Jeff Garzik, a key developer of the Linux operating system and Bitcoin Core project, announced the launch of NextCypher Productions on Tuesday. The independent entertainment company aims to use Web3 tools to produce independent science fiction entertainment.
“I was the third most prolific developer on the original blockchain Bitcoin back in 2010,” Garzik tells Decrypt in an interview. “So I was working directly with Satoshi [Nakamoto] and his number two, Gavin [Andresen]—that was my entry into the crypto industry.”
Garzik is also known for co-founding Bloq, Spacechain, and Vesper Finance.
Garzik says NextCypher lets him return to his passion for science fiction, which he said led him to crypto in the first place.
Garzik says the roots of Web3 can be found in the pages of cyberpunk novels. The genre includes seminal titles like Neuromancer by William Gibson, Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson, and roleplaying games like “Shadowrun” and “Cyberpunk.”
But unlike Stephenson—who in June announced the launch of his “metaverse” project Lamina1 alongside another Bitcoin pioneer, Peter Vessenes—Garzik’s vision is in film and television.
Though a background primarily in software engineering and cryptocurrency doesn’t exactly lend itself to a Hollywood career, Garzik says he sought out individuals like Mark Altman and Thomas Vitale, people already experienced in the type of production he envisions.
“We engaged a producer-showrunner combination that is very experienced in not only film and TV in general, but know how to create something on a budget and on a schedule,” Garzik says.
To get the project off the ground, Garzik tells Decrypt that he invested $1 million of his own money to finance NextCypher, intending to launch the first television projects, Deathlands (based on the novel by Jack Adrian, produced by Altman and Vitale) and Looking Glass, based on an original concept by Garzik, in 2023.
Looking Glass, the story of a young woman who loses her memory and falls in with a group of “grid runners” and goes on a quest to discover her true identity made its premiere as a graphic novel by NextCypher subsidiary, Next Cypher Words + Art, at San Diego Comic-Con last month.
The character of “the runner” is a familiar archetype in cyberpunk, from Edgerunners of Cyberpunk 2077 to the eponymous Shadowrunners of Shadowrun.
Along with Garzik’s NextCypher, other sci-fi/cyberpunk-themed productions in Web3 are currently in development. In May, the co-creators of the Web3 multimedia sci-fi project “Runner” Bryan Unkeless, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Bryce Anderson, and Blaise Hemingway discussed their project.
“While our central story is focusing on a few characters, it was a natural extension to look at PFPs as a way to really start creating specific identities within our world,” Unkeless said at the time.
Like Unkeless’ project, Garzik is looking to leverage Web3 technologies like non-fungible tokens or NFTs. These unique tokens are linked to digital (sometimes physical) content, providing proof of ownership.
Along with NFTs, the project aims to use social media to connect with global audiences giving supporters and fans access to exclusive markets and opportunities like exclusive previews and experiences, including engaging with stars and the creative team and gaining access to the creative process.
“It’s called an alpha pass,” Garzik says. “You don’t have to pay anything. You show up within the time window and claim one.”
As Garzik explains, the NFTs will be a gateway to the NextCypher Hollywood-plus experience.
“We tried to think of all the interesting, amazing, engaging ways that fans would like to be included in the process from literally the idea stage, all the way to post-production and streaming on Amazon or Netflix.”
Using NFTs to engage with fans and build buzz is not new. Earlier this year, famed indie director Quentin Tarantino launched a line of NFTs based on his iconic film Pulp Fiction, despite a lawsuit from Miramax Films, which owns the movie’s intellectual property rights. In May, legendary filmmaker Spike Lee announced the launch of a series of Ethereum NFTs based on his appearance as Mars Blackmon in “She’s Gotta Have It” to help fund young filmmakers and let NFT holders vote on which projects are made.
“We still pursue traditional production financing,” Garzik says. “The NFT revenue goes towards new project development, community events, and other fan additive experiences.”
Garzik says the team is still working out which blockchain the NFTs will be minted on but noted that the idea is to avoid the high fees currently associated with Ethereum.
“We’re currently looking for the best home for that,” Garzik says. “So the default answer is an Ethereum-connected sidechain, like Polygon or Avalanche. We’re still negotiating among the projects to see where we’ll land.”