There are so many cultural festivals and holidays around the world that not everyone can witness. But with the HolidayVerse, that may be possible. Join Jeff Kelley, Eathan Janney, Josh Kriger as they talk to Joel Cassady And Ross Venokur Of HolidayVerse. Joel is a member of the band, Walk Off The Earth and Ross is the co-founder of EDH Animation. Together they are bringing the first-ever film funded by NFTs, one frame at a time. Discover how they plan to show it in the HolidayVerse, a self-sustaining digital ecosystem. People get to share the holiday spirit with other people from around the world. Learn more about these ornamints and how the NFT community can help create the film. Plus, more about Crypto Grow, Squirrelly Squirrels, and a WOTE Performance. Embrace the holidays today in this episode of The Edge of NTFs.
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Joel Cassady And Ross Venokur Of HolidayVerse Bring Us Global Holiday Spirit, Plus: Crypto Grow, Squirrelly Squirrels, WOTE Performance, And More…
This episode features Joel Cassady and Ross Venokur. Let’s get a little bit about them each. Joel Cassady is a member of the band Walk Off The Earth, the hugely viral platinum-selling indie pop-rock group who have sold out headlining concerts in more than 50 countries and notched over a billion views on their YouTube channel alone. The members of WOTE are part of the founding team of The HolidayVerse, a metaverse that will aim to spread year-round holiday spirit through cultural education, inclusion, acceptance and awareness. They intended to commence production on The HolidayVerse movie Ornamental in early 2022.
Ross Venokur is a director of animated films and a writer of TV, film and children‘s books. Ross has written original pilots and screenplays for the likes of Disney, Fox, Warner Bros., Dreamworks, The Jim Henson company and trust me, many more. He has directed or is in process with CG films featuring the likes of Demi Lovato, Avril Lavigne, Jimmy O. Yang, John Cleese and many more of those as well. In early 2021, Ross was half of the team responsible for the John Cleese Sells the Brooklyn Bridge NFT, which was publicized all over the world. Ross is also the Cofounding Partner of EDH Animation Co-op, in production on the first fourteen-episode season of Walk Off The Earth in Space. Welcome.
Thank you for having us.
It’s great to be here.
I’ve been pumped about this episode.
We have been emailing back and forth all kinds of fun ideas some of which our readers will get to experience a little later in the episode. Let’s dive right in. HolidayVerse is the first NFT to fund a film one frame at a time. It’s a super cool concept. Tell us about the origin story. How did this all come together?
Joel and the band Walk Off The Earth and I have had this great experience of getting to work together on this series called Walk Off The Earth in Space, which is an independently financed animated series. Along the way, stemming from some of the NFT stuff I did in 2021, I realized that in making animation, we are making thousands of digital JPEGs every day. We are making so much art. I had this thought about a cool way to finance a film independently, which has been a big driver of EDH.
We have been trying to get away from Hollywood, finance and distribute our own projects and create freedom for creators to sell the animated cels of a movie because people collect animation cels all the time. We have about 42,000 or more we will make in a 30-minute animated project. I went and talked to Joel about it. It turns out Joel was, unbeknownst to me, hardcore into the world of NFT. He’s savvy and he got excited. Together, we started talking and it blew up into The HolidayVerse. Joel, talk a little bit about that.
I had no idea that Ross had secretly been involved back in March of ’21 with John Cleese. It’s no big deal. Ross is the most humble guy ever. He has worked with the top of the top in Hollywood. He never talks about it so I’ll do it for him. He did this thing with John Cleese. That was his opportunity to get his feet wet in this wild and wonderful world. I had at the beginning of the year ’21 supported an artist that I love by the name of Daniel Arsham who’s a cool modern artist. I love everything he does from painting to sculpture and everything in between.
I had heard the three letters as we all had and a bit of the buzz. My point of relatability or moment of excitement was when I heard that the guy who I had been supporting for years was about to enter this space. That was back in January 2021. That started my journey off that I could speak more about. It’s getting the green light on this project called WOTE in Space, which was this multi-year journey that involved an augmented reality-powered comic book that we sold on tour and all this crazy stuff. Ross was chasing us around the globe and trying to convince us it would be a good idea to pitch this show. COVID or the pandemic hit and we had a chance to get that greenlit.
HolidayVerse: For writers, everything was changing and not for the better. The moment you are lucky enough to get financed, you become a work-for-hire on your own project. You no longer have creative control.
We’re putting our heads together and working on this show that has employed 100 people. It’s this thing where we jump on Zoom and do these recording sessions where someone is checking in from India. Someone is out in London, England. Here we are in the Toronto area. There’s Ross and his team either in California or in Washington State doing these sessions. He and I get chatting. It turns out he had written this kid’s book called Ornamental about a red ornament who gets thrown out with the Christmas tree and has to find his way back to Christmas by linking up with the mascots of other holidays throughout the calendar year to find his way back to Christmas.
At the time, he was already in talks with some major publishers to get that pushed out in a conventional way but because of the history of the band that I come from and the ways in which we have been able to sidestep big establishments over the years with record labels and a whole host of the big guys that are good at infringing upon IP and creativity, taking that away from artists and not being the only point of exchange. If you want to be heard and seen and be a star, you got to do this and that.
