Bitcoin FilmFest

Warsaw, March 2023

It’s been a couple of weeks since the Bitcoin FilmFest in Warsaw and I think it’s worth reflecting on. For a start, this was a great proof of concept for us and it all worked really nicely. We ran our own instance of the fantastic BTCPay server and successfully routed all LN payments through our node – both for ticket sales ahead of the event and on the day via point of sale units spun up on the day, sometimes at the drop of a hat and always expertly handled by Seb.

Although the BFF was always going to have bitcoin payments, the organisers managed to convince the venue staff to accept fiat payment at close of business, which would be funded by accepting sat payments via our PoS throughout the day. So the sats could flow for coffees and beers as well as merch. This setup was also added at the WK venue, which was round the corner from the BFF and had a larger audience – this was a great example of how quick and easy it is to implement sat payments accessible to all staff via a URL that points to an easily created storefront.

Regarding our setup, there was some minor stress due to the uptime and reliability requirements of running an LN node. Though we went ahead with the most sovereign setup we could, we were still beholden to forces beyond our control without an industrial-level power backup or fibre-to-4G dropout hooked up. Thankfully neither the electrics nor the telecoms let us down on the day. The other consideration, liquidity, was not a concern as we were confident of having enough or being able to easily acquire more on the fly – this is a well developed market.

The BFF was attached to the Weekend Kapitalizmu – a stroke of genius by organisers Tomek, Pierre (yes, of Great Reset fame), and Seb, as it created a fertile orange-pilling environment for business minded WK attendees. Without doubt this happened as more and more people filed into the theatre to watch bitcoin films as the weekend progressed. It was also good for us, as this is the exact makeup of our target market. Unfortunately, we were unable to get any gold coin merchants signed up to accept bitcoin payments, though we did meet and talk to many great people we could work with in the future.

The BFF kicked off with some workshops aimed at cultivating some practical skills and a bit of knowledge for people new to bitcoin. I kicked off the morning with a presentation called ‘What is Money…and who says so?’ The aim was to run through the basics of how money emerges, for which I gave the Mengerian account, and then a quick glide through how we got here: a gradually centralising gold standard eventually dissolved, the development of banking & central banking, and then…Bitcoin. Why are we all so excited about it, why’s it beat gold, is it money? Many could talk for hours but this was just 40 minutes and it was an enjoyable experience – especially when some students told me they found it really interesting later on. I think sometimes we forget how just earnestly laying out some basics can have a big impact on people.

And then the films began. I had seen a few of them beforehand, though nothing beats the big screen and it was quite surreal watching films about bitcoin in the Kinoteka – Stalin’s gift to the Polish people…poetic.

A cool aspect of the film event was that winners were chosen by sat donation. This was a really neat example of bitcoin crowdfunding and use of the LN delivered by Geyser. People could donate sats to their favourite film. The winners either raised the most sats (of course), or received the most unique address donations – these were The Satoshi Mystery and Human B respectively.

Speaking of Human B, the panel discussion that followed its showing produced a comical moment. A no-coiner (albeit not bitcoin-hostile) film aficionado, whose name I cannot remember, was moderating the panel and flippantly referred to Gigi as ‘the guy in the green condom’. He then almost appeared to be in a state of live rabbit hole entry as he stumbled through questions while occasionally stopping to say he’s still processing what he’d just seen. You could almost see the cogs turning and hear the penny dropping – was it confusion or clarity forming? I’d love an update from him on this. But he effortlessly showed how we must appear at times, with techwizard-Wordsworth Gigi creating an irreconcilable juxtaposition in the minds of the uninitiated. The message, I think, being that we care so much more for substance over optics or any other superficial quality often highly regarded in the world of fiat.

The next thing worthy of comment was the panel we appeared on towards the end of the event. Seb moderated with competition winning Remi Forte (The Satoshi Mystery), Mick from Geyser, and myself. Seb was a natural and I think he has a future as the bitcoin version of Paxman. We spoke about how Remi made his excellent film, bitcoin businesses, and the really pervasive tone present in many of the films – the energy/proof of work/renewables topic. I was keen to make the point that the real final boss is not the BIS guy, but the idea that energy use needs to be morally policed. Though maybe it wins some hearts in the short run, it is not enough to appeal to ‘renewables’ as there’s no reason bitcoin mining will stop at consuming just enough electricity so as to make all energy capital misallocations whole. Over time, and without the state’s finger on the scales as the fiat punch bowl gets pulled (or torn?) away, these power plants are going to be outcompeted by more cost effective ones. Capital set free from ESG mandates will gradually migrate towards these, compounding the headwinds for miners who have married themselves to such power sources. Countering proof of work hatred per se is the end-game, regardless of how it’s powered – I think we all know that deep down.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable weekend and there’s word of it becoming a yearly thing. The Polish bitcoin scene appears really strong and more bitcoin films are in the works. If you’re thinking about producing a film, I encourage you to. Your audience is only going to grow, and what an event to have your work shown at. You’ll have a keen audience and you will win some sats. We look forward to meeting you at the next one!

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