Daniel Mross - The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin

Daniel MrossDaniel Mross is a bitcoin producer, an entrepreneur, and a founding board member of Mek Entertainment.


Bitcoin documentary review: Interview with Daniel Mross on The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin

Trace Mayer:  Welcome back to the Bitcoin Knowledge Podcast.  We have a really artistic interview here.  We have Daniel Mross.  He put together this whole Rise and Rise of Bitcoin documentary.  Welcome to the podcast, Daniel.

Daniel Mross:  Hi, Trace, thanks for having me.

The Concept

Trace Mayer:  So can you tell us a little bit about this documentary like what inspired you to create it of all things and like and why did you jump on it so early?

Daniel Mross:  Well, you know, I've gotten into bitcoin and you know, I was very passionate about it from the start, from right getting into it.  And I found in short time it was really difficult to talk to people about bitcoin if they didn't know what it was or to explain it.

It was always very frustrating.  It's not something that, you know, especially earlier on was easy to explain to somebody in 1 or 2 minutes.  So, you know, having always had that frustration, you know, it was something I was worked on, kind of, trying to explain bitcoin to people.

And my brother Nick I was always telling him all these crazy stories that were happening and we decided to, kind of, you know, he hesitate you want to just shoot a little, you know, mini-documentary about although it seems like there's enough interesting things happening, you know, stuff you’re always telling me.

You know, I was telling stuff that was going on in the forums and crazy stories and whatnot.  And, you know, he asked me about that and I said I think that be a great idea.  And I said, you know, maybe we can do a little animation in there.  And kind of do like a little updated what is bitcoin kind of thing.

And did this, maybe a little explainer, kind of, video to show people there is, you know, some interesting things happening in bitcoin, but also kind of give them a little bit of an explanation of what it is.

So that's kind of really how we got started and, you know, one of the first people I reached out to was Charlie Shrem.  He's really active on the forums.  You know, he’s very ambitious, very approachable and always really friendly.  And, you know they were close by not too far from us in Pittsburgh.

So I thought, “Hey, we would just drive out there.  He seems like a great person that we could interview.”  And it really kind of went from there.  From there you know, bitcoin started taking off.  And a lot of people that Charlie introduced us to were kind of right there in the middle of everything.  So we kind of doubled down our efforts and as did they-- as did a lot of the businesses in the start-ups that we kind of got right as the rollercoaster started going.  And, you know, made the film what it is today, so.

Trace Mayer's cameo on the bitcoin documentary

Trace Mayer: Yeah.  And I’m actually in the film, a very small cameo part, but that took place at the filming for it, at least where I was involved was at the San Francisco Conference there.

Daniel Mross:  It was San Jose.

Trace Mayer:  Yeah.  San Jose Conference.  And actually I was there with Charlie when we were originally like getting out all planned and set up.  Now, like you had mentioned there that you wanted to be the first to like get a bitcoin documentary out.  And here you are you got the first major bitcoin documentary out.  You've won all kinds of awards like Tribeca Film Festival, right, number one on iTunes in the documentary section.  Can you tell us a little bit about like the recognition you've got with the film and like where you plan on taking it?

Daniel Mross:  Yeah.  So you know, we realized about halfway through that you know there was nobody that had, kind of, you know, at this level already anything on bitcoin, you know.  We knew there were some other projects going on, but we just had, we just had stories and we had access to people that were, you know, really active and were kind of right in the middle of everything.

So, you know, along with that we were very fortunate that we were able to premier the film at Tribeca and kind of get it out there as really the first documentary about bitcoin, at least first feature-length kind of documentary.  What we found is that very interested in bitcoin, you know, the film had a really good reception.  We’re getting a lot of feedback.

A lot of feedback from people who aren't techie people that are saying, you know, “Oh, this is great. I finally kind of understand this.  And, I didn't know all these stories that were even happening.”  And so, you know, it's been a great way to show people, you know, what bitcoin is but also kind of show them, you know, these communities existed for a while.  And, you know, that's the community is what has made bitcoin what it is and it’s great.  So, but being first to market is always just fortunate so.

Bitcoin community's reaction

Trace Mayer:  So what type of help have you gotten from the community, just in general, besides, of course, the interviews?  But I mean you've gotten all types of press generated by the community, lots of people are talking about it.  Lots of people have gone and seen it.  I've seen it.  It’s like, I liked it quite a bit.  Yeah.  Like, how has the community helped you like extend your art out there?

