Black Astronaut Character Aku Is First NFT Optioned for Film and TV

Todd Spangler
·3 min read

Non-fungible tokens — one of the hottest digital crazes of 2021 — are set to make their Hollywood debut.

Aku, a young Black astronaut NFT character created by Micah Johnson, an artist and former MLB player, has been optioned for TV and film projects by Anonymous Content and Permanent Content, a joint venture of Shawn Mendes and his manager, Andrew Gertler.

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It’s believed to be the first time that an NFT property has been optioned by a major production company. Johnson’s Aku character debuted Feb. 21, 2021, in an NFT drop on Nifty Gateway — selling more than $2 million in NFT tokens during the 24-hour sale period.

In simplified terms, an NFT provides a method of authentication for piece of digital content, based on blockchain technology. It certifies and tracks the ownership of a unique digital asset. So far, much of the activity surrounding NFTs has come in the art and music worlds: Last month, an NFT by digital artist Beeple sold for $69.3 million at auction, reportedly the most ever paid for a non-fungible token asset.

Johnson began painting his young nephew in an astronaut helmet, after the boy asked whether astronauts could be Black. The artist’s paintings of Aku depicted him with an oversize space helmet and backpack, and eventually Johnson created a 10-part story about the boy. Johnson more recently worked with his friend and 3D creator, Durk van der Meer, to produce a physical representation of Aku.

“This deal is such an empowering moment for creators everywhere,” Johnson said in a statement. “A small Black crypto community mobilized behind Aku at launch and told the world ‘This is a character we want in the world.’ And for Anonymous Content to recognize the magnitude of this movement and want to take the Aku story further makes me incredibly excited for our future together.”

Anonymous Content’s Zack Hayden is set to produce the Aku projects alongside Permanent Content’s Mendes and Gertler. Gertler’s recently announced Permanent Arts also represents NFT artists and projects, including Aku.

“Micah has pushed the boundaries of what we traditionally understand as entertainment and created a strong, complex character whose story is rooted in so many lived experiences,” said Dawn Olmstead, CEO of Anonymous Content, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to work with Micah and the team at Permanent Content to give Aku’s amazing character a platform to share his boundless dreams, determination, and pure wonder with audiences everywhere.”

Gertler commented, “This is a story that can inspire young people from all walks of life to chase their dreams and aspirations, and that they can do anything if they put their minds to it.”

Anonymous Content also announced a discussion on Clubhouse (the live-audio app that’s also super buzzy of late) on Sunday, April 17, at 12:30 p.m. ET about how Aku came to life and the process of turning an NFT into a film. Joining the discussion (at Crypto Basel by Lady PheOnix club) will be Micah Johnson, Andrew Gertler, Chris Lyons, Lady PheOnix and Fadia Kader.

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