Mint Season 7 Episode 9 welcomes Robin Schmidt, aka SuperMassive, the founder of BasedAF. Discover his unique approach to simplifying complex subjects into engaging videos, his passion for cryptocurrency, and the evolution of his creative voice. Robin shares insights on his content creation system and the differences in creative freedom from working at Harmony and The Defiant. He also dives into the third pillar of the creator economy and the concept of full-time fans. Get ready to learn what makes great content truly worth collecting.
I hope you enjoy our conversation.
- 00:00 – Intro
- 04:11 – The Ability to Simplify Complex Subjects into Fun Videos
- 07:14 – Getting into Cryptocurrency
- 18:56 – The Process of Finding a Creative Voice
- 25:09 – Robin’s System for Creating Content
- 30:24 – Differences in Creative Freedom Now vs. at Harmony and The Defiant
- 36:01 – The Third Pillar of the Creator Economy
- 45:28 – The Concept of Full-Time Fans
- 49:06 – Defining “Great Content Worth Collecting”
- 51:52 – Outro
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I caught you off guard right there.
Robin Schmidt: How dare you. How dare you. We go live in three seconds, I’m set man. I’m ready.
We’re live. We’re live and in action. Welcome, supe, supe supermassive. That’s what it says on your name tag.
Robin Schmidt: It is. I had a stutter when I was typing. And so, you know, that’s what happened.
I think it’s fitting. It’s the name that fits your entire energy. And ever since I’ve met you, I think like what, like two years ago or something like that. You’ve had this energy to you, and you just brought it on the introduction. And I’m super happy to have you here, a part of season seven, supe, supe, supermassive.
Robin Schmidt: Welcome to me. Yes, I’m very happy to be here. Thank you for the quote. So, my energy it’s like it’s a weird thing. Like I don’t really know where it comes from, because most of the time I’m extremely quiet. And I have my headphones on, and nobody hears from me and then like, when the cameras on me, it’s like, boom, bullshit.
I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it.
Robin Schmidt: It’s a little bit of that self-preservation. I think more than anything else. If I was gone the whole time, I wouldn’t survive. I would need so much sugar, work would be angry with me.
I feel like you’re just having sugar IV and you’re 24/7. At least that’s what feels like publicly.
Robin Schmidt: Yeah. My diabetes is coming on. Nice. Oh, yeah.
Do you remember how we met originally?
Robin Schmidt: I started to you. There was an event in LA, some kind of thing you were working on.
Robin Schmidt: Virtual, yes. Who are you working for? You were working for Yes. And you reached out to me and said this. We want to do a review of the year; do you fancy doing something? And I said yes. And then I realized that I couldn’t deliver it and then I came up with something else very quickly, which we delivered for you, which was just like this fun review of the year. It was working at the time. And that was when I came up with the Andre Konya perfume ad, which is like the, probably my most favorite thing I’ve ever made in web three. And it’s weird because it’s divisive. But at the same time, like as a pure piece of kind of satire. Andre Konya as a perfume. It’s like probably the thing I’m most proud of in web three, which is bizarre really for like, yeah, so that’s how we met.
Ever since I saw that video. I’ve been in love. I gotta tell you. I feel like I was watching your content. I know. This is why I brought you here to confess my love to you and to see if you will take me in this web three metaverse.
Robin Schmidt: I take yours. I take you wholeheartedly. My ring is your ring.
I’ll take it, just leave that as expression. Okay. No, but seriously, real talk ever since I saw that video and you created a custom for that event that ended up going on YouTube and being this really, really funny ass meme, I’ve been a big fan of your stuff. And if there’s one person that understands content creation, it’s you. All the work that you do that define, to what you’re doing now with base media. For those who don’t know you. I want to give a quick intro. Can you introduce yourself? If no one’s ever met you, how do you actually introduce yourself?
Robin Schmidt: So, I might as well be just me. I go by the name supermassive, which gives you an idea of the superhero persona that I put on when I’m in front of the camera. I guess in a sense, all I am is an entertainer. I make fun content. And I make it about subjects which inherently are not fun, like defi for instance, defi is not fun. And I guess my challenge to myself is to take concepts like technology. Concepts, which are inherently nonvisual, and turn them into things that can be consumed by people visually and given a sheen of pop culture that makes them memorable, makes them entertaining, and makes people want to come back and see more. Because these are concepts that I’m trying to absorb and understand myself. And so that’s the lens through which I view them and I’ve spent 25 years becoming the best kind of filmmaker I could. And it was only once I stepped into web three, that I was able to cast off the shackles of what other brands want me to do for commercials or what funding agencies want you to do in order to get funding and just kind of be the filmmaker I wanted to be. And so, when I put myself in front of the camera, I started presenting the videos instead of just directing them. I guess that’s when it finally became the truest most authentic version of the filmmaker that I am where and I am today.
The Ability to Simplify Complex Subjects into Fun Videos
So, looking back 25 years, are there any specific experiences that you can attribute to your creative simplicity of taking complex subjects and breaking them down into really fun, endearing videos? Anything you can look back on and kind of reflect on?
