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NFT NYC And Spike Lee: Inside The Event Defining A New Era

NFT NYC And Spike Lee: Inside The Event Defining A New Era

NFT NYC

Mars NFT Collection screenshot from Its Gotta be Mars: The Visible Project, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huBnrMFbcQY&t=17s

Described as the “The Superbowl of NFTs,” NFT NYC is a massive event that ran from June 20 to June 23 in Times Square, New York City. With 16,000 attendees, seven different venues, celebrated figures and cutting-edge innovation, NFT NYC was truly the center of the universe.

In its fourth year, people flocked from around the globe to speak, learn, network, and party. It was breathtaking, and at times, overwhelming, but always exhilarating and much of that is due to the goal of the conference founders.

Indeed, though the Times Square Marriott was the conference HQ (complete with full branding on six floors of the hotel, the lobby and outside of the hotel), Radio City Music Hall was the featured space on the first day of the event. It’s at this legendary site where NFT NYC founders Devin Finzer, Jodee Rich and Cameron Bale explained that the conference would be action-packed because the event is intended to forge community and provide a platform. So a whopping 1,500 speakers and their topics were programmed over three days. Rich emphasized that even though past years have included such speakers as filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, the focus is not on notable names but rather on those who are passionate, knowledgeable and dedicated to building both their professional and personal brands.

Therefore, every topic imaginable within the verticals of art, music, social, sports, gaming, filming, and more was offered. While some may overlap a bit, the main takeaway seemed to be about encouragement to just jump in and learn as one goes. 


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Some of the best advice is to join an NFT discord — a server used by NFT projects and brands as a gathering place for their community — and/or offer to help with an NFT drop and learn that way.  If you are more advanced, the sentiment from speakers seems to be to refine community-building strategies and ensure the creation of organic, digital products that offer never-ending value, incentives, and the ability to tie back to the “real world.”

While it would be great to see the proportion of Black attendees and people of color match the registration staffing, those who are here are passionate, heat-seeking missiles. Some have also spoken on topics regarding diversity and NFTs, noting that prior asset classes were inaccessible and that this one is not. Several speakers of color spoke about their success with various endeavors in the space thus far. However, for the most part, the media poster children of NFTs still seem to be the usual suspects even though people of all hues have and continue to experience major revenue breakthroughs. While technology advances, representation still continues to lag behind cultural curves.

This should shift, at least a bit, once high-profile individuals of color such as filmmaker Spike Lee drops his NFT. Though the conference makes sure celebs don’t outshine the NFT natives so to speak, there was a packed house at Radio City for Lee on opening day.  Decked out in Yankees gear, Lee gave a warm, interesting, and funny Q&A about his forthcoming NFT debut. Lee is preparing to drop a Mars Blackmon NFT based on the fictional character of the same name played by Lee himself in his iconic film “She’s Gotta Have It.” Though he was coy about the drop date, he was adamant about the importance of doing research in the space prior to committing to any action and cautioned the audience to do the same.

Though Lee said that he had no immediate plans to do so, he is looking forward to being able to finance films through NFTs because he feels it brings more democracy to the process, though he feels NFTs will only be applied to independent filmmaking.  While a big proponent of this level of tech and overall tech, Lee said all such capability still has to be rooted in a well-crafted story in order to capture an audience. He gave examples of conversations around this very topic with the students he teaches at New York University film school. In a very breezy, conversational vibe, Lee also spoke about the value of mastering one’s craft and always being open to learning new things. Indeed, it is a mantra he chants to his students. The value of preparation and focus is non-negotiable for Lee.  He cited working with Academy Award winner Denzel Washington on the set of “Malcolm X” and how Washington had prepared for the film, including abstaining from pork. Lee said he believes that Washington actually channeled Malcolm during many scenes. “No matter what you do, you gotta put in the work. Otherwise, you ain’t really serious, and people can smell B.S.,” Lee cautioned.

Lee then took questions. Asked when he thought the New York Knicks would win a championship again, Lee stood up to tell about the time that he saw the last, long-ago championship of the Knicks, acting out some of the most critical moves of that night. That might not happen again until he is in a wheelchair, he said. The whole exchange was pure comedy.

Asked what kind of NFT he would drop if he had all resources at his disposal, Lee sat thoughtfully for a while and then said that he would like to create an NFT that would help New York given the mental and financial aftermath of covid-19, the ubiquitous population of homeless people, and the growing gun violence.  This is what new technology should do at its very core: inspire for good.

This was a true departure in tone from the vibe at a previous digital currency conference that featured Lamborghinis outside the venue and excess as a metric of success. We’re in a new state of consciousness now, and Lee represents this vibe at this moment. It’s about rebuilding in a conscious way and using new tools to get the job done. NFTs and Web3 make up some of these tools so long as we use them to create more equity and inclusion along with the innovation.

Some may scoff at the brave new NFT world or even call it a scam, but with 30 million active wallets in play, as noted by opening speaker David Pakman, managing partner of CoinFund, the NFT vibe hardly seems like just a fad. Though far from maturity, one can sense that this arena is potentially leading to an important intersection of culture, technology,  and economy. It behooves us all to track it and participate where there seems to be an organic fit.