Behind the Axie Infinity Docu: Emfarsis Discusses How to Bring Play-to-Earn Stories to Life

A documentary about “Play-To-Earn” was recently released, telling the stories of different people in Cabanatuan whose lives have changed because they were able to earn a living by playing Axie Infinity. 

Narrated by Leah Callon-Butler, who first reported about the phenomenon on Coindesk in 2020, the documentary captures why Axie Infinity became very popular in the Philippines and why Play-To-Earn appears tailor fit to the country. According to Miko Matsumura, co-founder of Investment firm gumi Cryptos, “Play-to-Earn, which can provide equal opportunity for everyone is great especially in countries like the Philippines, which has a lower cost of living but also a well-educated, smart and talented workforce.”

The documentary has now been featured in numerous international publications, including CNBC and VentureBeat, and local publications like Spin and Inquirer. 

This documentary about Play to Earn was fascinating (h/t @mikojava for sharing). It increasingly feels that’s the next major trend poised for takeoff… https://t.co/r1uEM4udDK

— Arianna Simpson (@AriannaSimpson) May 17, 2021

The documentary — both the English subbed and the multi subbed versions — now have a combined 250,000+ video views on YouTube and is still constantly increasing. 

Yield Guild Games (YGG), the largest Axie Infinity guild, recently published an article as to why it funded the #PlayToEarn documentary. From the first Coindesk article published by Leah about the subject, it became the inspiration to actually launch Yield Guild Games. Anil Lulla of Delphi Digital, investor to YGG approached co-founder Gabby Dizon on the potential of the story being amplified more than it already had. 

It was at this point that Emfarsis became involved. In this article, BitPinas talked to Nathan Smale, the director of the documentary with regards to the thought process in creating the video, what led to the decision to remove technical jargons, and what the experience is like in directing a documentary that has probably never been done before.

BitPinas: How did the Play-to-earn documentary come about? 

Nathan Smale: In many ways, it feels like this documentary has been coming for years. I first came to the Philippines in 2018 to work with a development team in Pampanga through Cloudstaff. Since that time my business partner Leah Callon-Butler and I have been welcomed into the #CryptoPH crew – with Leah even presenting at the first Women in Blockchain Manila events with Mench Dizon. Since first working with a team here, we had taken on the role of ‘unofficial ambassadors’ for the Philippines blockchain development. We would go on to tell everyone of our international contacts about the wealth of talent here. 

One example of this unofficial ambassador role came to light after our good friend Colin Goltra reached out to Leah to highlight this amazing story about a group of Filipino’s in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija who were playing a crypto game to put food on the table during the pandemic. That sent us down a rabbit hole in mid 2020 learning about Play-to-earn, NFTs, Axie Infinity and Nueva Ecija.  Leah wrote about this in her regular Coindesk column and things really seemed to explode from there.

On the back of that article, Gabby Dizon, a stalwart of the Filipino gaming and crypto communities, reached out to Leah. Gabby spoke to Leah and I about how we could tell this amazing Filipino “Play-to-earn” stories to the world. We were very quick to say yes to Gabby. Coincidently, Gabby is actually the husband of Mench who first welcomed Leah and I into the local community. 

This story has been incredibly important to me. I’ve spent years promoting blockchain and crypto. I’ve spent years telling people around the world not to underestimate the power of the Philippines’ people and I’ve spent years enjoying the semi-rural life of trikes and jeepneys of the Philippines. This documentary gave both Leah and I a chance to tell a story that was important to us personally. We wanted to show the resilience of the Filipino people but we also wanted to show parts of the Philippines not usually covered on Instagram. The version of the Philippines that we had experienced in the years prior, the Philippines that we had come to love.

What were the challenges in making this documentary?

The ever evolving COVID restrictions were the biggest challenge. We were from Pampanga but we would be heading Nueva Ecija from Palawan via Manila in the days after the Christmas/New Years period. We were checking the various government sites daily but each Local Government Unit (LGU) was its own unique interpretation.  It was well worth it though, paperwork and precautions were steadfastly followed in the interest of seeing the nation rebuild as one.

With our team doing such a fabulous job ensuring everything was in place our next major challenge was the confidence of our stars. Most of the people who appeared in the film would have prefered to present in Tagalog, however we really wanted to reach the maximum number of people which meant English language would be helpful were possible. In comparison to my Tagalog which is “konti lang’ at best, their English was great but speaking a foreign language on camera is a daunting task for anyone – especially when you are being asked to explain complex ideas like crypto or the emotional struggles of surviving through the hardest time our generation has faced.

How did you overcome the challenges? 

After several years in the Philippines, paperwork and process has become an accepted part of life but the uncertainty of COVID really added complexity. Fortunately most of the LGU’s were pretty good at updating their Facebook pages with the latest info each time it changed. For my international friends, yes, each local government unit (region/suburb) is able to enact their own rules. 

So whilst the 7,000+ islands of the Philippines had probably the same number of localised rules, the government were doing their best to keep us updated. 

The real secret to our success was the team that we had. As soon as Gabby approached us, we reached out to our long time friend and talented Filipino story teller Terence Ver Angsioco to take on the role of Creative Director. Terence had most recently spent lock down living with a local Tagbanua tribe in Palawan telling their story through photos. We had to bring him back to the main island but there was nobody better than Terence to partner with Leah so that we could create authentic relationships with the stars of the documentary, especially when the conversation was facilitated in Tagalog. 

In addition to Terence, we had our whole team from Bulacan working on the shoot. Aavron John Dela Santos, Lorancis Cruz and Silvan Santiago Tuliao really bought the whole thing together. Some editing sessions that were running into the wee hours of the morning also ended up as Philippine history lessons whilst we discussed the pros or cons of an additional element or scene. It was always important to us to make sure we were true to the local story and not projecting our Philippines experience on the story. I cannot adequately express my gratitude to Aav’s, Chito and the crew for helping us portray the story we intended. On the upside, they are all now into crypto so hopefully they thank me long term.

What surprised people about making this documentary? 

Very few people understand the full extent of producing a documentary of this scale. The planning starts well before the shooting does. There is a lot of research that goes into fact checking and rechecking. Continuity is basically a fulltime time job. Did each shot match the next? Could anyone tell that we had had to purchase Leah multiple blue shirts on the off chance she ended up with Jollibee’s dropping on to her shirt over lunch during a long day shooting. 

Things that look so obvious, or more so, not even noticeable, may have been the output of hours of shooting, getting just the right lighting or a multitude of late night edits to remove 100 milliseconds here or there. 

What do you hope people take away from watching this documentary?

It was our goal to showcase to the world that emerging nations like the Philippines are going to bring crypto to the masses. There is a huge community of smart, driven, tech savvy people who are looking for opportunities to thrive here in the Philippines. Never underestimate the Filipino’s passion for family that drives them to succeed. Emerging nations don’t need handouts, they need opportunities. Crypto has the ability to decentralise those opportunities across the globe. Play-to-Earn is just the start, it is building a huge community through gaming that natively starts to understand cryptocurrency and its benefits. I have no doubt the crypto and blockchain development scene is going to explode in the Philippines over the next 18 months – there is too much talent in the Philippines for it to not grow here.

This article is published on BitPinas: Behind the Axie Infinity Docu: Emfarsis Discusses How to Bring Play-to-Earn Stories to Life

Also, check out the stars of the documentary in our Play-to-Earn Profiles as BitPinas’ Joy Gurtiza interviewed them to find what they are up to these days.

The post Behind the Axie Infinity Docu: Emfarsis Discusses How to Bring Play-to-Earn Stories to Life appeared first on BitPinas.

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