Sniper Spotlight with David Bianchi from Gala Film

Credit: RZR

Last week, I caught up with the actor, poet, writer, and producer David Bianchi to talk about the making of his first new series ‘RZR’ with Gala Film.

He told me about his journey as an artist and how when he left Upstate New York he went all-in on acting and performance poetry. With over 120-professional film and TV credits to his name, including a heavy reccurring role in ‘Queen of the South’ and ‘Resident Alien’ on Netflix, Bianchi is also a staunch supporter of Web3 technology. He’s an early adopter of crypto and NFTs, and his series of “Spinema™” spoken word films have won awards, been featured at Art Basel, and showcased in the Decentraland metaverse.

Now he’s geared up for the premiere of his debut Web3 series RZR, the first full production from Gala Film. Set in a dystopian, Tech Noir-inspired version of Los Angeles, with a top-notch Hollywood cast, RZR could have strong implications for the future of film and TV.

The following interview with David Bianchi has been edited for concision and clarity.

What’s the series ‘RZR’ about? And can you tell me a little bit about what the process has been like and how you came up with it?

I met the Gala Team in March of 2022, and I told them what I was doing. I was already minting a lot of stuff on SuperRare and MakersPlace, and I produced a film premiere in the metaverse in Decentraland, and so on. They were really bullish on what I was doing. So, we decided to get to work around June of 2022, and I pitched them a feature film that I finished that I wanted to mint and fractionalize. But they wanted to do something from scratch.

I told them that I want to do this short form series that’s like Black Mirror meets Mr. Robot, and they agreed. But at the time, I had no idea what I was going to do. I didn’t know the name of the title. I didn’t know the names of the characters. I didn’t know the world. I just knew that Black Mirror meets Mr. Robot, Cyberpunk, Children of Men, and Blade Runner. I had this encapsulation in my head.

So, I went to work to write the treatment that night, and I put together a visual look-book and I sent it. Two weeks later, they said let’s do this. That was July of 2022.

We wrote eight episodes, did three NFT collection drops, and went into production in January. I delivered eight fully completed episodes within 12 months of shaking hands. It was completely at the pace of Web3 — very unsustainable.

The world of RZR is an alternative dystopian Los Angeles that takes you into this dark world of neural implants, hacker culture, and the underbelly of black-market crime. And the world is inspired by the Tech Noir movement.

So you go back to the early Terminator, the first Matrix, if you look at Children of Men, if you look at Blade Runner (the first one), that’s what this falls under. I wanted to create something that was existentialist but subdued — that would speak to something.

It would speak to sci-fi fans in a really interesting way, but also I wanted to create a grounded Black Mirror type of world that’s not so far off in the future. The cars that you see in RZR are today’s cars, the computers you see are today’s, so all the tech you see is literally what you see outside your window. But some of these little sci-fi elements feel dangerously close.

And so, I created a world where cash is obsolete and it’s riddled with cryptocurrency, and language, themes, and topics that we discuss in Web3 circles.

What was the process like working with Gala Film? I know that you said it was fast, but what else?

Working with Gala Film has been an absolute dream come true. They work with the philosophy of leaning into the creator economy that was established during the NFT bull run, where it wasn’t about the tech, but the artist was a superstar.

Gala leaned into that and said David, “We trust you. We’ve seen your body of work. We believe in your convictions. Here you go. We’re going to help you bring this to life.”

They gave me creative provenance to build and create the world the way I wanted with no oversight on the script or production. I controlled the final cut. The amount of trust that they put in my hands could have gone either really well or really badly [laughing].

I come from a Hollywood background where they pay for and own everything, and they tell you what to do even though it’s your creativity. But it has been the opposite with Gala. And they’ve kept every promise.

That’s beautiful. When is RZR going to be released?

The first two episodes are going to be released exclusively on Gala Film on April 14th. Sunday is going to be our release date, so episodes one and two will drop on the 14th, and then every Sunday thereafter we’ll release one episode. Its a short form series. Each episode runs about 15 minutes.

Will it only be available on Gala Film or will there be other platforms where people can see it?

It’s only available on Gala Film. RZR is the first title to be released on Gala Film, so we’re kind of the Prom King. It reminds me of what Netflix did with ‘House of Cards’ back in the day.

We’re leading by example and it’s unprecedented. There’s never been a Web3 company that has produced a Hollywood TV show at this scale — an episodic show. And we’ve got some greats in it. The likes of BAFTA nominee and Screen Actors Guild Award winner Mena Suvari (‘American Beauty’), Emilio Rivera (‘Sons of Anarchy’), Richard Cabral (‘Mayans M.C.’), and Danny Trejo. We’ve got a great cast of Hollywood hitters.

We’re building an incredible ecosystem in Web3. People will be able to go to Gala Film, and whether you live in Kalamazoo or Jacksonville, Florida, you don’t have to know anything about cryptocurrency to watch. Just go to Gala Film, put in your email address, set up an account, click play, and it’s a freemium platform — so no pay wall. And as soon as you set up your account, Gala builds a Web3 wallet for you. But you don’t know it’s a Web3 wallet unless you know Web3.