Daniel Mross:  Well, you know, it's funny that the community that I was, you know, most tightly in green with was BitcoinTalk.  And I was very active there as a miner.  And we always traded ideas with a lot of the other miner and followed a lot of discussions and things like that.

But, then, you know, also Reddit has been really very active and we've seen a lot of support from Reddit now after the film was released.  One really awesome thing is, you know, the film was immediately torrent as soon as it came out.  And we saw a post, people would upload these posts and they would post our donation address.  And, you know, say, “Mate, you know, if you downloaded the film make sure you send a donation if you enjoyed it.”

So, you know, that’s probably the most recent thing that's just, you know, you see all these donations start coming in from people who are just voluntarily, you know, sending you some money because they enjoyed the film and using bitcoin.  It's been really great.  So that you know that shows us that you know the community is kind of rallying behind us as well.

You know, and that makes us feel well like we have done a good job, you know, helping people learn about bitcoin and, you know, the community is in agreement with us we hope so.

Trace Mayer:  Oh, that's really cool.  And I think there's actually, you know, just kind off the top of my head.  It made me think of I think it’s, which torrent application is it where you can actually specify like either bitcoin or litecoin or a dogecoin address.

Daniel Mross:  Yeah.  I think that's FrostWire.

Trace Mayer:  FrostWire?

Daniel Mross:  Yeah.  I think one of the users actually posted a how to video or something like that.  So, we're watching all those things.  I mean, you know at the same time, we’re dealing you know, we sold the rights of the film to a distributor, Gravitas.  And, you know, they're a great distributor.  They have a lot of, you know, that did Sound City is one of the films they did.

So, you know, they have a lot of experience and they’re pretty good in the industry.  And they, you know, we went with them and there were some delays in getting the film out as fast as we had wanted to but, we think, it was well worth it because, you know, the day that the film was released it was immediately available on iTunes and on Vimeo and it's on Amazon Prime.  It's on every major cable provider in the U.S. but also international distribution.

The film is being released in 21 different languages and it's making its way through those different channels right now.  Satellite television, different cable channels and this is all, you know, within a week kind of the original release date.  So I don't think we would have had that kind of traction, we wouldn't have had that kind of pull if we'd didn't have a big distributor behind us like Gravitas.

So, we've been really glad to work with them.  They’ve actually bought the rights to the film using bitcoin so, you know--

Trace Mayer:  Unbelievable.

Daniel Mross:  -- that they’re also -- yeah, they're also kind of realizing, you know, something we've been telling them and telling a lot of people in the film industry that we've seen is that, you know, bitcoin is going to disrupt distribution as well, you know.  It eliminates a lot of middlemen and, you know, but if the distributors are starting to look at it and if they look at, you know, bitcoin as a tool that they can leverage for this, you know, helping out their customers they can take advantage of that.

And, I think, Gravitas is way ahead of the curve.  You know, they're really interested in bitcoin now and, you know, it's timely that Vimeo announced shortly after the release of our film that they are looking at accepting bitcoin as well so or they may actually be accepting bitcoin now, so you know.  It's fun to be right in the middle of another disruption like that as its happening.  Thanks to bitcoin.

Trace Mayer:  I think that's like, isn’t it so fun, like just been right in the middle of all this massive change and you wrote part of the history.  I mean, this is like a major historical document you could say about like The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin.  And, I mean, you created it.

Daniel Mross:  Sure.  I mean.

Trace Mayer:  I mean, how cool is that?

Daniel Mross:  Yeah.  I mean, when you say like that, it is cool.  I mean, we've been really excited about it, but it's given, you know, we've been under a lot of pressure too to make sure that we're representing, you know, those stories that matter and giving enough opinions and there are different sides of things that are going on.

But, you know, ultimately there's going to be, I think, a lot of more films and things like that that come out.  So, any chance we've gotten, we’ve had a lot of serendipity, we've had a lot of good luck.  And, anytime that that's happened we've just kind of doubled down our efforts and tried to make the best of it so.  You know, hopefully the film shows that.

Trace Mayer:  Yeah.  I mean, like yourself I'm involved in, kind of, the content creation side and like I was on the editorial board of Bitcoin Magazine and help fund that.  And, I think, it's really important for us to like chronicle the history, you know, there's so much that's gone on, there so much that's happened, so many different stories.

