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Above the Line Newsflash: Tarantino Tackles NFTs, WGA Announces New Credit, Under Siege Gets Reboot

November 18, 2021 09:00 | By

I don’t understand NFTs. Chances are, you don’t either. My pal Matt Silverman, host of the upcoming Cool Hand Crypto podcast, suggested I think about a nonfungible token as a certificate of authenticity, and that when people buy NFTs, what they’re really buying is status. For example, I like to buy movie art prints from Mondo, Gallery 1988 and the like, but none of my prints are the original work of art, though if you held the print up next to the original, you’d likely have a hard time telling them apart. Yet only one person can say theirs is the original, and in the digital world of NFTs, you can prove yours is the original thanks to blockchain technology.

Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction (Photo: Miramax)

It’s hard to say whether NFTs are a fad or here to stay, but Hollywood is taking them seriously, and that now includes Quentin Tarantino, who recently announced that he’d be selling Pulp Fiction NFTs. Now, typically, the blockchain is open-source, so every transaction can be viewed by the public, but the Pulp Fiction NFTs will be auctioned off via the Secret Network, which prioritizes privacy, so each transaction is encrypted. By being able to support both private and public metadata, the Secret Network can mask the identities of buyers and sellers. Blah blah blah.

“I’m excited to be presenting these exclusive scenes from Pulp Fiction to fans. Secret Network and Secret NFTs provide a whole new world of connecting fans and artists and I’m thrilled to be a part of that,” Tarantino said in a statement that sounds like it came from a publicist — the word “thrilled” being the biggest tipoff, as that’s Publicist Speak 101.

Tarantino was introduced to NFTs by his pal Eli Roth and spent months educating himself before making his big announcement. He has digitized his original hand-written Pulp Fiction screenplay and will be auctioning off seven scenes featuring new/different dialogue, weird notes to himself and some doodles. For example, Tarantino’s original script calls John Travolta‘s character Edgar Vega, as opposed to Vincent Vega.

“It’s like if you bought an original Keats poem, or a Matisse painting,” said Tarantino, who noted that he’s passionate about how the NFT market can grow and “where it can go from here.”

Or… maybe Quentin is just passionate about money, because he’s about to make a lot of it and he doesn’t really have to give anything up. His hand-written script will still be safely tucked away inside a metal filing cabinet in his home.

The director said that “no amount of money” would be worth it for him to sell the actual script, nor does he wish to donate it to a museum to it can sit under glass. He’d prefer to “share it with the community,” but if that was truly the case, he’d just upload the thing online and make it free to all, not sell it to a single wealthy individual whose identity will never be known, and who can decide to either share it or not. Maybe they’re a diehard Tarantino fan, in which case, huzzah! But they could just as easily hate Tarantino movies and simply view a Pulp Fiction NFT as a valuable asset to flip in a few days or weeks. Maybe they’re buying it just to bury it, as Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein did with countless books, scripts and movies during his horrible heyday.

Listening to him, you get the sense that even Tarantino doesn’t fully understand what an NFT is, or why anyone would want to buy one, but hey, everybody else is making money off these things, so why shouldn’t he? I don’t begrudge him that. After all, he’s now a father with a family to think of.

Of course, Miramax feels differently. Though NFTs didn’t exist back in the ’90s, the studio that distributed Pulp Fiction sued Tarantino this week for breach of contract, copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and unfair competition, arguing that his auction “devalues the NFT rights to Pulp Fiction, which Miramax intends to maximize through a strategic, comprehensive approach.” In other words, Tarantino beat them to the punch and interfered with Miramax’s own plans to exploit their movies in the booming NFT market.

Tarantino countered that his original contract allowed him to retain the right to publish his screenplay and that he’s exercising that right in the form of the one-time NFT sale, which Miramax claims doesn’t fall under “publishing.”

Like most feuds in life, this one comes down to a simple matter of communication, as Miramax notes that Tarantino didn’t consult the company beforehand, prompting the cease-and-desist letter — as if all Miramax really wanted was a conversation, and short of that, some kind of head’s up.

“This group chose to recklessly, greedily, and intentionally disregard the agreement that Quentin signed instead of following the clear legal and ethical approach of simply communicating with Miramax about his proposed ideas,” said the company’s attorney, Bart Williams, who went on to accuse Tarantino’s team of a “deliberate, pre-meditated, short-term money grab,” effectively calling this stunt what it is, though I’m not sure what “deliberate” and “pre-meditated” have to do with anything. People don’t usually make money by accident.

Tarantino is hardly the only filmmaker to wade into the NFT space, as David Lynch recently partnered with one of my favorite bands, Interpol, to launch an NFT, while MGM partnered with VeVe to launch an NFT collection for its James Bond movie No Time to Die. Silverman tells me that NFTs are the future of real estate as well. The sky truly appears to be the limit as far as this new technology is concerned.