The band that I come from had a big moment where we put up a video on YouTube, which at the time was the best thing in town as far as this is the first era of about a few months after Justin Bieber, our buddy from down the road, had blown up on YouTube. This is an early phase one era of, “We can put stuff direct-to-fan up online and own our own YouTube channel. We can monetize that with Google AdSense and we don’t need to go to that big studio, financier or whatever it is.” That was a moment for us that we have held onto over the course of a total rollercoaster of a wild journey. It’s bringing that experience into my chats with Ross and him talking about EDH and how they started that company.
Ross, you should jump back in here. They started that company because they were sick of a lot of the similar stuff of having to jump through the Hollywood hoops and along the way have your art bastardized, pulled apart and become a shell of itself in the way that it was intended to be seen, heard and celebrated. Coming together with boots on the ground experience of what it’s like to have to play that game to a point but also having a little taste of what it’s like to sidestep that and try to find a way around that is what got us excited about this.
Ross, let me ask you this. These NFTs OrnaMints are aiming to disrupt and upend Hollywood. What has that meant to you? How do they allow holders to be part of the movie building process from the start to finish?
Disrupting Hollywood has become the mission. I’ve been part of Hollywood in different ways for years. I’ve had many great experiences but it started with the Writers Strike back in 2008 or so. I realized everything was changing and not necessarily for the better for writers. There were already no complaints. I had a lovely career. You constantly are creating. The moment you are lucky enough and fortunate enough to sell or get financed, you become essentially work for hire on your own project. You no longer have creative control.
Money gets involved. That costs something. There’s no such thing as free money. I had a couple of experiences in the animated world with the first two movies I made. It was great and fantastic. You have to make it but at the end of the day, it’s the same thing. The financiers can come in. It felt like these things take years to make. In the end, you get your teeth kicked in every time. The last movie Charming, which is on Netflix and is not my version of the movie, was written for my three daughters. It came out of the experience I had reading to them every night and raising them. It was personal to me.
That led to a dark moment at the end where I was like, “I’m never doing this again.” EDH was born out of that. My wife created it saying, “We need to create a place that will protect you and then you can keep doing the thing you love.” We quickly realized if we could protect me, we could protect all sorts of artists. Take for instance the Minions. The guy who designed the Minions and drew that little yellow guy the first time probably made $1,000 that week or something. That Minion has gone on to make billions of dollars. That artist has never seen another penny.
When we talk about disrupting Hollywood, the desires of EDH are so aligned with NFTs, which is to protect and give the artists continued revenue from their creations if it goes on and sells the royalty models and the smart contracts. It’s exciting for us. To answer your question about how it allows holders to participate, it aligns perfectly with that because when Joel and I got talking about what The HolidayVerse could be, it was such a natural fit. We didn’t even realize until a month later. Joel, did I ever tell you that EDH stands for Every Day is a Holiday?
It was a coincidence. We were already trying to form a company to get away from it. We started The HolidayVerse. The idea was, “WOTE had amazing success and benefited from technology but also from people helping them along the way. I’ve had much more behind closed doors success but always through mentorship and people helping. What if in addition to making a movie people, we make the movie people?” We have WOTE playing the four lead roles of the movie.
If you’re a token holder, we’re opening casting. If you want to be in a movie but you never had the opportunity, audition for our movie. It’s only open to token holders. We’re going to with the community decide who gets each part. We brought in our friend, Tara Strong, who’s the biggest voice actor in the world. She has played everyone. I have daughters. She’s Raven from Teen Titans, Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony and all the way back to the Rugrats and Inspector Gadget. She’s going to mentor you as a voice actor even though you’ve never done it before and voice direct you.
We always thought the book follows the holidays from a Northern Hemisphere or North American point of view. It’s got Easter, New Year, St. Patrick’s Day and all the holidays we celebrate. People celebrate different holidays all over the world. What if instead of the second movie someone from the community tells us what holiday is important to them? We go, “You write and direct that story. We will support you.” We pass the mic. That’s where the involvement comes from.
It is fun to google what holidays are happening every day. We’ve got some big ones. Monday, February 7th, 2022 is National Fettuccine Alfredo Day. It’s also National Football Hangover Day. In addition to that, it’s Ballet Day and National Periodic Table Day. It’s Independence Day in Grenada and Constitution Day in Mexico. That gives us a sense of what’s possible here.
I have to follow up because this is so timely. We went to a Peruvian restaurant called Pisco. It turns out it was National Pisco Day a few days before that. Can you believe it?
On the topic of what Ross had mentioned, being a part of WOTE and getting a chance. When I was a kid, all I wanted to do is be Travis Barker from Blink-182. I got a chance to drop out of music school here in Toronto and get a chance to live my dream and the dream of so many people that I was in school with that don’t get a chance to do that.
More importantly, getting a chance to tour around the globe with Walk Off The Earth, meet people from all over Asia, Europe and everywhere we go, be immersed within their culture but also get a chance to be a part of their culture for that one night that we’re there when we bring these people together in this room and do these concerts has been a special and privileged experience.
It’s the idea of getting even a small glimpse of these world cultures. Realistically, I’m a White dude from North America. I’ve never had a good excuse to want to learn about Diwali, Kwanzaa or some of these cultural celebrations like the Korean Mud Festival and the Running of the Bulls. There are so many cool festivals around the world and celebrations.
What if there’s a way with this technology to bring people together for good and promote education and awareness of world cultures? I feel like the world is pretty divided. What if there’s a way to use this tech to bring people closer together and realize that along the way, in an authentic way, I’m not so different from that family that celebrates a different holiday because of where they live in the world or what they might believe?