I think it's really important for us to like highlight some of the stories.  Exactly, what you've done with the documentary.  Behind the scene something that didn't make it into the film, like, what's kind of a funny story or like a serendipitous story that happened as you were creating this documentary that you'd like to share?

Remembering Bitcoinica

Daniel Mross:  Oh, we have.  Let’s see, I mean, I will say we have a ton of footage that didn't make it in the film.  Different interviews with people, you know, if there was one thing that probably would have, you know, liked to have had in the film and we weren't able to get on.  Let me think, I don't know.  See I don't want to give away too much of that, because we’re going to have, some DVD extras and things like that.

Actually, you know if you check on the iTunes version of the film we have a lot of extra content.  There's an interview with Zhou Tong called “Remembering Bitcoinica.”

Trace Mayer:  What?

Daniel Mross:  It's a really fantastic segment and it's available if you go to iTunes, if you go the iTunes version of the film you click on extras there's a 5 or 10 minute segment called “Remembering Bitcoinica” that would have made it into the film, but we thought it was too good to not include.  So, it's there on the extra content.  And there's a couple of other interviews and pieces as well so.

Trace Mayer:  Oh, my gosh, unbelievable like Bitcoinica, I mean, that's a name from like the annals of history, right?  You know, just for our listeners Bitcoinica, for those who don't know, it was, they tried to -- what were they selling like contracts for difference?  Or, like leverage trading on the bitcoin price?

Daniel Mross:  Bitcoinica was one of the other -- one of the other major exchanges that was there at the time when Mt. Gox was in its heyday.  They were one of the competitors.  And, the story was that it was created by a 17-year-old, I think at the time.  And he offered short selling, you know, you could short bitcoin on and do leverage trading as well.  So something that a lot of people had been looking for.

Unfortunately, it was also a tragedy. Unfortunately the exchange was hacked.  And they lost a lot of bitcoins something like 30,000 or 40,000 bitcoins, I think.  My brother was fortunate enough to meet up with Zhou Tong though.  I think it was on one of his trips to San Francisco and he was able to record an interview and I got the whole story so.

Trace Mayer:  Oh, wow!  Like behind the scenes whole story.  How about another cool story like just with like the documentary, you said that like, you ran into some good luck like could maybe, give us a couple examples of where you could say like fate was just smiling on you?

Daniel Mross:  Sure.  So, actually the first time when we went to -- the first time when we went to New York to interview Charlie Shrem, we got an interview with him and we recorded with Roger Ver as well, who was in their office.  So, we were really excited that, you know, he was there at the time and we were able to talk to him in the same trip.  Then unfortunately we got back and Nick messed up and erased all the footage.

Trace Mayer:  Oh, my gosh, unbelievable.

Daniel Mross:  So, our first interview we lost all the footage of the original ones and we had a second camera that wasn't quite as good.  So, we kind of had a reference to it.  But, you know, Nick panicked and said, “Okay. Well, this was kind of the whole start of, you know, where we're going to go. I need to go and re-film this interview.”

So he packed up the car and he went back a second time again and re-shot all the interviews, kind of, had you know he was even asking Charlie to wear the same shirt and things like that, you know, wanting to have consistency, but the lucky part was that was, it so happened that when he went back a second time that's when Jared from Tradehill was visiting.

And he was introduced to Jared then and filmed a little bit with him and that kind of was the introduction that led to Jared eventually being, you know, one of the major characters that we follow in the story.  So, you know, it was luck again.  It was bad luck that kind of turned into good luck because it introduced us to another main character.

Trace Mayer:  Yeah.  And the story definitely wouldn't be complete without Jared.  He's actually a good friend of mine.  So, I'm glad he made it in the movie and the fate was smiling on him being in there.  Well, I mean that that's a great kind of inspirational story for people like, you know, sometimes life gives you lemons right.  You just got to make lemonade out of it.  And isn't that the story of bitcoin in general though?

Daniel Mross:  Yeah.  I think so, right?  I mean, you have and that’s, I think, that's something that you know, as I mentioned in the film.  A lot of the people that we met, a lot of people that we interviewed they're go-getters.  They're people that, you know, they have an idea and they want to, they dedicate their time and effort to achieving it.  And, they don't give up very easily.