That leads me to the next question. What role do NFTs play in the release of this film?

There are several NFT components to the film and release. We have NFT Genesis posters, which are based on the poster I created during early concept pre-production. I knew that it wasn’t going to be the final poster for the series, but from a collectability perspective, I thought — I would love to have the concept poster that never got released.

Every filmmaker creates a concept poster when they’re pitching a project, and I wanted to create something that would never actually be released as a poster, but that was the Genesis ideation of RZR. So come Season Two and Three, people will look back at them like, “That’s the OG world.” We only minted 1800 of them, and I think 30% of the supply is still left.

What’s also cool about these native NFTs is that you’ll be able to connect to film nodes on the Gala network. You will have earning potential based on what NFTs you hold because Gala’s going to drop a dedicated token called $FILM that will power the ecosystem. And the supply I think is going to be 500 million, so it’s going be a really low supply.

Also, these mystery boxes are all NFTs, and you don’t know what’s going to be in them. You might get a Shard, and that Shard will be part of a scene. Let’s say you have a two-minute scene that you can own but that scene is broken up into five parts and you have to collect all five parts to complete the scene. Once you complete the scene, you get maximum reward potential. The more you hold, the more you earn on the network because this is the first ever watch-to-earn model.

You touched on this a little bit already, but I’m curious what specific problems in the traditional film industry do you think Web3 can solve?

One thing is inspiration. I came from being immersed 12 hours a day in Web3 from March 2020 to when I shot RZR. I had over 700 people work on RZR. We had a daily crew of about a hundred, so it’s a big machine, but none of these folks are involved in Web3, and there’s a lack of inspiration in the production workflow in Hollywood.

I really felt like my umbilical cord was cut because there was no WAGMI (We’re All Gonna Make It). There was no GM, GN — there was none of that sort of powerful levity that we felt during the explosion of the NFT boom. In Web3, we are all very inspired because we’re building stuff. We really believe that we’re changing the future one block at a time. So that’s one of the things.

But the most glaring thing is the payment systems.

One thing I want to do is that if there’s a financial surplus, I’d like to take a percentage of that money and go back to my crew with residuals for production, art directors, prop masters, security people, etc. I want to be able to say, if you’re a head of the department, you’ll get this much. If you’re a sub key, you’ll get this much. And I’d like to reach out to them and say, “I’ve got money for you and it’s here for you to take. It’s a stablecoin, which means it won’t waver, but you have to get a Web3 wallet.”

This is how the real disruption happens. It’s where it happens from the inside out. Because now you’ll get all these crew members that will go back to Lionsgate and Universal and wherever they’re working and tell their guys at the grip truck, “I worked on this thing for Bianchi called RZR and they just gave me something like 500 bucks. He just gave me residuals.” That’s how the revolution begins.

To close out, do you have any advice that you could give young artists? Any piece of wisdom for them that you learned along the way?

One, you need to know what it is that you want to do. If you’re a musician, then that’s what you are. If you’re an actor, that’s what you are. If you’re a painter, that’s what you are. If you’re a digital artist, that’s what you are and stay in that lane and don’t deviate. Because you could do a bunch of stuff poorly, or one or two things really well.

Two, find something to inspire you in the immediate term so that you can stay nutritious during the midterm and long term. What is getting you out of bed on Monday? Because while you’re trying to record that LP or EP, or you’re trying to get that short film made, it’s what’s inspiring you in the “betweens” that’s giving you purpose. You need to have something that inspires you to keep going because we always want to do the big things, but the big things are a combination of little things.

Three. Stay out of your own way. Meaning for me, I’m now coming up on seven years of continuous sobriety. And everything that’s good in my life is a direct result of that. I had to learn how to get out of my own way. It could be your own personal insecurities. It might be your temperament. Maybe you’re perpetually late — little things like this. Maybe you feel insecure about your art. Figure out ways to get out of that feeling of anxiety and the lack of desire to showcase yourself.

The other thing that’s important is having a tribe or a community that is doing what you’re doing. So, if you’re a rapper and you have your first couple tracks out, you need to find a beat maker that’s trying to get his first couple tracks produced, and you need to find someone who’s got a mic and a mixing board that can get together with you in the studio apartment with blankets to soundproof it. Find people that are at your level.

And I think if there’s anything else, always do the best you can, and sometimes the best that you can isn’t going to compete with the other people. So as an actor, I always say that my job is to book the room. It’s not my job to book the job. So, if you’re the casting director, my job is to show up, translate that text into a moving, palpable performance to wow you because that’s the only thing I can control.

I can’t control whether the producers hire me or not. Even if I’m the best candidate, there’s so many things involved in why people get hired. It’s got nothing to do with my performance. Always do your best. And at least that way you can rest easy saying, “I gave it my best shot. It’s time to keep going.”

And never stop chopping your feet. Chop your feet until you hear the whistle.

You can check out the season premiere of RZR on Sunday April 14th for free on Gala Films‘ website.

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