Robin Schmidt: Well, probably when you’re learning to be a videographer or filmmaker, you find ways to fund yourself and you find ways to keep doing the job because otherwise you have to do another job and it’s very difficult to make films. That’s not true. It’s actually very easy to make films though. It used to be very difficult to make films when I started. Getting your hands on the cameras, getting your hands on the equipment. So, what you did was take crappy jobs and those crappy jobs in my instance, were karaoke videos. So, if you ever karaoke bar, there’ll be a video sitting behind the lyrics of some cheesy dude, and some cheesy girl in black and white, and in slomo, which has it, I made that video and that’s how I learned, but we used to churn out about like, five or six of these a day and we challenged ourselves to shoot them for 10 pounds. That was the budget we give ourselves because we received 300 pounds for making them and it was just to like to knock out five or six a day and you know, try and shoot them as quickly and as cheaply as we could. But man, you learned so much in that process. And that was basically film school. Where that led to was then, well obviously, we can make instructional videos. So, we made instructional videos for the likes of gyms and things like that because we were doing a lot of extreme sports stuff to begin with. Skiing, snowboarding basically, that’s kind of how I got started just filming not as throwing themselves off cliffs and other cable cars. And that led to TV work, doing explainers, basically breaking down tricks and how to do them for viewers of the extreme sports channel. And we did a buttload of that, like a really a lot of different kinds of types of explainers. I guess that’s kind of where it came from, just you know taking tricks and tips and turning them into content but that was like before we even YouTube. So, I guess also the other half of it is I’m naturally curious. I went to the University of Oxford, believe it or not, my father was a professor at the University of Oxford. So, I’m flexing my non-Ivy League as a proud bred. So, I guess it’s academically I’m fairly woke and enjoy learning new things. And crypto was always a challenge like how do you play this game because it was the right game, right? And then he began to shake when trading you get into the darker arts of growing your, quote unquote, network which is like who’s got the tip on this next shit coin that’s gonna go up. And last off and then gradually growing into actually a proper network of people, who are building staff, who are doing things. And then parlaying that into my case, a defi network, which became the basis of how I kind of got hired by the defi. So, all of that, it’s just a natural curiosity about playing games and trying to win those games and seeing how best to do that.
Getting into Cryptocurrency
And then there’s the game of defi that entails your transition into working with the defi, but how did you actually get into crypto, like what was that story that got you into the space?
Robin Schmidt: So, it’s kind of partly tragic, partly true, mostly true. Some of its fictitious. I am a storyteller after all. No, it’s I had directed a feature film before I turned 40, which is like one of those milestones. Like if you’re a filmmaker addressing a feature from, it sets you like above 99% of the rest of people who make films because it’s very, very difficult to make a feature film. And very few people actually get to do it. It’s sort of worth less these days than it used to be, but it really was when I grew up. It was the gold standard. Have you done that? You’ve made it. Except the fact is you haven’t made it. You’ve made a film, so what? You go to the Cannes Film Festival, you go to the market there, and there’s 4000 other people selling a product that is basically indistinguishable from yours in the market. And then there’s like this tiny veneer on top, where the money lies the money there, but most of the other products is garbage. It’s being sold to TV networks, and you’re part of that garbage. You’re in that garbage pile as a horrifying realization that actually, the thing that you thought was now your calling card that you’ve made, it was actually no more than a tiny, tiny, tiny bit of print in a catalogue, that would be basically turned into pulp in two weeks, and that as a horrible place to be. So, after that, I kind of went, well, what do I do now? And I realized that I would have to kind of get real, get back into the grind and making work that I didn’t want to make. And I had two kids at the time. And so, basically what happened was, I surrendered meekly to the God of commerce and said, I will now be a commercial director, and I will make commercials. That’s what it will be. And so, I just ended up making shit I hate it. And it sounds so entitled because I had budget. I had all the tools I needed. I had nice cameras and lights. I had all these other things that I had access to shoot things two or three times a month, that was paying the bills and by all accounts should have been happy made it. But every job you just like where’s me in all of this? Where’s the honesty Where’s the idea that I can take to the set and say, wow, that was a cool idea, we did it. And like it was so few and far between it, just grinds you down after a while. There’s only so many times you can go into a meeting about a coffee product and debate whether the vase next to the coffee machine should be this shade of blue or that shade of blue, because tell me? Who gives a fuck about the color of the vase? Nobody except the brand Nazis. So yeah, so that’s just kind of where I ended up. And I realized that in order to make the move back into the creative stuff that I wanted to do, I was gonna have to spend at least a year, probably two years putting every single penny I owned, into making a completely brand-new set of work. Just a completely brand new just, you know what the reflective what I actually wanted to be and wanted to do. But there was no guarantee that I would even be able to pull that off because it’s really hard to get those kinds of projects off the ground. You have to produce them yourself. You have to kind of get favors from everybody. It’s just expensive. And so, I was just thinking, like, how do I do this? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? And the question in my mind was always about money. It was like, the problem is money. I don’t have enough money. I’m smart enough to be able to figure this out. What I’ve been doing is chasing the stupid crazy thing and not using my brain properly. I can do this. No, I couldn’t. What happened was, I went down to a job in Belgium with my boss and while we were driving down, he told me about this thing that he bought, this cryptocurrency. And he told me, you know, I bought this thing, and now I could pay off my mortgage I was like, what is that? What Is a Cryptocurrency? What is this thing? I kind of knew about Bitcoin already and actually randomly bought some when I was researching some ideas about Silk Road, funnily enough back in the day I ended up buying Bitcoin, no idea where that Bitcoin is. So, while it’s somewhere I can’t access, I don’t even know how much I had. But I know I bought it off a site called pretty vicious in the UK. I don’t believe you know. No, it’s true. It’s absolutely true. It’s back in 2003.