We’re not that different. There’s a real opportunity here to create a safe space that shows people that amidst all this criticism of how people are going to be more glued to their screens than ever and how there are all these ways in which this is going to divide the world more. We see an opportunity to bring the world closer together with this technology.
That’s beautiful stuff. It’s something that I believe in for a long time. It’s exciting. We have team members helping out with these projects in India. It’s always fun to see them celebrating Diwali or something and see what it’s like. I wanted to go back a little bit to the utilities. We talked a lot about what could come out of this. I’m curious if there’s anything else you can share in terms of the utilities that these OrnaMints can offer.
Going into this, in crypto years, the months that we first started to think about this, decades have passed in crypto time since then, even at that time. Certainly, this is even more timely than ever. We’re coming from the Solana realm. There have been some awful rugs happening and not fun stuff. It’s stuff that, in addition to being an unfortunate thing in its own right is bad for the space at large. It tarnishes that reputation for all the folks on the sidelines and all the people that have only seen the environmental headlines, “It’s all a scam,” and all this stuff. That’s going to scare them off that much more. We dislike those.
In doing a pulse check on the space when Ross and I first got chatting, we saw a lot of people promising the world when it came to utility, “Buy our token. You’re part of this club. We’re all going to get rich and change the world together.” There’s not a whole lot of detail. Beyond that, there’s not a whole lot of follow-through on these big and grand visions and promises that a lot of the projects are doing whether or not that’s to do a quick cash grab and run for the hills or to dream big, get a bit of that initial revenue happening and then start to figure it out.
HolidayVerse: There are so many different cultural celebrations and festivals around the world. By using this movie tech, people can come together and promote these cultures. That people are not so different.
It was important to us to put ourselves on the hook from day one as a docs team and a team that is known in various capacities throughout the world to put ourselves on the hook. We’re going to make this movie. It’s going to happen within one calendar year, which is light speed for animation. We’re going to bring our token holders along every step of the way every month. We did our first one. We’re going to have a behind-the-scenes members-only Discord chat where we peel back a different curtain of the production process and the movie.
We did our initial one. In March 2022, it’s going to be Ross and the animation team. We’re storyboarding the movie. The following month, that would be me and my bandmates in Walk Off The Earth. We’re starting the movie and soundtrack in the movie to give people the experiential side of this space. It’s something that’s so unexplored. The space is dominated by people looking to flip, get rich and make money. That’s great. We all want to make money and do that.
When you think about talking to someone who has been through some rough stuff in the last few years and the moments in your life that you most enjoy, do you think about the ones where you flipped something that you bought for $100 or $1,000 or $10,000? Do you think about a super special experience? You were able to be part of a small group of people that were the first people to digitally crowdfund a movie on-chain, be it for this whole host of unique experiences, have this dynamic token that’s changing out throughout the whole thing, buy a smart contract and call yourself a coproducer and part of a movie that was the first one to be made in this way.
We think about that, not to discount the value that we think our tokens do have inherently. That’s more of me speaking to the fact that we have at a relatively slow manner kept it wide open and kept the community plugged in every step of the way. No one in the community is concerned. Had we blown our mint though, we would have been a little concerned about the people we were bringing on board because this is so opposite of the quick flip, the big investment play or the 100X play.
Much as we believe so strongly that it will be the case regardless of the lower adoption model, we can assign to the fact that this space is dominated by degens, which is great. That should never go away. The more experiential and value-first side of this and the more, “We’re real humans and you’re real humans. Let’s get together and make something truly special, collaborative and community-driven together,” is something that hasn’t been explored a whole lot yet. We certainly hope to be part of the reason why that changes.
To build for the long-term requires meaningful community involvement. Even in the short timeframe that NFTs have become part of the mainstream consciousness, the best ones are built around community. We see that forming this long-term relationship. Here’s a specific question about the community and its ability to contribute to the storytelling process. How does that work in practice?
From what we did, which was exciting, like some of these projects, we are learning every day so much like, “We had this great idea. Let’s involve the community. We’re going to release the script to them.” From my background, it sounds like a nightmare. Anyone can give notes on the screenplay but we wanted to do it because we wanted them to be part of the story. We realized we also are running a business. We have to protect intellectual property.
We had to go through a bunch of lawyering up to get terms and conditions. Everyone can comment but no one can later on shut down the project because, “I wrote that joke.” We went through all that, released the script to the token holders and opened the channel on the members-only Discord. They’re giving feedback and saying, “We love this and that. The ending is not working so great. How about this idea for the ending?” Right from the get-go, they’re part of the process and storytelling.
We’re about to open up the casting. They can be in the movie. We have already started asking them on another channel, “What holidays are important to you?” We like to think of ourselves as on the road to making the Marvel Universe of holidays. Let’s identify the next holiday that the community is most interested in. We found out that 64% of our community is outside of the United States. They’re coming up with all sorts of interesting and cool ideas and holidays we had never heard of.
We’re going to identify one of them, mentor these people who are interested in writing the story and create a children’s book free to them and the matching animated special. On the most fundamental level, this idea came from Ornamental. I always wanted to write my own How the Grinch Stole Christmas or A Charlie Brown Christmas because those are such a cornerstone of growing up in our experience. Shouldn’t everyone have that for all the holidays?
