to spearhead that merger. “We’re trying to bridge these two,” he says.
“We’re trying to bridge blockchain and the crypto world, the tech world, and the film world. I would say they’re not in the dialogue yet. They don’t understand each other, maybe because they haven’t formally met yet.”
Poujol adds that film is a “very human” field, and in that aspect makes it imperfect, whereas “tech and blockchain is something that makes a process, a protocol systematic,” which he says could solve the “trust issues” in film production processes.
Solving the multi-billion dollar fallout
According to Poujol, Lumiere will break down inefficiencies in film production—which actually costs investors a serious amount of money.
“What we’re doing essentially and what we’re planning for the software to do is to bring transparency to the film production process,” he said. “Investor money is going up in smoke—part of it, maybe 15—sometimes up to 25%.”
Considering the overall amount spent by the film industry, this figure is huge.
“Right now, it’s a multi-billion US dollar issue. There are films that basically use a few hundred millions essentially for every shoot. There’s about thousands of films being made that way. Now an average budget for a film is around—in Europe would be around five million (USD), in the US it’s way bigger. Now, we’re talking 50-80 million (USD),” Poujol said. “What we’re trying to do is bring transparency to an industry that needs it.”
To address the issue, Poujol is harnessing the capabilities of blockchain technology and smart contracts for an automated full audit of expenses, as well as streamlining payments for professionals involved.
“What we want to do is change it even more to the point where investors can actually track the flow of money within the productions and they can see the money—how it’s being used, where it’s going. Also where staff—whether they’re cast or crew—can be paid on time and in full through smart contracts. So it’s an entire system essentially to reshape the way films are being made.”
Equality and meritocracy: alleviating the gender pay gap
I asked Poujol what the implications were in terms of meritocracy. In the US, several have spoken up particularly about the gender pay gap. This issue has ignited a thousand online debates about whether women are being paid unjustly less than their male counterparts. Will transparency be extended to include everybody’s salary? And will this help the fight for equality and meritocracy in terms of wages?
“We’ve seen over the past few months that the industry is changing. People start speaking out about certain things and I think it’s good.”
In some areas, he says, problems don’t usually arise from people knowing upfront what everybody else is getting paid. Compared to the US, transparency in salaries may not be a problem for some. But the platform may help alleviate such gender-related salary injustices for those countries where equality is still an issue.
“We want to push it in the last phase where everybody on the set knows how much everybody else is getting. Now, there are people who are against it and I don’t care. I don’t mind being a producer and putting my salary upfront because I can completely justify how much I get.”
Poujol adds that it actually takes more energy to try to keep salaries a secret than it is to be upfront about it and then proceed to focusing on work.
“I don’t think it’s actually counter-productive—I think it’s the opposite. It’s just the mindset [that says transparency in salaries is a bad thing].”
How about corruption?
The biggest implication—and the biggest question of all, is Lumiere’s potential impact against corruption in governments. Corruption is one of the biggest issues that can be affected by the transparency blockchain technology offers. All we need is a platform that would enable this use case, and here it is.
Obviously, if this could be applied to privately funded projects, it can be applied to a government-run agency. In theory, that is. Of course, things are not as simple as that. Corruption persists precisely because the corrupt are persistent.
“Oh, there’s gonna be a huge resistance. We will encounter a lot of resistance,” Poujol affirms. In fact, some have even hinted that his project could literally put him in the crosshairs of that resistance.
“As a joke, someone said to me, ‘You realize that the app that you’re running now can be dangerous for certain people…you better buy a bullet-proof jacket,’” Poujol laughingly said. “I said, ‘well, you know, if I don’t do it, someone else will. It’s not just me—it’s a movement that’s happening.”
Not the cure, but the right step forward
Speaking about those who use such advances purely for their own benefit, and at the expense of others, he knows it’s impossible to eradicate such practices.
“Blockchain is supposed to be here to make things more just and fair,” Poujol said. “I’m in this actually for the features that can bring more equality. We will never get perfect equality but I’m in here because I believe that this can solve a lot of problems that are here at the moment.
And when I see people using and milking the system—there will always be people who do that—but I kinda cringe a little bit.”
Poujol acknowledges that what he and a few others are trying to achieve requires far more than what technology can offer. He is positive, however, that the tech can help propel society towards the right direction, particularly in terms of mindset.
“It’s trying to revolutionize the way films are being produced financially. And then I think the technology and the financials can accompany the change of mindset as well. I don’t think it’s just the tech, I think it’s the tech and it’s also the attitudes, the behaviours, and the mindsets that people have about how they do business—how they consider one another, whether it could be gender issues, whether it could be racial issues.
I’m not saying the tech will address these issues but it can help. It can bring a certain change. In the words of Laozi’s Daodejing: ‘a journey of a thousand miles starts with one footstep.””
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