Robin Schmidt: Yeah, madness. Absolute madness. I don’t know where it is. And, but then I completely forgotten about it. He told me about this thing. And I was like, I need to understand what this is. And then my brother-in-law just randomly said, you know, I might just give up my job as an architect and mine Bitcoin instead. Those two points triggered an idea. I went down the rabbit hole, and I never came back out, and I was just, that was 2017. I was just really just before the bull run really took off in 2017. Obviously, this thing is when, well, this is how you do it. This is how you solve money. I was taught a horrible lesson later in 2018, when it all came crashing down. But what I did learn during the course of that was, that this was a space like it’s thriving, that there were people here who were doing some interesting things and if I made friends with them, maybe that would lead to other things. The ICO craze was going on and there was so much to learn, so much to absorb. It was really fascinating and then off the back of that, just by random chance, a syndicate that I was a part, a major investment in harmony, had their seed rounds. So, they got access to the seed round of harmony and I was like, alright, I’m in. I mean, whatever this is, I’m in and just kind of became obsessed with this project called Harmony. Not because I thought it was going to be the greatest project in the world. I was actually a little skeptical of it to begin with, but because it was really easy to see who they were. They were this team in Silicon Valley, it was kind of fascinating how they had these Saturday barbecues. It just seemed interesting. And so, I just called them up and said, I was a seed investor. I think I could tell you a story in a really interesting way, would you be interested in that? Because what I’ve been thinking about was, crypto is powered by means, it’s powered by storytelling. But the storytellers in the space were either scam artists or just kind of meme artists. And there wasn’t anything in between it was more substantial but wasn’t scammy at that time. And so I thought maybe if I’m good at content I’m I have a place in this space. So that was it. I rang out harmony, we discussed it for about a year, weren’t able to really kick it on. They wanted to do a documentary about the project. I said yeah, we can definitely do that, but we need some budget. And then I just took a chance, bought a ticket, flew over and went to meet them. Well enough the back of their in the room, I pitched them a different idea and they bought it in the room. About three months later, we realized that the best place for me to be probably was working for harmony. So, I joined them as their creative director and that was 2019. So, that’s kind of when defi was just emerging and harmony was a layer one shading protocol. It was about high speed. It was about exciting, new blazing fast applications. EOS was still big back then and defi was starting to emerge. And there was this growing narrative around defi. Funnily enough, it was another grain narrative around a kind of exciting Korean project, that was really gaining traction that no one was really paying attention to, but everyone thought it was going to be a big deal. Especially our Korean team members. It was called Terror, believe it or not. And so, in my role with harmony, I quickly pivoted to video because I was their creative director and I was helping write communications and shipping with ideas around marketing, but I realized that the best job I could do for them was video. So, we just got the office here. We got a little camera. I started producing videos for them. And then I just realized that we would have no footprint in defi, we would miss the entire defi movement unless we did something. There was no way we hear any protocols to build on harmony at that point. It was to say, we were just about to kind of build a bridge that was the first kind of instance of the harmony, right edge. And so, I thought we may complement the best content about defi and tell the story of defi, then we might have something. So, in order to do that I needed to partner up with one of the two defi newsletters at the time, one of which was bankless and the other was The Define. So, those are your two sources for defi, and I just decided I would get really good at understanding Define, really good at explaining defi. And I called them both up or I emailed them both. Brian Sean Adams messaged me about once, he laughs about this now on Twitter. He ghosted me after that, because I was working for harmony, didn’t want anything to do with it. So, I could have ended up working back this didn’t. I ended up working with Camilla at The Define. And he always just started telling the story of what was going on, like the car launch with Wi Fi. With all these products that now just seem kind of weirdly established and not that exciting. But you forget like when defi summit happened. They were the most exciting games in town. It was just, there was this incredible energy around fair launch. We were just coming out of the PTSD of like an extended, painful bear market. And suddenly there was this rush around food tokens, like sushi and like pickles and like all this stuff and just bizarre, yams like all this stuff, so much experimentation. And ponds omics around these yield farms, everything else It was wild. So, we were telling those stories. And what I realized was, there’s a Bloomberg way to tell that story. And there’s the shit coin channel way to tell that story and then it was a different way which was, how did they feel? They were like, yeah, the really random weird way. And so, I just started doing stuff like, I would be really seriously telling you a story and then I just get hit in the face of the banana. So, like with the curve launch, because curve is curved, and bananas are curved. I thought this story is bananas. What I just tell the entire thing using bananas as a metaphor, and I had a banana was a ton of fun and I got hit in the face of the banana. Just riffing on that. And it became like a little signature thing. I just do these really weird videos and I we spent nothing on them. But the creativity was there for people to see, and it became a kind of running thing. And then when the sushi, chef Nomi rubbed on sushi and ran off with a million bucks. He just really painfully awkward messages on Twitter, how he’s not a bad guy. And then we turn that into a country and western song because Tiger king just come out at the time and there was a song; I saw a Tiger. So, I turned the story of sushi into a country in western ballets and people just went nuts for it. And they just kept doing stuff like that. And then we did a story of pickles, pickles is an amazing one. We did the whole thing in rap. So, just like I learned how to rap and then we recorded like four different rap songs, to tell the story of this stuff. And then we did one where was like this, the world’s longest most involved hack as an R&B slow jam. So, I just improvised like Drake slow down thing, because like why? Who does that? Like that was the medium expression for me. So, I was just taking a thing, that doesn’t deserve to have any creativity whatsoever, that isn’t interesting and just doing that. And I think that’s just kind of what got me on people’s radars and got me into a position where, when it came to launching my own thing, I was in a position to ask for investment in a way that they weren’t going to love right? So that’s what we ended up doing.
The Process of Finding a Creative Voice
Which we’ll get into in a sec. But during this entire story you were telling me prior to defi, you had trouble sort of finding yourself, you were asking yourself, where’s me and all this? And when you got into crypto in web three you found that me. You found your creative voice, your creative self in the content you were creating. I’m curious sort of like what was that process like for you. Because I feel like a lot of people they go through their mundane jobs, trying to find them in their work, and they can’t really discover that and you found this outlet with this level of freedom, right? Where you could explore that. What was that process like?