Why do we only save it for Christmas specials? We can have a special for everyone but we can’t tell those stories. We’re not those people. We don’t have that experience. We’re not from that culture and background. We’re creating a platform. They’re going to be not only welcome to do it. We’re going to encourage them and hold their hand through the whole process. We’re hoping to find musicians and everyone in our community over time. It is going to be completely community.
We are slowly building such a quality community. It’s insane. I already have real relationships with these people after five weeks. Joel and I are in there every day. Someone is trying to buy a farm in Arkansas. Someone who lives in Arkansas is advising me on how to buy land there. These are real relationships with real people. That has been the part that has blown my mind. I knew it was about community but I didn’t realize how real that was and how quickly that became real.
We love that side of it. We have had some amazing conversations with some of our audience in Discord. That’s why we’re doing NFTLA. Joel, I’m so excited that you can come by and talk a little bit more with us about what you’re doing there. We have talked about the metaverse and the movie. It isn’t enough. Where will you take it from here? What does the roadmap look like?
We’re back to the topic of us putting ourselves on the hook right from the get-go of wanting to be deliverable with these utility points. If you look at our roadmap, we have been able to fall through. We are members-only on Discord. We have circulated the script. If you mint a token, you’re in for that experience right off the hop. You’re in the members-only. You’ve got access to the script. You’re in for our next livestream. You’re about to be able to start auditioning whether you have voice experience or not in this movie.
The only thing we haven’t had a chance to dive deep into yet is the idea of breaking ground on The HolidayVerse, which we fully intend to be its own self-sustaining digital ecosystem. It’s much like many of these metaverse projects where people can come together in the spirit of holidays year-round and collaborate. It doesn’t matter if you’re a sculptor, painter, music maker or beatmaker. We want to give artists a chance to have their voices heard. Certainly, coming from the background that I do with WOTE, we had a chance years ago.
We just so happened to make a video of the five of us all playing on one guitar. We threw it up on our YouTube channel as we did with all the videos leading up to that. We woke up the next day. It was number one on Reddit. The Washington Post had given us a call. Our lives changed from there. We got fortunate. Luck is a funny word because you can make your own luck. We were fortunate to have that opportunity and get a chance to travel around the world and live out our dreams in that sense. We have met so many people that are much more talented than us.
I have a humbling moment every time that happens to me. We have an opener that’s an unbelievable virtuoso or that stuff. For some reason, we’re in this privileged position. With great power comes great responsibility in that sense. We certainly owe it and Ross could agree with this, to ourselves and all those who have allowed us to not only get to this point but also to stay at this point and continue to build, grow and thrive to pay that forward and create a space.
I say this all the time. The best books, movies or whatever ever written or created may never see the light of day because of X, Y and Z. The algorithm didn’t like the creator and she wasn’t too familiar with how to work the algorithm or whatever combination of things. Any video that goes there or any piece that blows up is a perfect storm situation. It can be great. There can be talent but there are all these other extraneous factors that are out of one’s control.
What if we can put those a little more in people’s control in the spirit of what’s happening in this space and create this safe year-round place where you can go and have your voice heard and connect with people from your community in the world? You can also connect with the larger creator community that isn’t tied to any part of the world and certainly in the COVID era when you can’t jump on a plane as easily as you were able to.
Regardless of that, if you’re a person that doesn’t have those means, let’s do that via the metaverse and put on a headset, glasses, goggles or whatever it winds up being or via an in-browser experience and travel to a place where you can freely talk about the art that you make, connect with people that make similar art and grow and collaborate with those people. It’s an idea that we feel strongly about and we feel is attainable. Certainly, on the list of short-term to long-term goals, it’s more on the long-term side. This is something where we’re already making connections within the space.
Our dev happens to be part of the Portals team, for example, on Solana, which is quickly becoming a Solana blue chip. It’s like a Solana metaverse and digital real estate experience. We have already sniffed out some of these things. Whether we ended up partnering with them, who knows? The sky is the limit. Maybe we will chat with the guys behind The Sandbox and find something out there. Numerous players are starting to rise to the top here.
Maybe that or creating our own thing will be the move. We certainly have access to fortunately the who’s who within Solana. There’s so much exciting stuff happening in Solana. The sky is the limit there. It’s about keeping the goals measured, making sure we continue to deliver on those utility points that we put ourselves on the hook for but also keeping that big dream alive because that’s what this space is all about.
HolidayVerse: Let the community be part of the story. You can involve them by relasing the script to them. Anyone can give notes on the screenplay but you still need to protect the IP.
Dreaming big and realizing that if you have a good idea, you have enough people that want to rally behind that and put a few bucks down behind that, you can do whatever it is. I saw the AssangeDAO. They’re trying to bust out Julian Assange and got $30 million right away to do it. There’s the ConstitutionDAO and the BlockbusterDAO. This is where we’re headed with this stuff. It’s so exciting.
There are fettuccine and pisco sours for all.
We have the last question here before we get into our Quick Hitters. It’s a general question. We would love to get sharp people’s perspectives on the space. Where do you draw inspiration from in the NFT space? Is there anything else we haven’t talked about?
I certainly continue to draw inspiration from the people that got me into this space like Daniel Arsham who I can attribute all of my ability to learn so much within this space and have a passion-driven point of relatability. That’s beyond the performance of that underlying financial asset or whatever else. I’m supporting an artist that I love. That satiates me alone in and of its own right. The fact that I could also flip it for 10X, which I could is a nice bonus. Certainly, what keeps me excited is how fast the space is moving, how much opportunity there is within the space and how every day in jumping on Twitter and Discord, there are new ideas, technologies and projects.
