PROTAGON and the Making of Curse NFT
May 15, 2021, 7:00 AM PST. Hair and makeup ready—one hour for each—Krystall Schott drove another hour from Agoura Hills in north Los Angeles to Alsace, on the other end of town, to attend the strangest photo session in her career thus far.
At PROTAGON, she was met by its founder and Chief Creative Officer, Brian Adler, and photographer Pat Bombard.
Krystall had come to have her picture taken for a most unusual project. Together with Accursed Share, she was crafting a new image to replace an old, unwelcome one that had long haunted her as the #1 search for ‘face’ on Google. This uncredited picture had assumed a shadowy life of its own in 2016 and, until smart contracts made its subversion possible, Krystall had no choice but to accept her algorithmic fate. The most seen face on the Internet was hers, but it did not respond to her in any manner.
NFTs changed the gameboard, though. Accursed Share set out to produce a blessed image of her that was everything its counterpart was not: authorised, responsive and gainful. In order for this image to be powerful enough to override its ancestor, however, they had to find the best man for the job.
That man was Brian Adler.
An award-winning writer, director, producer and technologist, Brain Adler is one of the industry’s foremost visual effects consultants in photorealistic digital capture and asset creation. For over two decades, he has created, directed and served as executive producer on television shows sold to NBC-Comcast and Scripps, and overseen commercial campaigns for some of the world’s leading brands, such as Bridgestone, Burger King, Cadillac, Hewlett Packard and Nokia, as well as music videos for Madonna, Will Smith and Mary J. Blige. He was nominated for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Music Video by the Visual Effects Society (VES) and has produced and directed live shows, webcasts and music videos for artists such as CeeLo Green, branded content for Yahoo! and game titans Activision/Blizzard, Electronic Arts and Square Enix.
In 2015, he founded PROTAGON, which produces 3D scanning, visual effects and physical fabrication services for every major American broadcast network and film studio, numerous visual effects facilities, and internationally renowned artists and filmmakers, including household names like 20th Century Fox, AMC, Industrial Light + Magic, Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel, Paramount, Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures. Protagon also serves museums and galleries across the globe. Its collaboration with Accused Share on Curse NFT marks PROTAGON’s first foray into cryptoart.
At PROTAGON, time was distorted: “it took a while…I’m not exactly sure how long, but it was much shorter than I had anticipated,” Krystall said.
She undressed and prepared.
Naked and, increasingly, alone, she stepped into the cool glare of the studio, where she was gently locked inside a rig replete with unmanned cameras.
Like a nymph freshly turned into a bird attempting head stabilization, “I had to do a really specific stance,” she said, “but make extreme facial expressions without moving my head or tilting it, which is surprisingly challenging!”
Interacting with the machine, a proprietary creature that can only be identified by its trail of searingly high-resolution pictures, made her feel as if she was being non-judgmentally observed from every angle. Cameras don’t have opinions, photographers do: and this one had neither.
When the time for her close-up came, Adler did her wig cap himself.
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