Robin Schmidt: Well, you’re gonna say my life has been a succession of modest successes that present as failures. So, I started this journey back in 2002 with no experience in filmmaking, but a lot of kind of creative energy. And I managed to parlay that into being good at editing and so I was always able to kind of take my ideas and express them through editing. And it’s always been, it’s always been kind of in there, but it was never schooled. And so, what I, what I’m really good is pastiche. So, it’s taking something that’s already out there and satirizing it and making a pastiche version of it. I’m really good at that. And it’s sort of a superpower, but it actually gets in the way because what it doesn’t force you to do is come up with your own idiosyncratic way of doing things. And so, I think a lot of my work, probably up to, like 2012 was that. It was a really capable pastiches of things that looked credible and was credible, wasn’t that original. And then in 2012, I met my kind of partner in crime, Simon, who was the other half of Supermassive. The Supermassive is actually two of us, and he unleashed the beast of me and the only I was able to kind of just really go after creative stuff. We launched on YouTube and went massively viral, and never did anything with it. And it was one of the greatest regrets of my life that we just weren’t able to take that viral success and run with it. Because I had two kids and I decided to prioritize my family and Simon went off and became an actor and did really well with that. But we really nailed it. Like we really probably nailed it in 2012. Imagine that we, if we kept going, we would have been Mr. Beast, before Mr. Beast. I have no idea, who knows, probably would have given up within a year. But that was the moment I realized that I knew where I was, what it wants to be. The hot pie is then convincing people who have money to back that, because what you end up doing is then shaving off the edges to sanitize it, so that they will back you rather than sticking to your guns. And that’s just because being a filmmaker is the fastest way to get poor. It really is, you just bring you broke because everything is just a struggle to make money. So, it hasn’t, wasn’t necessarily a question of me finding me. It was finding the mechanism by which I could continue to be me and would not bankrupt me. Again, solving the money problem. Because, you know, I promised my wife I wouldn’t just go chasing windmills again and crazy ambitious stuff. Because I’d been trying to get into Hollywood and trying to get a feature film off the ground. And every time it just felt like this impossible journey. And I think what I hadn’t realized was that there was a different way. And if I was open to that different way, then it would happen. I realize that it did happen. I was open to that different way but where it came from was a list, she was creatively dead, I think around about 2019. All the creative energy in me have gone, because I just been making crap. I hated it. I’m being forced to just churn out this crap I hated. And it sounds ridiculous, but I’ve been doing it for like two and a half years at that point, just making mindless coffee commercials and mindless vacuum cleaner commercials and like, it’s fine. It’s good when you’ve, when you’re like a youngster and you’re learning the craft and everything else and it’s good discipline. You learn good craft with the agencies, everything else but like creatively, it’s horrific, and it just grinds you down. So, I was completely dead and the thing that I did was I just started making the most ridiculous gifts. The most ridiculous gifts I could possibly make for, like for anyone. I call them Deluxe gifts and they were like 40 seconds long these gifts. And they had like full storylines, that exquisite visual effects and then there were the gifts that no one else would make. And just absurd things I’d lifted from different films and put different heads on and stuff. Like they still exist on telegram, so you can, let me just see if I can find it now. If you’re gonna telegram, there’s a channel called Deluxe gifts, I think.
Just created a bunch of gifts and stitch them.
Robin Schmidt: And they’re all in it. Yeah, no and I just made like a shit ton of gifts, and I would do them on the train on the way into work. And they made me happy. It really is.
Can you share your screen? Can I see this?
Robin Schmidt: Yeah, I can share my screen.
Where do we find this? Bottom, at the bottom.
Robin Schmidt: So, there you go. That’s Deluxe gifts. Yes, it’s true. 2019 like, wow, ridiculous. I mean, these gifts will be like 300 megs, like just entirely stupid and try with tons of visual motion graphics and stuff out. Yeah, just so much stupid stuff. So yeah, you can still find that and yeah, so that’s what I did.
Robin Schmidt: So, that reignited the creativity of man and it’s kind of saved me to a degree. Staged for what I then ended up doing, which is just the same thing but just amped up and ramped up. And then more, more regularly, there’s the insane frequency with which you have to produce when you’re doing a YouTube channel. Especially when we’re you’re chasing news stories and like it’s every day you have to come up with a new story, you have to come up with a new script, you have to come up with a new piece of content. Here’s a new protocol that you have to learn in an hour and then present a video and as if you know exactly what it’s talking about. And like some of the stuff in defi, it’s pretty high-level stuff.
Robin’s System for Creating Content
So, let me ask you. Have you developed sort of like a lien process and being able to understand a topic, build a storyboard and turnout content, recorded, edited and published? Is there a certain system you’ve built for yourself?