The sky is even the limit in this space. It’s so exciting. You might be familiar with the subreddit called r/Antiwork. Certainly, there’s a large variety of opinions on this idea of the pandemic helping people realize that working stiff, having your classic cubicle 9:00 to 5:00, being a cog in the machine and working eight hours a day to make someone else rich. People are starting to see there might be a better way here. Web 3.0 is what’s helping increase awareness of how real those possibilities are. There are these wins happening every day. I do see a lot of parallels back in the day with the way that my group took off.
Before YouTube, you could be the most talented person in the world, have a webcam in your room and make a great video but you couldn’t get it up to the world. YouTube showing up created that ability for anybody and their grandma regardless of their tech abilities to get a video up and it goes crazy viral. I see a similar opportunity here where you can have a great product that’s high quality. If you go about it the right way and network and market it properly, you can have the same opportunities as these multimillion-dollar entities that are trying to enter the space.
They’re doing it in a relatively clunky way because they don’t have that all-important community-first aspect. It’s the idea of Facebook or Meta getting in and these major players trying to barge into the space. They’re in for a little bit of a rude awakening if they haven’t had that yet where it’s like, “You don’t have a whole lot of customer confidence.” These communities are customer confidence-first and only to put it that way. It’s the idea of being able to buy your way in here or buy the cool points in.
I love how level the playing field is in this space in the sense that we have no marketing budget for our project. There are people who have no budgets who are doing numbers that we are dreaming of. Maybe it’s a group of sixteen-year-old bodies from Arkansas. Anybody has that potential. That’s a beautiful thing. People are stuck in dead-end jobs and are depressed especially coming off the pandemic. If you have a big idea, you have a better shot than ever before of bringing that to life by putting a community to get together around it. That’s an amazing thing.
Ross, how about you? Before we head to Quick Hitters here is there something you want to call an inspiration?
Like Joel, I’m amazed by watching the space and how it seems anything is possible. One thing that is interesting is sometimes you feel like you’re late to the game somehow and things are happening so fast. You take a moment back and realize, “This is just the beginning. We’re not even at the end of inning one.” I think about some of the criticism we received early on like, “You’re a holiday project.” We were dismissed for being a holiday project.
It was like, “We’re not a holiday project. We’re trying to bring this utility.” It’s also realizing, “We might be the only people trying to do a family project in NFTs.” I don’t know if that’s true or not but I haven’t yet to find another. Where I come from in the entertainment business, the family business is the cornerstone of the business. A four-quadrant family film is the biggest moneymaker in the world from animated films to Marvel films and Star Wars.
No one seems to have gone into that yet. The thing that’s so inspiring to me is it still feels like day one. Anyone can show up. You see a day like Facebook had. I don’t wish anyone ill ever and I’m sorry for the shareholders. These things that felt like they were going to be here forever are starting to feel like dinosaurs. It feels like the world is opening up again. There’s an opportunity again in a whole different way for people.
We were fortunate enough to work with this artist on our project. He goes by the name Jason “Gonzo” Gonzales. He’s an incredible artist. He has been at it for years and has done some cool stuff. A guy like that suddenly getting in the spotlight, come love on this guy. He’s so talented. He has been inspired. He was talking to us about trying to do his own NFT and find people and help them. One thing that’s inspirational is we started HolidayVerse.
I had this one experience with an NFT on Ethereum in 2021 that nearly scared me away from the experience. I made every possible mistake you could make on the John Cleese project. We come into Solana and have this idea of bringing real utility and value. These huge hitters in the space were so open to us and encouraged us to succeed, “How can we help you? Can we host a Twitter space for you? Can we post some stuff on Twitter for you?”
There’s this camaraderie here of people who are like, “We see that this is going to be great for the world. We believe in the world. Let us help you.” That has been mind-blowing to me. What I’m inspired by because I’m a little bit head-in-the-sand on this project and its day in and day out has been the other people in the space. You get this idea like, “They’re all crypto guys and NFT.” They’re some of the nicest and most collaborative people I’ve ever met in my life from being in the NFT space.
It’s a special space. There are very few industries or categories that are built around such a definitive community. The part that narrative storytelling plays in this is interesting as well to some of the best projects and it feeds into that community orientation. It’s interesting to see. Thanks for sharing all those details with us. Readers dive deeper. There’s so much more here to uncover. There’s exciting stuff. We want to take a step back and get your personal perspectives.
It’s an opportunity for our readers to get to know you individually a little bit better. It’s a section we call Edge Quick Hitters. There are ten set questions that we ask the guests of our show each time. What we would like to do for this episode is we will run through and alternate. We will go back and forth here between Joel and Ross and have a little fun with this thing. Here’s question number one. Joel, let’s start with you. What is the first thing you remember ever purchasing in your life?
This is the moment. I turned 33 in 2022. This is the one where I officially feel old because the first purchase that I made on my own was this latest greatest Sony Discman. It had the 5 or 10-second anti-skip. It had the headphones that sat behind your head with the Rumble Pak. You can feel the sub-bass action. I thought I was the coolest guy around. I had the latest greatest CD player. That thing was my prized possession until I broke it somehow getting into bands and stuff for the first time around. A guy dropped a cymbal on it or something. That was the first prized possession that I saved up the paper route money for.
I remember that first one too. That’s special. Question number two, Ross. What is the first thing you remember ever selling in your life?
