Cryptopia: Bitcoin, Blockchains, and the Future of the Internet - OhNo "WTF" Crypto

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Cryptopia: Bitcoin, Blockchains, and the Future of the Internet

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Weeks into a European promotional tour that included sold-out premieres in Berlin, Luxembourg, and Basel, the COVID-19 pandemic closed cinemas, leaving filmmaker Torsten Hoffmann with no choice but to release his new cryptocurrency documentary online.

Hoffmann, a Melbourne-based filmmaker, has worked on the film for the last four years. The new documentary is a follow up to Hoffmann’s self-funded 2014 independent documentary Bitcoin: The End of Money As We Know It.

To produce Cryptopia: Bitcoin, Blockchains, and the Future of the Internet, Hoffmann traveled the world visiting multiple cities and destinations including the secret location of the Xapo vault in the Swiss mountains. He interviewed crypto influencers Andreas Antonopoulos, Roger Ver, Charlie Lee, Samson Mow, Preethi Kasireddy, and Wences Casares.

Hoffmann first became interested in cryptocurrencies while completing an MBA in Finance at Oxford University. That led him to make the micro-budget independent documentary Bitcoin: The End of Money As We Know It in 2014. The film was supported by a crowdfunding campaign which helped the film gain traction on illegal pirating platforms in 2015. The film was subsequently licensed to 20+ countries and released on major streaming platforms. After the success of his first film, Hoffmann told Brave New Coin that he wanted to try something more ambitious with his second cryptocurrency documentary.

“Since the release of the first film, the industry has grown by a factor of 100, fortunes were made, and lost. Countries that once banned Bitcoin are now openly supporting it. Bitcoin has been called one of the most disruptive technologies of our time. However, media coverage is often misinformed and the general public is still confused about the technology and its implications,” Hoffmann said. “Can this technology, designed to operate independent of trust and within a decentralized network, really provide a robust alternative? Or are cryptocurrencies just as unfairly distributed, easily manipulated, and dangerous as our current systems? That was my starting point.”

With assistance from Screen Australia, a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign, and a German broadcast co-production, Hoffmann had a budget that allowed him to travel the world talking to some of the major players in the crypto ecosystem.

“This allowed us to tell our story in a more ambitious cinematic universe. Elaborate 3D animations were created to illustrate blockchain’s inner workings. We flew 5-person crews into a remote part of Switzerland to a secret location,” Hoffmann explains. “We filmed consistently with two 4k cameras and spoke to some of the most knowledgeable and opinionated characters in the industry, including Andreas Antonopoulos, Craig Wright, and Roger Ver.”

One of the challenges in making a documentary about bitcoin and blockchain is that the markets, narratives, and technology move very quickly.

“I wanted the film to stay relevant so we avoided talking about the price as that would age the film,” Hoffmann states. “Instead, I tried to focus on the main narratives and utopian ideas in the movement and not too much on the specifics of the tech or what’s going on in the markets.”

While the film has a global feel, with filming taking place on four continents in cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Tokyo, London, Berlin, Switzerland, and Melbourne, Hoffmann says the highlight of the filming schedule was being granted access to the Xapo vault.

Founded by Bitcoin entrepreneur Wences Casares, Xapo is a Hong Kong-based company that provides a bitcoin wallet and bitcoin-based debit card, and a cold storage bitcoin vault. The vault is a decommissioned military bunker dug into the mountainside in a remote part of Switzerland. Its exact location is secret, and access is protected by a complex series of security measures.

“The bunker scene was a highlight and we are the only film crew to be allowed inside. Allegedly up to 10% of all Bitcoin private keys are stored in the Xapo vault. It was an adventure to get clearance and then to film inside the bunker,” Hoffmann adds.

Currently locked down in Germany, Hoffmann has just released the film online making it available for viewing anywhere in the world, for a small fee.

“The cinema tour was halted after sold-out premieres in five countries. I got stuck in Germany just as everything was being closed down. The right thing to do was to release it globally online now,” Hoffmann said. “Maybe people are getting to the end of their Netflix watchlist after so many weeks of quarantine.”



, Khareem Sudlow