Robin Schmidt: So, at The Defined we did have that. Yes, because it was the only way we could survive. And just to break it down, like on a Monday, I would have to come in and write the story of the weekend. Called a quick take, knock it out. That was a write that presented and then it would get given to the editor and he would edit out. On a Tuesday we’ll have a tutorial, so we’re trying to do the tutorial on the Monday as well. So, then I sit down, go through something that I thought was interesting, and then try and figure out how to do a tutorial on it. It might have been a presentation that I’d have to do. Then on the Wednesday, we would have first look, so we take something new, something interesting, break it down and try and understand why it was interesting. We turn that into spicy ones. So, we looked for something that was particularly spicy in the market, and that I would do that review while eating hot sauce. That was interesting. And then on a Thursday, we’d have a live show, so we’d have to put the guests for the live show. Who would come on in the night, we’d have to prep to interview them. We also did a show for real vision, where we take topics and break them down, with the team at real vision, whether it’s Ash Pennington or Rob Howell. And then on Friday, we do what we call the fire weekly, which was a longer film, a longer story. So, maybe I was breaking down the Cardanol ecosystem or I was taking a look at specific types of hacks that have been going on. Something like that. And with that one, we’d have we shoot like a minute and a half of a cold open, which is basically just a disconnected piece of creative content that would just lead in. And that was a chance for us to flex some creative muscles. And that was always something that we try and come up with early in the week, but it would always end up be like Thursday afternoon to have to write it. And then the scripts themselves to fire weekly script is usually about 10 pages. So that process was just write, write, write, write, write, write, you have to kill the analysis paralysis, you have to be able to sit down and start writing. And then this is the thing that I think will shock people. I never edited my scripts.
Really, not once.
Robin Schmidt: I gave him a long script for The Define weekly. Then there needed to be quotes and things going in. I would do that, and I’d write them asynchronously. So, I’d have like a chunk here that I wanted to write, but like anything else I didn’t rewrite it. And like the tutorials the first looks, they were literally recorded as they came out. No readers. That was it. That was our Lean process. I just got really good at reading off and off the queue, writing a script and being able to present a topic without stuttering.
Robin Schmidt: But that’s the lean process and the rest of it in terms of the writing is just my tone of voice and the way I do things; I think comes out quite analytically. So, I’ll start a sentence when I’m talking and I kind of go okay, this is what I want to get to. This isn’t where I’m going next. And this is how I make it round off to a conclusion. It’s just in my head now. So, that’s it, that was the lean process. And then for the rest of it, just knowing that basically, when you get stuff into the edit, you need to shorten the time between hitting the editor’s plate and the time they can publish. So that’s why we scripted everything if we need, if he wasn’t able to piece with scripts. So, you know you see YouTubers who do lots of jump cuts because they just get on, they talk. And then they cut out the bits of the boring and they just get this all the time, but I’m sentences and it’s unwatchable for me. So, I scripted it. And then the editor can look at a script and you’ve put the links to all the payroll in the scripts. And again, it’s literally pieced together from that script. And even when they start editing, you can still be piecing together new bits of payroll dropping it in. All the links are there, and they just have a blueprint for the edit and then it’s like pretty quick to put it together. So that’s how we did it.
So, fast forward a bit, Robin, you leave The Define, you start BasedAF media. Congrats.
Robin Schmidt: Thank you big time. I am now a founder.
You are now a founder. How does that feel like?
Robin Schmidt: I know it feels good. It feels like the natural point to get to. I think all of the things that I’ve been learning to do, and I’ve been working on over the last three years from Harmony, were even from the vacuum cleaning commercials to be honest. There is a reason I’ll come back to that. But it was all leading up to this point. I always wanted to have my own version of a web three property. And I’ve just been able to meet so many interesting and amazing people along the way, that it would have been a shame if I hadn’t gone this route. As hard as it is because it is hard. It’s been kind of gratifying to see how good the conversations were with the first round of investors, the people we talked to initially to get going with this, to see where we could go with that and that’s been really good. And now, all the crazy ideas I have or the crazy things that I want to do, I’m allowed to say yes to them. And I have a team around me that gets a little scared. But they say yes to them too, because they will want to try doing interesting and weird things. And then like, you know, that comes with it’s own challenges, obviously.
Differences in Creative Freedom Now vs. at Harmony and The Defiant
Is there an example of something you wanted to do while working at harmony or The Define and that you couldn’t do, that you can now do now?
Robin Schmidt: Yes. There was a very good example of that. So, I recognized that the metaverse was going to be a thing. Like a really big thing and a really juicy topic summer 2021. And coincidentally at the time, because it was during the pandemic, there was more of a focus on V tubers, and on indie mocap, most of motion capture. So, I was following a guy called Matt Webb and he was building a motion capture studio in his basement basically, but he wasn’t building it using a suit. He was building it using multiple cameras arranged around his room and at the same time we were seeing all this stuff coming out of the Mandalorian. So Unreal Engine being used in like full Hollywood productions as digital backdrops as a digital studio in a sense, and all that stuff was fascinating. Because one of the challenges I had here was that I always shoot in the same room and it’s very difficult. The moment we leave the office and go and shoot externally, we lose half a day. It’s just the nature of the beast. Even if you just step outside for a bit, you lose so much time in the process of packing up a camera, going outside, going to a location, even if it’s nearby. It just wastes a ton of time and under the schedule that we run. We can do that. So, I was always looking for ways to add more value into the studio that we had. Unreal Engine was clearly a tool that was going to be a major component in production in the future. It’s a way of transporting you to different places. It’s a way of saving money. It’s a way of you know, having a smaller environmental footprint when you’re producing and it’s photorealistic. And it’s all these incredible things. What we also saw as these PFP characters, that had these 3d assets attached as well, I was like we can connect these two things. We can tell stories about the metaverse, from within a platform that feels like the metaverse. And so, that’s what I wanted to do, and we went quite a long way in exploring how he would do that and building digital sets, trying to film in Unreal and every time we did it, we would just hit this massive wall. It’s just on the one hand on Unreal is incredible, because it allows you to bring in all of these incredible, photorealistic assets from the mega scans’ library, the mega scans library, this huge ever growing photo scan library of anything you want, really, and they keep adding new things to it, but like it could be a cocaine. It could