This is going to make me older than Joel, which I am by about fifteen years so that makes sense. In fifth grade, fat shoelaces were all the rage because Run-DMC was out. I grew up right outside New York City. I used to go into New York City on the weekends with my big brother so we could buy a variety of colors of fat shoelaces and then come to the halls of my elementary school and outside my locker sell people and eventually start taking orders, “Do you want neon green or neon purple?” I had a fat shoelace business running out of my locker in fifth grade.
These are some of the lead-off two best responses we have gotten from all these questions. Question number three, Joel. What is the most recent thing you purchased?
I just got ahold of my fourth Quantum Trader on the Solana chain. I’m a big vinyl figure collector as well. Since getting deep into the space, I feel like more and more my disposable income is going to digital assets than physical assets. On the Solana chain, there’s a project called Yawww. It’s a peer-to-peer escrow trading utility that doesn’t necessitate one going to Magic Eden, for example, which is like the OpenSea of the Solana space, to list something, pay a fee to that intermediary and be at the mercy of that. It’s a peer thing.
HolidayVerse: The HolidayVerse is going to be a self-sustaining digital ecosystem, where people can come together in the spirit of the holidays. This is going to give artists the chance to get their voices heard.
If you’re in touch with someone, you want to trade off the books and person to person, you can do that. Yawww is its own entity. They have these things called Quantum Traders that are these tokens. Since they released them in November 2021, the idea has been they’re figuring out this non-custodial staking thing where you can stake your tokens. That’s about to roll out. They’re about to have an IDO and roll out their own coin. I’ve been stocking up on those. Here we are talking about the experiential side and the high utility side otherwise.
On the pure investment side, I’m sure you know what’s happening with LooksRare and being able to stake LOOKS and this stuff. Staking tokens is the future in a lot of ways. You’re starting to see that roll out on Solana. This is one of several collections that are doing that with a spreadsheet that’s available of the yield. It’s a rarity-based yield situation. It’s because these communities are so awesome that somebody has already done up a website where you can go and type in your wallet address. It will scan how many of those you have and give you estimated yields and this stuff.
I’m bullish on those and as well as on a project called Sovana on Solana. This is essentially trying to do for Solana NFT communities what we want to do with independent creator communities, which is onboard and create partnerships with the who’s who across the whole space and bring them into this pixel art-driven metaverse where you can grab these Eggs. They’re eventually going to hatch and there are varying rarities. It’s all about building, working with and thriving with other high-quality projects. We have a call with them. They are interested in bringing us into their metaverse, which is cool. That will be our first chance to show up in a metaverse.
You’re getting deep already. Ross, number four. What is the most recent thing you sold?
This is the polar opposite of digital. My family and I made this weird decision mid-pandemic. We lived in a town called Ojai, California for years. Now is the time to go buy a farm. Rather than find the farm and leave, we decided we were going to get rid of our house and get on the road. We did that in June 2021. It was great until it wasn’t. It was a few months of exciting travel and then we all got COVID and the transmission went out on our car. We have been sitting out for a while. The most recent thing I sold was nearly all of my household possessions. We Craigslisted everything. They’re like, “Who wants a couch? Who wants a blender?” We sold it all.
Question number six, Joel. If you could buy anything in the world, digital, physical, service and experience that’s currently for sale, what would that be?
Here’s the thing that shot right to mind. I touched on Portals, which has one of the highest floor prices within Solana. They have put a stronghold on the Solana side of metaverse real estate and everything. If I had all the money in the world, I would essentially buy up a whole bunch of these Portals cards. The floor price is 100 SOL or something. The big vision of this project is the idea of eventually building out our own fully year-round self-sustaining metaverse. The idea of getting a jumpstart in that, being able to own some land in that sense and being able to put a few people at work to start building on that would be something great to dive into while we keep those priorities of making a movie at the forefront.
You’re dialed in. I realized I skipped question five. Ross, I’m going to throw that over to you. What is your most prized possession?
My kids come first but they’re not my possession. They’re their own beautiful entities. My wife and I own an awesome 1973 International Travelall, which is an old-school SUV. It is completely original. I love that thing. We did not sell that on Craigslist.
Let’s flip the script a little bit here. Question number seven, Joel. If you could pass on one of your personality traits to the next generation, what would that be?
I’m a person who has always been a high-stress person that likes to ruminate on things that are out of my control. That’s the definition of what things like anxiety and depression are. I know that mental health thing is even more important coming off the pandemic and everything. There’s a whole group of young people out there who have been thrown for a mental loop that I don’t think they were anticipating much as none of us were.
These are people that are in the midst of their formative years. If I could pass it along, it would be it gets better. Even if along the way to getting better, it’s going to be punctuated by some pretty tough stuff, there’s a silver lining in that tough stuff. I lost one of my bandmates and my mother within a week apart from one another years ago. That’s what the bottom feels like.
Even in the midst of that, that silver lining looks like, “I’m going to slow down, not hold on to things that I can’t control and think about the legacy that I’m leaving and the way that I spend my time.” If I could drill that into a younger person’s head someone that fortunately may have not been through a lot of tough stuff yet but is that stressful person or the person that ruminates or worries too much about things that are out of their control, I would say take a moment and realize.
There are moments coming for you that are going to help you do that. Take a breath and get into meditation. Maybe it would be a good one because that has helped me out a lot and cannabis also. Here’s a big shout-out to medical cannabis. We’re coming from Canada here, which has been federally legal for a while. It has been a great thing that way. Self-wellness or self-care is something that gets thrown around a lot but I don’t a lot of people think of these things.
