Crowdfunding Films is a Dangerous Trend

Categories: Film and TV

braff-kickstarter-560.jpg
As of this post Zach Braff's Kickstarter campaign to finance his next
film, Wish You Were Here, has already garnered $2.25 million in less
than a week. Braff has put together a very polished and glossy video
appeal as to why "we the people" should fund his next film, which he
plans on directing, starring in and writing. Why this campaign hit so
huge is because Wish You Were Here is a proposed follow-up to his 2004 "indie" flick Garden State.

Braff's reasoning for the Kickstarter platform is that "the money
people" who fund films will make him do stuff he doesn't want to do,
such as NOT wear shirts that are the same design as the wallpaper or
use the actors that he so desires. With our money, he will
be given the directorial freedom he has earned and room full of
professional producers, who understand the ins and outs of filmmaking,
will not be able to tell him if they think his film sucks.

Naturally, Braff has received a barrage of both applause and disapproval. On the praise end of the Internet, folks who were highly impacted by Braff's adult-coming-of-age story have been looking for a follow-up for close to a decade. While the Negative Nancys say that if Braff is so dead-set on making a movie, he should crack open his own piggybank.

Braff has lashed back to his challengers; he doesn't have that kind of cash lying around! Plus, he has mentioned that he will be adding to the kitty from his own sources, but how much exactly he has not expressed. He also points to the wonderful perks donors to the film will get such as access to video diaries of Braff talking about the
making of the movie (yawn), and for very large donors there will be walk on roles and advanced screenings and talk-backs with Braff in cities you must find your way to. And there's that soundtrack list that you can get in advance so you'll know which under-the-radar indie band Braff is going to spoil for everyone else.

Crowdfunding Hollywood films was inevitable, given the success of the Veronica Mars movie, which accumulated $9 million in funding through Kickstarter last month. This shattered fundraising records and proved that fans of the show that ended too soon had a voice. They had a voice that had pooled together a boatload of cash. But there's
something different about Braff's attempt that sets this concept veering off course.

Firstly, the idea behind crowdfunding is that someone has an amazing idea that they cannot finance and so they bring this idea to the people to see if they are interested in supporting said idea. Regular people with great ideas now have a forum to share and support one another. It almost has a utopian type of aura to it. Anything is possible with the help of others.

But when celebrities get involved to fund their own projects, this grassroots flavor is confused. You Hollywood types have your own sources of financial support and it's called Hollywood. We already fund your projects by paying $10 at the movie theater.

Kickstarter is for the people; Hollywood is the antithesis of that. It's as if Robin Hood was stealing from the rich to give to some other rich people. That wasn't his purpose.

While one could take the Veronica Mars success as proof that crowdfunding is indeed meant for the cultural elite, there is still something vastly different about it. We said we wanted a Veronica Mars movie and Rob Thomas (director) said, "How much do you really want it? Nine million dollars want it?" Banding together to support a cause was still the foundation of the campaign. It was our idea.

Braff's Kickstarter was all his suggestion. It's not as if a bunch of die-hard Garden State fans were sitting around Tweeting about how much they miss the self-affecting Scrubs star. In fact, Braff has been somewhat MIA for the past few years. If you want to make this movie so badly, why haven't you been saving up for it, man?

If you are familiar with the actor Crispin Glover (George McFly of Back to the Future), you may have heard of his labor of love trilogy that features Down syndrome actors among other non-traditional storytelling methods. I saw a screening of the first film, What Is It?, a few years back and Glover spoke. He said, and I'm paraphrasing, that he makes a bunch of big-budget shit films so that he can fund his own projects, Charlie's Angels being one in particular that he mentioned.

He is not the first actor to do such a thing. I have read interviews with Ewan McGregor stating that he makes a movie, takes the cash and funds his motorcycle adventures around the globe because that's what he enjoys doing. Logically, if you can swing making a movie and then using your earnings to finance your own happiness, you are in an amazing position. Why has Braff not attempted something similar?

It is hopeful that Braff took advantage of this new source of funding right when the iron was hot and due to all the hoopla he's gotten, he will be the only one to do such a thing. But knowing our current culture, I'd say that is the exact opposite of what will happen. I see this as a new trend in movie making and it's not a good one.

Crowdsourcing is for "us," not them.

I think crowdfunding is an amazing platform (I have done it myself), but it should be left for the people that need it the most.



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4 comments
AdamDCallan
AdamDCallan

The worst part about this, in my opinion, is the fact that by circumventing a traditional production/finance agreement he retains 100% ownership of the film. So he still got other people to pay for his movie, yet he gets to keep all of the potential profits instead of having to pay back his investors, and then splitting the profits with them. That is just straight up scummy. And I doubt anyone who ponied up enough money for a speaking role will see any residuals (as they are non-union) unlike Zach Braff who is definitely a multi-multi millionaire from the residuals he gets from starring in over 150 episodes of a TV show that is in heavy syndication.

jenni.rebecca
jenni.rebecca

But that is implying that more people utilizing Kickstarter will definitively mean less money going to truly indie projects... but can anyone really say this will be the case? Anyone who has used these crowdfunding platforms (including the founders of the platforms themselves) will tell you that there aren't magic angel investors browsing Kickstarter for the next big thing... who have a tendency to descend on the worthy projects of our impoverished creative colleagues with meaningful donations. Kickstarter campaigns are successful because projects are either so compelling they land in the media OR more frequently, because the organizers know how to mobilize their own fans. (Of course, a celebrity is going to be able to do this better than most.) However, how is that necessarily dangerous to the wellbeing of what is otherwise only a useful tool for fundraising?

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Agreed. Good points, Ms. Koenig.

abby.koenig
abby.koenig

@jenni.rebecca I hear what you're saying, totally. But in thinking about regular old fundraising, the "I just gave to such and such" is an honest reason not to give to someone else. "I just gave to Zach Braff because it was all over the news and I got wrapped up in the hype, so now I don't have that extra $20 to give to your project," which may be in need of the money more; this is where I think the problems could start to pile up. If I was to donate and get a free movie ticket, as many Kickstarter campaigns use as their "perk," I would think differently about it. Then, it's an investment, now it's a donation to someone who can find the money elsewhere. 

ehh? 

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