be a rock, it could be a tree, it could be a desert. It’s all there. It’s all free. It’s part of Unreal Engine, you can use Unreal Engine for free. It’s this incredible thing. And it’s very, very easy to assemble a scene and add environmental things to it and get built up. For once you start getting into the world of having a character and having a skeleton and retargeting motion capture data onto that character and having that character function in the way that you want it to, exponentially the world gets a lot a lot harder. So, you can’t just pick it up and use it, not the way we want it to. And so, what I wanted to do was build this digital backdrop, build a motion capture studio and be able to tell stories in a Metaverse like environment with the same rapidity and the same ease as we did all the live action stuff. I have now built that studio, because that’s what I want to do. But what it’s turned out to be is it needed a significantly larger investment in order to make that happen. One has to define, wasn’t in any hurry or any needs to make. So, it was always gonna be on me to find that, so that that’s been the biggest thing. And if you’re looking for a USP for what BasedAF will be about, it’ll be there. The live action stuff, we’re really good at it, like I think I can present pretty well. I can make a good kind of funny video of me tripping over my ass or running a marathon in the metaverse and all these kind of things. And that will always be important because, you know, people still need to see real people and real things going on but the work we’re doing to hook up game engines, were three native properties, motion capture, and live streaming all together, plus some form of chat GPT powered environment modeling at the same time. There isn’t anybody else doing that right now. Certainly not in the way that we’re planning on doing it. And we’re only ever going to be able to get good at it by doing it badly every day for the next year, until the point at which we go. Now we’ve got it because that’s so difficult and it’s so idiotic to do that, that nobody will try because it’s too difficult. And there’s no way of monetizing it unless you’re doing what we’re doing. But as of course over the course of doing that, we’ll end up, I think coming up with a brand-new entertainment and a way of making shows that is completely original and completely new. And that’s what I’m excited about. It’s taking models of entertainment and using the metaverse as a canvas to explore what those can be and how they can be and that for me is really exciting. As much as I love the live action shooting beautiful videos. It’s not exactly something we can share, claim ownership of, even though in the web three spaces, mobile video production is terrible. That kind of complete kind of reimagining of how we make stories and how we make particularly live stuff, plugging in music, everything else. That’s what gets me up in the morning.
The Third Pillar of the Creator Economy
So, your vision of this new world of entertainment when an end user encounters it, what is your goal with making them feel?
Robin Schmidt: So, I want them to feel that they’re experiencing something that they’ve never experienced before and that they can be part of that. What are the, one of the key things about them I suppose is, it’s about social presence. It’s about being able to share something with somebody else. And you only have to go back to the testimonials of people who were at the fort like Travis Scott concert, and even that, even though it wasn’t actually thousands of people in the same instance of the game at the same time, it was quite kind of guarded all of that. They still felt like they were part of something very special. And that has always stuck with me, how we create that experience meaningfully and repeatedly. So, I want people to feel like they’re in a room with other people. We’re already experimenting with VR, and particularly VR chat and how to create experiences in there. But it’s that sense of togetherness. Like you’re with your mates at a rave that kind of thing, except there could be anywhere in the world and that could be a tomato or cucumber, or you know, a monkey, whatever. That is the thing but the world that you’re in is alive and responsive to you, as much as you are to each other. That should be really, really entertaining. Again I don’t really know how it’s gonna play out because I don’t but what we’ve been given is the opportunity to experiment and figure it out.
Yes, this concept really quick and not to cut you off but you kept emphasizing that you want it to feel like people are part of something, right? And the best way to integrate that is through NFTs right? Have them collect something, have some upside and some incentive to be a part of the community, have a tool to vote on things depending on what your goal is. Right? Is that where I’m getting at or you’re envisioning and another form of integration?
Robin Schmidt: No, you’re absolutely right. We have a community with the base heads. We have a 10k collection, which we dropped beginning of January, and that represents our superfans. It’s our core audience. The reason we did it that way is, we didn’t have to because just build this thing without is energy is a really fun way of bootstrapping a community. And like you say making a community feel like they have ownership of something. What that is, I don’t think anybody really knows because we’re co creating it. We are the creators and like I think we’re amongst the best content creators in web three. And so, right, we should lead the way. And when we have products like fries Cola, which we make the commercials for, or fries primer, which we made the commercials for. These are real products that we make a really fun, nice fake ads for and these are what we call anti brands, they’re not brands, they’re anti brands. But they’re things that we’re gonna be able to give to our community to have ownership of as well. And I’ll get into more of that in a second. But the idea of having these NFTs, they’re amazing distribution mechanism as well. Because they let you know where your audience is, and they allow you to give them something very quickly and painlessly. And we were looking at things like live streaming and having live, minting during a stream and understanding the shape of your audience in terms of their wallets, which is a data point that’s never been available before. But a really interesting one. And when people look at our collection, they see the blue-chip holders index is really high, even though distribution is relatively low, and the floor price is where it’s at. They can see that the quality of the actual owner is very high relatively speaking in the space, and that’s pretty meaningful. So, you can do this similar kind of thing with your analytics on stream. And one of the things I’m really keen to explore and keen to try and build is what I call the third pillar of the creator economy. So, the creator economy is like, it this weaponized cloud machine where it’s build an audience and monetize the fuck out of that audience by doing X, X and X. And those three things are, you know, you watch a million YouTube videos that like you should be doing this, you should be doing this, you should be doing this. And it’s all about retention hacks and retention tactics and keeping your audience and treat, you know, treating the algorithm like your bitch and all this stuff. And none of that sounds like creativity to me. It all sounds like extracting the maximum revenue from each click that you possibly can. So, what are you going to do? You’re just going to engineer those clicks. I hate that shit. I honestly do. I understand it’s a game. I do. But if I watched like Mr. Beast videos, I find it impossible to enjoy them anymore because I know that I’m just like a toddler. And he’s determined to make me not look away. And it makes it really hard to enjoy them. And that’s, you know, that’s just attention to ethics and you know, building an audience taken to like the maximum level. So, this