Question number eight, Ross is the flip side of that one. If you could eliminate one of your personality traits from the next generation, what would that be?
It goes hand in hand with what Joel said. It’s the tunnel vision I get with the work. It’s the fact that work becomes all-consuming. Certainly, you can ask Joel and me about our December 2021 trying to launch this NFT. The irony of launching a holiday NFT and blowing out the holidays for your kids, family and wife has been like, “I’ll see you the day after Christmas.” I feel like I’m getting on the other side of that finally. I have been so driven to accomplish certain things in the film industry.
It has started to carry over to the NFT. It has become a huge priority in my life. Balance and know that it’s okay to put it down. If you put it down, when you come back, it will still be there. You can put it down and go have a quality lifetime away from the thing that you think defines you because it doesn’t define you. None of us are going to be defined by these things at the end of the day.
He’s speaking real facts. After years of being locked down, I got a chance to go to Hawaii for my birthday. Before I went, I was stressed because Ross and I are the co-leads of this project and there’s not a whole lot of other folks. I was stressed about going away and separating. He was like, “The work is always going to be there. Go and be present. Enjoy it and come back. It’s going to be all good.” I appreciated that.
It’s hard when you do what you love. It’s easy to get drawn in and be all consumed by it. Question nine, what did you do before joining us on the show?
I ran out. I was ripping through Toronto and trying to get ahold of a new SM7B. Shortly before this, I went to grab for mine and realized that I left it at the Walk Off The Earth studio down the road here in Burlington, Ontario. I was mad dashing through Toronto getting a new SM7B.
Ross, we will flip it to you for the last one. Question ten, what are you going to do next after the show?
I’m going to take my youngest daughter to her horseback riding lesson. That’s the balance I’m talking about.
HolidayVerse: Web 3.0 is what’s really helping increase awareness of just how real some possibilities are. There are these wins that are happening every day.
I’m glad you’re doing that. Thanks for sharing with us. That is Edge Quick Hitters, our ten questions. It’s always a pleasure to do those. We have some hot topics to dig in on as well. Let’s scoot over there and see what we got shaking. What’s going on in that world, Eathan?
Enter Igor of Squirrelly Squirrels. Igor Denisov, Head of Corporate Dev for Squirrel Wallet is going to chat with us a little bit about that project. Let’s kick it off here. Tell us where you’re coming from and about Squirrelly Squirrels. What’s the background on this?
I’m glad to be on. Thanks for having me on the show. A little bit about Squirrelly Squirrels is it’s an NFT project being launched by Squirrel Wallet. I’m super stoked about it. We’re minting on Ethereum Mainnet. There will be 10,000 Squirrels. It’s not just another NFT project because there are a couple of cool things about it. The first coolest thing is that it’s going to be a provably fair launch.
We know there are going to be a whole bunch of very rare Squirrels in the mix. We’re using some cool tech developed by our devs and leveraging Chainlink VRF, a plugin for Chainlink, to show on-chain that everybody gets a fair chance to get some of these rare Squirrels that will carry extra special traits with them. The other cool thing is that these Squirrels will have some neat features as part of when we launched the larger Squirrel Wallet product.
Joel and Ross, you probably already knew this. January 21st is Squirrel Appreciation Day. There is a holiday for the squirrels as well.
We did not think of that. Ross did make a major film called Get Squirrely.
The first CG film I wrote and directed was all about squirrels. That’s another story.
Igor, it sounds cool. I know you are cooking up a lot of stuff for your wallet as well. The $10,000 question is what makes this project live on the edge of NFTs from your perspective?
The provably fair launch is one thing but the big overarching thing that we’re developing is this entire suite of DeFi and NFT-focused products. What the Squirrels would represent will be the VIP or power user experience in that universe. We’re launching the Squirrel Wallet. The holders of the Squirrels can expect a nice retroactive airdrop of our ecosystem token. They will get a lot of specialty invites and early previews to different things we want to launch like our in-house AMM and extra features for staking and DeFi. This is how we want to build a strong community of users for our product. The Squirrels are cute, don’t get me wrong but there is a real reason to hold onto them beyond great-looking NFTs in your Squirrel Wallet.
There’s an unlimited array of jokes that can be made about Squirrels, their nuts and what you can do with them.
In our Discord and Twitter, we have been through many dozens of iterations. It also doesn’t help that squirrels were featured so prominently in Rick and Morty as the evil things that control the universe from the background. The gifs are endless.
There’s a partnership there. Hit up Justin Roiland and the whole gang. You’re powerful.
A reader is going to want to dig in on this, learn more and figure out how to navigate this world of Squirrelly Squirrels. Where do they go? How do they learn about this? What do you suggest for folks? Do you have some videos up there or websites that you go to? How do they get involved?
The usual place we interact with a lot of NFT projects is Twitter. We’re on that @Squirrel_Wallet. You can find us on SquirrellySquirrels.com. Come join our Discord. It’s super fun. The minting is going on and the reveal is going to be later on. It will be a blast.
Readers, check that out and get in there. I’m sure the Discord community has hopped in at this point.
To clarify for our readers, we did do a contest but the only chance hopefully to get your Squirrel will be on OpenSea. You can also go to OpenSea and see what’s cooking. Maybe one of your favorite Squirrels has been revealed to the world already. Snag it from someone else and give them some Squirrel envy.