Now, I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t predict the future, all I know is that every time I have a conversation about NFTs, I find myself saying “what?” over and over again like Brett in Pulp Fiction. I keep waiting for Samuel L. Jackson‘s hitman Jules Winnfield to double dare me to say “what?” again. Part of me wants to grab Silverman by the shoulders and quote Jules again.

“English, motherf*cker! Do you speak it?”

Knowing him, he’d quote Jules right back to me.

“If my answers frighten you, then you should cease asking scary questions.”

And you know what Marvin would make of all of this?

“Man, I don’t even have an opinion.”

Fair enough, Marvin. Just know, we ain’t through with NFTs by a damn sight. That much I promise you.

WGA Approves New Screen Credit That Gives Scribes Their Due

wga.both.logoMeanwhile, in other industry-shaking news, WGA members have approved a new “Additional Literary Material” credit that will appear onscreen to more accurately reflect all of the writers who have contributed to a movie. Those who receive ALM credits won’t see their names in the opening titles, but they’ll still be in the end credits, just like everyone else who worked on the movie. That makes sense to me, and it made sense to the majority of the guild as well.

73% of all WGA members (who have worked in the past six years) voted in favor of the ALM credit, and personally, I’m all for it as well. It was always wild to me that writers could spend weeks and even months working on a movie and not receive any credit. I understand why ghostwriters exist, and that most of these people are paid quite well for their silence, but I shudder to think how many writers have seen their careers impacted because they didn’t contribute enough material to previously earn a screen credit.

In theory, you could come up with an iconic line of dialogue, something that is quoted by movie fans for generations, and not receive any credit for it because that’s “all” you did. The counterargument is that, technically, you don’t even need to submit a draft to be eligible to receive the ALM credit, you just have to have been hired as a writer, period. Your writing could be terrible, and your draft could be tossed, but under current rules, the contract itself is all you really need to submit.

The WGA’s Screen Credits Review Committee recently determined that 185 writers contributed to literary material to 2020 features without receiving any credit. The guild made sure to note that a credit merely denotes employment, not authorship, which is an important distinction, but still, this referendum was a long time coming, and likely the result of TV writing rooms, not that movies don’t do the exact same thing.

Filmmaking is a collaborative art form, and it all starts with the script. So it’s nice to see writers link arms and stand in unison rather than compete with themselves for credit that they all deserve, and that each of them has earned to some extent. If the WGA had shot this down, countless writers would’ve been lost to the shadows of Hollywood history. Then again, it’ll be interesting to see how this change affects young writers, not to mention directors, who frequently do their own pass on a script.

Change is afoot in Hollywood, from the way streaming deals are negotiated to the metrics used to measure success. Writers aren’t immune to these industry-wide changes, I just hope something positive comes out of this. Credit matters, so if this helps more writers get their names out there and put food on the table, I’m all for it.

Under Siege Reboot for HBO Max Sets Sail with Indonesian Captain

Under Siege

Steven Seagle in Under Siege (Warner Bros.)

And finally, an Under Siege reboot is in the works at HBO Max, which has tapped Timo Tjahjanto (The Night Comes For Us) directing from a script by Umair Aleem, who wrote Netflix’s hyperviolent action movie Kate, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Talk about a match made in movie heaven!

I grew up on Under Siege, which starred Steven Seagal as a former Navy SEAL-turned-cook who takes on a group of terrorists led by Tommy Lee Jones as they try to hijack a U.S. battleship. News of a reboot doesn’t surprise me, especially seeing as how HBO Max is moving forward with Lethal Weapon 5 now that star Mel Gibson has agreed to direct the long-gestating sequel.

From Mortal Kombat to Godzilla vs. Kong, action movies have performed well on HBO Max, and the streamer is smart to get into business with Tjahjanto, who based on his past work, should bring a kinetic style to the Under Siege reboot. I liked what he did with both Killers and Headshot, and his V/H/S 2 segment Safe Haven remains the highlight of that entire franchise.

Oddly enough, Deadline‘s scoop about the Under Siege reboot began trending on Twitter for an entirely different reason. Buried toward the bottom was a little news nugget about Tjahjanto’s upcoming remake of Train to Busan, which will reportedly be titled Last Train to New York. Fans of the original movie weren’t happy and Tjahjanto found himself, um, under siege, though the change in location makes sense considering this is an English-language remake, and the director can’t just be expected to deliver the same thing. I just wish people would have a bit more faith in him, as he really can deliver the goods action-wise, and I’m eager to see what he can do with a studio budget.


Jeff Sneider

Jeff Sneider

Jeff Sneider is a veteran entertainment reporter who has spent the past 15 years writing for VarietyThe Wrap, Mashable, and Collider, in addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief of The Tracking Board. Jeff currently serves as a weekly columnist for LAMag.com and he has also written for MTV Movies Blog, Hollywood Life, AICN, Washington Square News, and the Colorado Springs Independent. He is the host of The Sneider Cut podcast as well as the awards-themed show For Your Consideration, and the former host of Meet the Movie Press. Jeff is a 2006 graduate of New York University‘s Tisch School of the Arts, where he studied screenwriting.

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