idea of monetizing your audience. I mean, it’s fair enough you’re building a business, you’re doing all these kinds of things, but it becomes it’s such a cost and it feels unwholesome. There are like these influences called Andre Jake and Graham Stefan and I was in the similar space doing defi and I you know, I used to see them talk about Bitcoin surpassing utter rubbish about this space and what it was about, and I used to call them out. But like these kinds of massive audiences, their CPM cost per million to advertise them, is massive because they you know, they’re there for influencers. So, a credit card company will pay a lot for another on their channel to reach their audience. Just like this is whole shit. I think they; Graham Stephens, probably earning like, seven, 8 million a year on AdSense and deals that he makes, she just paid it. So, my third pillar is what I call share the spoils. So, it’s like yeah, build an audience, monetize that audience. That’s the game. Okay. Well, what can we do to share those soils with our community? Like NSC is not the perfect solution to that, but they open up a dialogue with the community in a way that will start to help to make that possible. You know, there’s this concept of full time a fan that I’m really excited about, which is if someone really loves your content, and they’re willing to go to bat for you. Like, share it, spread the word, maybe contribute ideas, then that could be considered a job and if it’s a job then they get paid for it. Isn’t that weird? Like web three goes, no, that’s not weird, we can do that. And then they spit out a token and you go; I don’t want a token. I want a token. This guy again will cut off my balls if I have a token. So, what’s the option? The answer is we don’t know at this point. There is no regulatory clarity and that’s the problem. So, until we have that, we won’t know how to do a sensible token model for this. So, we had to figure out other ways of doing it. And one of the things that we looked at before we even launched was, creating a wallet that we had no control over, giving it to a Dao and all the AdSense revenue or the click base revenue that we’ve made. Because that’s what AdSense revenue is and you can call it whatever you want, but it’s that, it’s performance related pay, and it should be a bonus to everything else you’re doing. We convert that USDC, give it to this wallet, walk away. But we can’t do that. As simple as that might sound, it just ends up then being a sales pitch for a product based on the work that you do, and not the work that someone else does. And so, we have to think of ways for our community to do work and be rewarded for it. Rather than them just getting a share of what we do, because we run afoul of securities laws, which we don’t need at this point. So, you know, we’re looking different ways to do that. And obviously, there are perks that come with it. You know, we will have content that only token holders can access. We will have exclusive drops, like when we do fries, there’ll be a drop for that, physical drop as well as a digital drop, and there’ll be benefits to token holders. But one of the things we actually are doing and trying to integrate as much as possible is, having token holders be part of the show. Because we in the metaverse you want them to show up and what we want is for our base ads to be a mob, that show up on mass in areas that we designate and say right basically here, now it’s a party. So, we’re training them in how to use VR chat and turn up and be part of it with us. They when I ran an ultra-marathon in the various Metaverse last weekend, there were like six people that ran with me. I say ran but there was pushing forward on their joysticks for six hours, more 7, 8. One of them ran me the whole time. She literally couldn’t move her thumb the next day. That is wild but that’s, you know, that made it all worthwhile because we prove the point. We didn’t just put on an event; I didn’t just run in a digital game. It was the actual act of being socially present with other people while suffering my ass off. That was really meaningful. So, I think for me having the ability to bring other people in, bring community members into a game. So, we do like a Mr. Beast type game where you know, it’s the first to let go of an object. So, the last leg of an object wins 10 grand or something. We’ll be building those in the metaverse, and they’ll only be accessible for holders of the NFT. So, you know, the core audience. So, all sorts of things like that.
The Concept of Full-Time Fans
I’m curious, this concept of the full-time fan. So, first time I hear about this keyword, the full-time fan and it actually makes a lot of sense. I feel like there’s other analogies that people use in web three that kind of allude to this idea of shared ownership and aligned incentives. My question to you though is, do fans want that because it seems as if like they’re doing just fine, and showing up to the Mr. Beast small impacts without having any sort of rev share with them or maybe the slight chance to win a million dollars from Mr. Beast in the rare scenario, they have been up on his video, right? And he’s an outlier, but this concept of the full-time fan, do fans want that and why?
Robin Schmidt: I think if you offered it to them. If you said to Mr. Beast’s fans, you can be a full time fan, they would jump at it. Because most people who say they want to be a YouTuber lack the talent or the persistence or the creativity to pull that off. Let’s be honest, they can do it. You know, they can find an audience but to get to that scale, because that’s really what they want. They want to be at that scale and be that successful. I think they really struggle, so having a chance to be part of a successful creator’s life, endeavors, be part of that. I think they would. Yeah. 100%. So, it’s not my job to persuade other creators that this is a meaningful path forward. All I can do is advocate for a more holistic version of this relationship, because any creator of any size will talk about the para social relationship, which is your audience thinks they know you. They think they are close to you. They think they have a window into the secrets of your life, because you choose to share so much with them. And that relationship is very much one sided. But for the audience, they genuinely feel that way. I’ve had this thing where people come up to me, and they will be specific and like, I don’t know you, but they feel like they know you because they’ve spent so much time listening to talk about stuff. Right? And the thing they say is, you’re a bit taller than I thought you were. You be sure, she couldn’t see the guys are bankers then, remember we tall here. So yeah, so that relationship is it’s definitely, I think it’s 100% the case. But it’s very difficult to pull it off. It’s very difficult to make it worse. You have to run experiments. I didn’t come up with this by the way. It’s called Blake Robins. You can check them out on Twitter, Blake IR, he’s one of those guys. It’s just like, you know when people are just like they’ve got it. This made it, they did it. He is a principal at benchmark. He’s an investor. He’s like 23 or something, sickening, horrifying how successful he’s been, but what one of the things he did, I’ve got the wrong Blake. But yeah, he’s the guy that invested in 100 Thieves and became obsessed with eSports and just nailed it. And he started writing about this during the pandemic and because obviously everyone was writing tons of threads during the pandemic because that’s all they could do. But he was specifically talking about how NFTs might be able to empower that, like social tokens might be able to empower them. Personally, I hate social tokens as a concept. I won’t touch them, don’t want to go there. But there’s definitely a mechanism by which this might be able to play out. And so, all we’re trying to do is, work with the community that we have to try and figure that out in real time. And being as blatantly honest as we can about that, as well.
