Thursday April 25th 2013
Earlier this year, I raised £12k on Kickstarter to fund my first feature film. I was completely blown away by the whole process, and instantly turned into into the sort of insufferable bastard who embarks on great, long speeches about the democratic power of the internet, and the breathlessly exciting future of creative endeavour. I’ve since tried to remain supportive of anyone who finds success on the platform — either with relatively small projects like mine, or with sprawling, wildly ambitious ideas like Matthew Inman’s Tesla Museum. More power to them, I figure.
That said, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that a few people are starting to ruin it for the rest of us.
Ever since producer Rob Thomas convinced 91,585 backers to pour almost $6 million into his Veronica Mars Movie Project (a kind of ‘proof of concept’ designed to convince Warner Brothers that there was an audience for the film) Hollywood has increasingly begun to view Kickstarter as a sort of magical funding hat, that spits out money when you put Kristen Bell into it.
Yesterday, Zach Braff became the latest high-profile star to solicit the public for cash:
It’s a cute, funny pitch, and given that Braff has already raised 75% of his $2 million funding target, it seems likely that Wish I Was Here will see the light of day — which is great. But his pitch is also emblematic of a certain kind of cynical Kickstarter campaign that does little to ‘change how millions of people around the world connect’, as the site’s strapline promises.
For a start, whether you pledge $10 or $10,000 to the production of Wish I Was Here, you will not receive a copy of the film you’ve helped to finance. The best Zach can offer you is a $30 one-time-only streaming link that will expire the moment you finish watching it. That way, he retains full control of the film’s theatrical and home entertainment rights, allowing him to court potentially huge distribution deals (Garden State sold to Fox Searchlight for $5 million in 2004) should the film do well at Sundance, SXSW or whatever.
Secondly, his supposed reasons for crowd-funding the film are muddled at best. Specifically, his claims about final cut are completely untrue. Very few directors have final cut over their films, and most still manage to make the films they want to make. The problems he claims the ‘money guys’ would bring to the table are conjectural and extremely improbable.
Let’s take a look at a few of them:
Traditional funding will severely limit Braff’s creative control over the film.
If the writer-director of Garden State — which was critically acclaimed at Sundance, sold to distributors worldwide for immense sums and went on to gross 14 times its production budget — really thinks he can shoot the follow-up for just $2 million, then somebody is going to let him do that. And they’re probably not going to want to turn it into Norbit.
Traditional funding will prevent Braff from casting Jim Parsons in a small role.
Braff was perfectly able to cast a relatively unknown Jim Parsons in 2004. Why Parsons’s subsequent Emmy and Golden Globe wins, not to mention his stratospheric rise to sitcom fame, would prevent Braff from doing the same again, is beyond me.
Traditional funding will prevent Braff from giving Donald Faison a cameo.
For all his serious theatre work, Braff will always be best known for his starring role in Scrubs. There is no chance in hell that any ‘money guy’ worth his or her salt is going to squander the chance to put a Donald Faison / Zach Braff reunion in the trailer for a low-budget indie movie.
Traditional funding will require Braff to cut a subplot involving Comic-Con.
I haven’t read the screenplay for Wish I Was Here. I haven’t seen the storyboards. I haven’t even heard more than a brief description of the movie’s plot. But I can tell you now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Comic-Con scenes badly, badly need to go.
Lastly, let’s just quickly flag the massive, fuck-off elephant in the room…
Zach Braff is hella rich.
I mean, even if he spunked every last cent of his eight-figure Scrubs earnings on coke and high-class prostitutes, he must surely have enough left over from his Chicken Little residuals to cover a poxy $2 million indie budget.
Even $1.5m would probably do it. Jim Parsons can make up the rest.