Take a dystopian Switzerland, a young girl raised in the Alps, and a fascist cheese magnate, stir in a crowd-investment platform built on blockchain, and you have the independent film “Mad Heidi.”

And really, how can you not invest in a film about a revolution to overthrow a government led by a fascist cheese magnate?

The independent filmmakers behind “Mad Heidi,” Swissploitation Films, created blockchain-based financing platform Mad Invest as part of a broader strategy of keeping total control of all aspects of the project, from fundraising to distribution.

The plan is to sell 4,000 shares in the film for CHF 500 (about $550) in order to raise CHF 2 million ($2.2 million). Each Mad Invest share is recorded as an Ethereum-based smart contract on a blockchain created by U.K.-based fintech FilmChain, which will act as collection and payment agent. As revenues come in, they will be placed in a collection account and automatically distributed to investors via those smart contracts.

“With smart contracts and blockchain technology, investments are securely registered and payouts are allocated to the right Mad Investor transparently and in real time,” the filmmakers said. “This eliminates time-consuming administrative work and investors can be sure that their participation will be billed correctly.”

A dashboard will let each investor track progress towards recouping their investment as well as any revenue earned.

A Mad concept

The Heidi in “Mad Heidi” is a grown-up version of the character from Johanna Spyri’s beloved novels. That said, Swissploitation takes the “…ploitation” part of its name seriously:

“From fondue-boarding to death by chocolate, ‘Mad Heidi’ is an action-adventure horror comedy interpretation of the popular children's book character Heidi and the first Swissploitation film.”

More broadly, “Mad Heidi” and the blockchain-secured Mad Invest platform is an attempt to “break new ground in the way films are financed and distributed, leveling the playing field for small, independent film companies and allowing fans to participate like never before,” the filmmakers say.

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One part of that is done with an aggressive social marketing and internet campaign aimed at building an audience on the ground before filming has even begun — a merchandise shop has taken in more than CHF 160,000 ($178,000). Another part is using that audience to aggressively cut out the distribution middlemen who take as much as 80% of a film’s revenue.

Then there’s Netflix, Amazon Prime and the other increasingly powerful streaming services disrupting the film industry, the Mad Invest founders said.

“Independent filmmakers are struggling to find their niche against the massive power of the streamers. ‘Mad Heidi’ shows how it’s done. The future is in the crowd. Blockchain, the internet and social media are what it takes.”

They may have a point. So far, Swissploitation Films has raised more than CHF 1.2 million ($1.3 million) from fan investors so far — a great deal of money for independent filmmakers — and plans to start shooting this fall for a 2022 release.

Tokens, but not tokenized

It should be noted that the “Mad Heidi” shares are not being tokenized. Shareholders do not receive any cryptocurrency, or any voting rights in the project’s governance.

That said, the filmmakers accepted cryptocurrency in payment for shares, noting that a large number of the investors paid with Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin, or USD Coin via the U.S.-based Coinbase exchange. (Which doesn’t change the fact that, as is often the case, U.S. investors are barred due to regulatory concerns.)

And, like any good crypto company in the entertainment space, Mad Invest has launched a line of nonfungible tokens on Rarible — the first on April 23 to celebrate hitting the 1 million CHF mark that was the Mad Invest campaign’s minimum goal. More are forthcoming, in varying degrees of rarity.

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