Defining “Great Content Worth Collecting”
if there’s one community that comes to mind or one person that comes to mind that fits into the context of season sevens theme of creating content that’s worth collecting. You’re like the first person that pops up in my head, from the content that you created on The Define and all the creativity and energy that you put into actually constructing these videos. It’s mad, it’s content that’s worth collecting. When you hear that phrase, what do you think about that? Because I think we’re getting into this new primitive of web three media, with tokens enabling so much more, that we actually couldn’t have in sort of like traditional industries. So, when you think of that phrase, great content worth collecting, what comes to your mind?
Robin Schmidt: I hope that’s what we’re doing. That’s what I’ve been trying to get to, like I make compilation tapes, we used to make compilation tapes of The Define of all the funny little bits that were just kind of scattered throughout the videos. Because we’d often just insert a joke for no apparent reason and spend like three hours shooting it, when we only had an hour because we wanted them to be like memorable moments. Video is this kind of throwaway thing and like digital art has like a GIF, or an X copy GIF, somehow more artistic value and artistic merit than the short form stuff that I’ve made. And I kind of always find that a bit weird. I know whatever so what we did in the same light, so you’re likely the first person who’s ever said that to me, and it’s kind of nice to hear it. But I hope that we have, we’re able to make stuff is worth collecting. We’re certainly trying to build out a type of performance art that is 360 and is weird like, like again running the ultra-marathon, that was a piece of performance art. Obviously, it was a nine-hour livestream, and it was mad as tats, but it was you know, it was the thing. Is trying to create an image of yourself or a legend of yourself that transcends and that is worth collecting, 100%. If you told me, for instance that I could gain access to Nick Wilding reference notebook, or his sketches for drive, the film, I’d be all over that. Like I have the jacket from Drive. It’s this gold Scorpion drivers jacket quilted. I wear it without shame in public and people go; I love your jacket, where’d you get it? So, what it’s actually from this film, it’s from Drive by Nick Wilding, Raven. So, but anyway, I’m a cinephile. I love their shits. So, what I’m trying to do is become the wilding ref and who’s an obscure director. There you go.
All right. I’m excited for your journey. I’m excited to see all that base media has in store. Robin, before, I let you go, and we wrap up the interview. Where can we learn more about what you’re working at? What should we look forward to in the coming months? Show it away.
Robin Schmidt: So, we call ourselves a metaverse content monster. As a big promise, it demands, it is a lot of content. So, it’s a three-prong strategy, right? So, we’re doing live streams, long form YouTube content, and short form vertical. So those three prongs are basically what they call the triple threat and the content itself will be arranged around. Firstly, big stun ideas hooked into and connected to the metaverse, but not always necessarily set in the metaverse. But think, like Mr. Beast from like three years ago, because no one can compete with his scale right now. But I think three years ago, we can gather so big cash giveaways, big kind of crazy challenges, that kind of thing. And then my own unique brand of storytelling around that, that’s the long form. So, that’ll be a really juicy like alternative to Netflix for you. The kind of thing you should tune in using your TV’s built in YouTube app. Like sit down, watch it, enjoy it, we’re gonna blow your mind with what we came up with. Then, we’ll have these vertical videos, so we’re developing vertical formats, but we’ll also do like sidebars, which would be like for running a marathon metaverse. How do we do it? Like how do you run in VR? So, we can do a little feature on the machine itself, teach a little bit. There are concepts in the metaverse coming up all the time. We’ll do a little short form videos about that. And we’ll probably have some news as well. Probably quite soon, because there’s always stuff to talk about the metaverse, I think people are interested. So more regular short form. And then like I said formats, so one of the ones we want to do is called metaverse mansions. Is basically cribs, and we’ll just go through and rip the shit out of people’s metaverse bills, and you spent 200 grand on these bollocks. There’s anyone there, do you use it? You’re an idiot. It’ll be along those lines. And then the live streams will be, there’s definitely going to be some gaming in there because like there is some okay guy’s games that we need to live stream, to figure that out. Or like, you know, the marathon event was a nine-hour live stream, that was nuts, with lots of entertainments thrown in as well. So that’s the kind of Triple Threat, metaverse themes, which is like a niche, which is the biggest niche of all time, because it covers everything, which is why I love it so much. It’s like, you know, everyone treats it like this tiny little subcategory, but actually, it’s the big category of everything. So, from an advertising perspective or brand integration perspective, that’s exciting. So, sort of partnerships there to be had. And just like make a ton of really entertaining videos, basically.
All right. I’m excited for you. I’m rooting for you. We’re gonna have to do a check in soon sometime.
Robin Schmidt: For sure. You’re going to treat your class of season seven with respect.
Yes, yes, absolutely. But until then, I wish you the best. Thank you for being on season seven, and I will see you next time.
Robin Schmidt: Thank you much for having me.