I mini-ranted to some friends a few weeks ago over the unfortunate turn Kickstarter has taken into funding projects for celebrities who could easily find funding through traditional sources. It bothers me, though I haven’t considered the topic in much depth. But today, Alyssa posted on the subject of equity and fairness to fans in Kickstarter funded film projects, and it gave me a second to think a bit more on the topic.
As someone who has one strong creative project I hope to pursue in the next few years, no money to pursue that idea and have momentarily though about Kickstarter, I am annoyed to see the crowdfunding dollars of hard working Americans going to Zach Braff’s auteur-ish movies, Amanda Palmer’s music-esque exploits, or a Veronica Mars feature (which is now $3M over its goal).
These are worthy projects (I guess) and deserve to be funded. But these folks don’t need crowdfunding. Even a Veronica Mars movie could have found its way to the big screen without $5 milllion in public donations. The American impulse to crowd-fund, to give our dollars to individuals we don’t know but who have an idea to make something valuable, to help better the lives of others, is among the most important resources to be harnessed for the future. Crowdfunds create a space to do good, make art, make rich the culture of our time, for those who might not have the capacity any other way.
And this is why I get a little annoyed by celebrity Kickstarter participants. Especially celebrity Kickstarter requests for traditional entertainment projects capable of finding monies elsewhere. Which is what a Veronica Mars film or Zach Braff movie would be. I might be inclined to give Zach Braff some cash to film a documentary about creating schools for young women where access to education is scarce. But not to film a Garden State follow-up. I could even give (possibly) Amanda Palmer some money for a good cause. But not so she can tour and play songs and sleep on couches for free.
This probably sounds jealous and cranky and full of sour grapes. That’s very possible. But still, Zach Braff, you have dollars at your fingertips. You’ve even said so: “I was about to sign a typical financing deal in order to get the money to make ‘Wish I Was Here,’ my follow up to ‘Garden State.’ It would have involved making a lot of sacrifices I think would have ultimately hurt the film.”
Braff wants creative freedom and I hope he gets it and makes a worthy follow-up to Garden State. But Braff has access to funding. And as a lover of the cinema, I will continue to support established filmmakers like Braff by choosing to buy a ticket (or, more likely choosing not to), or if a project really earns it, a dvd. That seems to work relatively well. I know that route is taking a hit, but not such that Zach Braff can’t find money without going to the crowdfunds. If Terrence Malick can find money for his crazy masterpieces, and Roland Emmerich can find money for his terrible disaster films, for goodness sake, Zach Braff can too.
I want our Kickstarter dollars to go to those trying to get their creative masterpieces off the ground and have no other means of doing so; and hopefully if I ask one day, others will do the same for me.
On the other hand, though, do whatever you want with your money. A Veronica Mars movie will be a treat.
*One last thought Update:
Zach Braff perfectly captures the value Kickstarter in his video introduction, as opportunity for a “new paradigm for filmmakers who want to make smaller, personal films, without having to sign away any of their artistic freedom.” This is exactly the kind of thing a movie like Garden State may need to get off the ground. Zach Braff was lucky enough to get that opportunity to make his debut.
Now, it’s someone else’s turn to have that opportunity.