And when you have a whole community of people especially early on it was, you know, consisted of a lot of people that had that attitude, you know, entrepreneurs that are willing to take risks, you know, people that are willing to try things out an experiment even if they know overwhelmingly the odds are against them, you know, if you have a whole bunch of people that are like that which makes up a good part of the bitcoin community.  I think, that's part of why bitcoin has grown so quickly and has become so successful.

What's in store?

Trace Mayer:  Yeah, I mean you just you just got this whole community that’s just like honey badgers its way through like whatever you thrown at it.  You know, like whether it's Bitcoinica, like failing and losing 50,000 bitcoins or whatever it was or Mt. Gox, like $500 million, poof, gone.  I mean, we've just seen failure after failure different services and everything in bitcoin.

We've had all types of setbacks and yet through all of it the community keeps going.  It turns out these things like this documentary, more professionalized services, I mean, looking at where bitcoin came from, you know what I mean, we're only what, 5 years into this? Like, I mean, where do you think this is going to be in another 5 years and are you going to make another documentary?

Daniel Mross:  Oh, man.  No, I don’t.  Nothing on slate for another documentary.  You know, what my brother Nick will always say, you know, sequels are never as good as the first one.  But, you know, yes, as far as bitcoin goes, you know, it's the value of bitcoin is kind of self-evident, I think.

And that's why it doesn't matter how many people try and fail or how many people try and succeed it's that the idea keeps spreading and that the community keeps growing and there's more and more people that are involved.  And I’ve always said bitcoin has no marketing department.  Part of being decentralized means, you know, grassroots efforts from everyone involved, and you know, that's--

So, I mean, I guess in a way everybody's combined efforts are what helps sell bitcoin, what helps get bitcoin, you know, people educate people about bitcoin, what helps you know informing people about bitcoin, and show them what it really is.  So, you know, even with our film we're doing our part.

And so are other people you know, Andreas Antonopoulos speaking in front of the Canadian Senate was just like amazing to watch. I don't think I would, you know -- I didn't watch Senate hearings ever before bitcoin and now like they're on the topic.  I find them fascinating so.

Trace Mayer:  Oh, yeah.  I mean, the U.S. Senate hearings were great.  I mean, I loved like the last 2 minutes where the chairman of the Canadian Senate actually like said Andreas, you far exceeded our expectations. Like, you did a wonderful job and so.  I mean bitcoin is definitely coming out of obscurity and it's becoming a household name and a lot of ways.

Daniel Mross:  Yeah, I think so.  And, as more things are built on to it and as more you know, it's used in more and more different ways.  It's going to become, you know, I think akin to something like Internet where people no longer kind of try to paint it with one way or another, but it becomes a tool.

And, so, you know, I think, 5 years from now to go back to your question, you know, I think, we'll see a bitcoin being used as a payment system in a lot of instances competing alongside others.  But also, you know, I think we'll see a lot of the block chain 2.0 kind of stuff as people like to refer to it.  And, you know we'll see a lot of integration of other things that we didn't expect to see utilizing bitcoin start to utilize it more.

Trace Mayer:  So, you know, as we wrap up like one final question.  Like, for the young aspiring artist for, you know, who just got a vision of something they want to create.  Like, what advice would you have for them?  Like, what advice would you have for the young artist that just has an idea?

Daniel Mross:  Well, two things I would say. Number one, you know, if it's your project you know you get out what you put in.  So, you know, don't ever sell yourself short and sometimes if you make the extra effort and along with that is surround yourself with good people, surround yourself with positive people that you can trust that you know will, you know, work hard and will be dedicated to your project.

I think one of the biggest reasons we were able to make such a good film was that everybody on our team was dedicated.  Everybody, you know, even there are people who didn't have any idea what bitcoin was, by the end of the film they, you know, they were interested in bitcoin, they understood it enough and they were dedicated to the project.  And, you know, having dedicated people that you can trust that are willing to work hard on a project is key to, I think, making it successful.

Trace Mayer:  Oh, man.  Thanks, Daniel, Daniel Mross.  The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin, the first major bitcoin documentary.  All types of awards Tribeca Film Festival.  Number one in documentary in the iTunes store.  Great advice for the young aspiring artists also.  Thanks for being with us, Daniel.

Daniel Mross:  Thanks so much for having me, Trace.

Written by Daniel Mross on November 12, 2014.