Igor, thanks so much for joining us and sharing this with us. This is super cool and fun. We’re going to keep an eye on this one for sure.
We will talk soon.
HolidayVerse: Before YouTube, it was hard to make yourself seen by the world. You could be the most talented person in the world and have a webcam to make a great video, but you didn’t have YouTube yet.
We’re blessed to have such cool people on this show. This has also been a lot of a blast here with everyone that has come through. We appreciate you being here. Thanks so much.
I appreciate that. You are doing a great thing. This is leading by example and highlighting projects that are trying to do this stuff for good. To achieve good and positivity and spread that good education and awareness is what it’s all about. You are doing a fantastic job at doing that. There’s much love for you. Keep it going because the space needs it.
Thank you so much for having us on. It has been such a pleasure.
April 20th is Cannabis Day. It’s another great holiday.
That one I did know about.
It has been an amazing time talking to you. We have mentioned a few different spots where folks can figure out more information on HolidayVerse and all the amazing stuff you are doing. Let’s be specific. Where should they go to follow the project and get engaged with the community?
TheHolidayVerse.com will give you the best lay of the land. It’s got the FAQ and roadmap on there. It’s got what inspired the project and the backgrounds of the two teams, WOTE and EDH, that came together here. You got your links to Twitter and Discord right on the website there. That’s your one-stop shop for all things HolidayVerse.
Go there, visit, get engaged and become part of the community. The word on the street is we got a giveaway that we’re going to be doing for our readers. This is a small batch of Valentine’s collection. There are 100 pieces exclusive to Edge of NFT and HolidayVerse supporters. It features the Doily, a character from the Ornamental book/film with animated background and foreground layers. It’s super-duper cool. Also, it can be exchanged for an OrnaMint, which is the flagship token that provides access to the members-only experience that we have been talking about on the show. It can be held on its own as a collectible. What else do we have? Is there any other color we need to add to this one?
Ross, this would be a good time to unveil this. Based on the demand and also some of the criticism about our project being tied to holidays even if it is an all-holiday project, we have come up with this idea where we’re going to put the token holder in the driver’s seat when it comes to customizing their token. Whatever you minted and the set of traits and rarity that came with that are going to stay. When you hold a Bored Ape and Mutant Serum, you can go to that website, connect your wallet, pick your Bored Ape and Serum and watch that irreversible process happen to create a Mutant Ape.
We’re going to create The HolidayVerse Studio. You’re going to be able to go there, attach your Solana wallet, choose your token and then apply different traits. We’re going to be rolling out these trait packs. The first one is going to be in support of Valentine’s Day because our tokens do have animated background and foreground. Even some of them have audio elements and this stuff. We’re going to put people in the driver’s seat.
All of our Valentine’s Day trait packs are going to have a background swap ability and foreground swap ability. The actual character itself is going to be able to be tweaked out in some ways. For the Valentine’s Day one, there’s going to be candy hearts background raining down behind. The actual character element is going to be a pair of heart-shaped glasses. The foreground animated element is you can turn your character into whatever position or action that it took on mint into an animated version of it blowing a kiss in honor of Valentine’s Day.
We’re going to be dropping those. They’re going to have varying levels of rarity throughout the year and into future HolidayVerse projects. Keep an eye out for that. We thought that was a pretty cool way to allow the user to customize, wake up any new day and say, “I’m going to swap out to a birthday hat, a party horn or gold watch.” This stuff you will see happening more in the space. It’s the Build-A-Bear Workshop almost of Web 3.0.
It’s the opposite of Groundhog’s Day where you can change every day however you want.
I’ve said so many times we don’t have a marketing budget and marketing people. What we do have is we have the ability to put Joel in front of a microphone. Authenticity and passion do it all for us.
Keep an eye out on our socials for all the details on this amazing giveaway. Thank you for your generosity. There’s going to be a ton of fun. We have reached the outer limit at the show. Thanks for exploring with us. We’ve got space for more adventures on this starship so invite your friends and recruit some cool strangers that will make this journey all so much better. How? Go to iTunes, rate us and say something awesome. Go to EdgeOfNFT.com to dive further down the rabbit hole.
Remember, we always invite you to co-create and build with us at the show. We’re unlocking a whole new way to connect and collaborate with us through our own NFT drops, Spirit Seeds, leading to Living Tree NFTs, which lights the way to our event NFTLA, a one of a kind immersive and unforgettable experience at LA live in Los Angeles on March 28th, 2022 to the 31st. NFTLA.live and move quickly because Early Bird tickets are selling fast. Lastly, be sure to tune in next time for more great NFT content. Thanks for sharing this time with us.
- Walk Off The Earth
- The HolidayVerse
- EDH Animation Co-op
- Daniel Arsham
- Tara Strong
- The Sandbox
- Jason “Gonzo” Gonzales
- Magic Eden
- Squirrelly Squirrels
- Squirrel Wallet
- Chainlink VRF
- @Squirrel_Wallet – Twitter
- Discord – Squirrelly Squirrels
- Last Prisoner Project
- Heal Our Heroes
- Bored Ape
- iTunes – Edge of NFT
- Spirit Seeds
About Joel Cassady
Joel is the drummer in the inimitable Canadian band, Walk Off The Earth. WOTE is a Canadian indie band formed in 2006 in Burlington, Ontario. The band´s first success came from covering the songs of The Gregory Brothers.