Kickstarter to Fund Films with Celebs
Zach Braff's film hit its funding goal quickly a while ago (which is like a hundred years in Internet time) but I still wanted to ask the forum dwellers what they think about this.
There has always been backlash when a celebrity (who we assume has the means and/or connections to do their project without crowdfunding) creates a Kickstarter campaign for their thing. It seems to really have reached a tipping point between Braff and the Veronica Mars film from a couple months ago.
I wasn't really sure how I felt about this and I think it depends on each project. But after some consideration, I completely support the path Braff took for his film. Just because he has the means to sign a traditional deal, why does that exclude him from leveraging his cult following the help fund the thing and make the movie HE wants? I think it's also an interesting marketing perspective to get people on board with your film and fully involved before production even begins.
I understand the concerns about charging audiences twice for a film. Braff isn't providing copies of his movie as a reward (citing issues with distributors), which was a significant source of the backlash. That sucks. I don't really know what to think about that. But crowd sourcing for people beyond those whose last hope is the Internet? I don't see, in theory, what's so bad about it...if people will give you money, why not take it.
I have 2 quick thoughts on this.
1. Zach Braffs fans probably wouldn't fund my project anyway.
2. When "more credible" people use kickstarter it just brings more awareness to kickstarter in name recognition and as a legitimate model for those of us not as "credible".
Now if I ever decide to run another kickstarter campaign (I was part of a successful campaign in 2010) I won't half to spend half my time explaining what kickstarter is.
And 1 more quick thought, I don't care who you are, it is always nice to run your project the way you want, instead of having to answer to investors and lose control of the your creative vision.
I rented "Hitchcock" the other week, the one with Anthony Hopkins (great move BTW). The story was set during the pre-thru-post-production of "Psycho". According to the film, the studio didn't want to fund Hitch's movie because they were nervous about the subject matter, so Hitch mortgaged his own house to raise enough money to fund production, with the studio on the hook for distribution only, and Hitch keeping a larger part of the gross. Which worked out well for Hitchcock.
Having seen this, I think the Kickstarter thing is awesome.
I had a chance to see Terry Gilliam do a Q&A after a showing of Twelve Monkeys recently -- even more of a gas than you'd hope it would be. A lifetime moviegoing highlight....
...wherein somebody asked him how his effort to make Man of La Mancha is going. He said that after many years of trying, he came as close as he's ever come last May...but it fell through, and he has no other prospects. He mentioned that a number of movies he's wanted to recently make just didn't happen because he couldn't get any money.
He said it's been going on for decades, the same story every time. "I loved your last movie...I love ALL your movies....but this one, hmmm, I don't think it's going to fly, sorry." I immediately thought of Kickstarter, but I'm not sure that raising $10 million or whatever is realistic that way. But we do in fact live in a world where Terry Gilliam can't get money to make movies.
The other example I think of along these lines is one of my favorite musical artists, Morrissey, who arguably invented indie with his band The Smiths. He's been sitting on a finished album for nearly 5 years because he can't get a record deal to distribute it.
His issue with crowdsourcing or direct sales is that he wants to be in the music MAKING business, not the music DISTRIBUTION business. Even if he were to decide to make a go of it, he can't figure out how to learn to evaluate the suitability of somebody to HIRE to do this for him. So he's been making a living on the road to sell-out crowds in theaters and the occasional arena -- but he hasn't been able to get far enough ahead of expenses to go back to South America, the one part of the world where he can fill STADIUMS at will.
In days gone by, a record company would loan him the money and he'd comfortably pay them back...but he can't get a loan from ANYBODY, even with a 30 year track record of sold-out performances and sterling credit. But man, if I could write the guy a bite-sized check toward solving that problem, I'd do it.
Same with a small contribution to financing a Terry Gilliam picture. I feel like it's the least I can do for the guy after all he's given me. LOL But is crowdsourcing feasible at this level?
All of which is a typically gasbaggy way to say, I have no problem with anyone of any stature asking for help funding their next project. Nobody likes asking for money, and if all that stands between me and making a difference in the life of one of my favorite artists is a couple of clicks, get out of my way, man, I got some clickin' ta do.
Gilliam and Welles have a lot of similarities. You know, all those wine commercials Welles did, that people like to poke fun at? He was doing all those commercials and appearances in other peoples' movies, to raise money to make or finish his own films. Orson freaking Welles couldn't get financed by the studios - they were too afraid of giving him the overall control he wanted.
[Mark Suszko] "He was doing all those commercials and appearances in other peoples' movies, to raise money to make or finish his own films."
Clooney does the same thing. He was on Inside the Actors Studio last year and basically said if I can do these commercials in Japan and so on and it allows me to live the lifestyle I want to live and still work on the projects I want to work on and care deeply about, I'll do it. And he got a big applause from the crowd of actors.
I think the debate in this area gets muddy when we combine "artist" in with the word "celebrities." Like Zach said in his fundraising video, I could make this video if I made enough compromises, and that is where the funding comes in.
The only concern to me is if studios start seeing all of the "free" money out there and try to take advantage of the system, or require Jim Carrey to squeeze out as much money as he can from his fans before filming as a part of his contract. But then again maybe this would cause people to turn on celebrities and that would be fun to watch!
Ken Levine had a blog post with his opposing view yesterday in which he states that he believes Kickstarter is for filmmakers who have absolutely no access to Hollywood, and that by allowing people with other means to use it, it'll make it practically useless for indies.
And I think he's completely wrong, but it does raise another point: what if Terry Gilliam said he went to some people and he could get funding, but he figured hey why not ask the Internet instead and retain a lot more of my creativity? Does that change anything?
It doesn't to me. A great project is a great project, regardless of the reason someone is asking for crowdfunding. Levine's viewpoint is that if you are throwing money at people with a huge perceived net worth like Zach Braff, you're much less likely to give ten bucks to the 20 year old kid that's trying to raise a grand for their first short film. I think that's silly. Everyone has to have a good campaign. I don't think a majority of donors to celeb-run projects are doing it just because it's them. I certainly wouldn't donate to Zach Braff if I didn't like the pitch he provided.
[Jeremy Doyle] "Now if I ever decide to run another kickstarter campaign (I was part of a successful campaign in 2010) I won't half to spend half my time explaining what kickstarter is."
Yeah, I think this is the best way that indie filmmakers really win from Hollywood's involvement in Kickstarter.
A twist in the Zach Braff story..campaign still on-going (though funded), and a financier has appeared and agreed to fund a majority of the film.
So now what? It seems that there aren't any plans to cancel the Kickstarter campaign. But people CAN cancel their own pledges in the next week.
His Kickstarter video was fun: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1869987317/wish-i-was-here-1
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Here's a twist: Gawker.com is one of several outlets who've seen a video of Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking crack, but the crack gangsters want to get paid before they release the video. Hence the Rob Ford Crackstarter.
The links inside that article are also pretty hilarious or depressing, depending on your point of view, and with politics, I think it's hard to avoid almost everything being almost both, almost all the time. But they're definitely worth a read.
So maybe it's worth discussing whether media outlets should also be responsible for raising their own funds to pay off drug hoodlums and other lowlifes with incriminating videos to peddle, rather than asking us to do it for them. In this case, I wonder if the Crackstarter campaign isn't drawing more publicity than the recording would....
Zach just wrapped the campaign. He passed the $2 million goal in 3 days, and ended the month with $3.1 million from 46,520 backers. So whatever we think about it, the campaign has spoken. Details here.