Kickstarter: The great con.

I get it. Borrowed interest is everywhere. You can't escape it. The idea that somehow a Celebrity™ lends credence to your brand--whatever your brand might be--has taken hold. For good or for bad.

Consider this: your OJ Simpsons and Gilbert Gottfrieds became pariahs-- either during or after their service. If it's the latter, then the spokesceleb got fired. If it's the former, well, let's just say Hertz would probably like to bury the fact it employed a notorious alleged murderer and definite robber as its spokesman. Such are the trials and tribulations of the celebrity. Remember, we're talking about people who often need extra insurance or a clause on the contract which state said brand is not responsible for whatever nefarious things occur.

But putting aside potential legal issues, there is also the fact your celebrity might overshadow your client. For the worse.

And now we come to The People's Page: Kickstarter. The oh so lovely crowd funded utopia. Where the Everyman™ can fund their pet projects and bring it to fruition and everyone succeeds and--really, are you still buying this? Everyman? Come on.

Zach Braff, already known for his work on Scrubs and Garden State, a well established TV and movie star, funded his movie to the tune of nearly two and a half million dollars. Veronica Mars took advantage of it, too. It was a successful tv show already. They raised nearly 6 million dollars for their movie. Because they were famous. I almost don't even want to bring up Amanda Palmer, but she is good link bait.

Look: I don't care how they spin it--this is akin to James Cameron applying for a home loan. These are successful people in Hollywood. Millionaires. Fully adept at the process. And they are casting a long shadow over the hard working people who want a break. What's worse-- they are succeeding at the expense of such people. Because they already have a name.

Contrast this to my amazingly talented friend Tess Alexandria. She held a kickstarter and managed to raise the funds to get recording equipment. And she succeeded. To the tune of a little over a thousand dollars. Which of course, Kickstarter sat on for a period of time while they invested it.

Note: If Kickstarter sits on a grand, imagine how long they sit on five million?

Think about the fact that Ken Levine, a writer/director/producer who has worked on Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond and more is calling bullshit on this.

Zach Braff is trying to raise money on Kickstarter to fund a movie he wants to make. Zach Braff is a good actor and a fine filmmaker. Garden State was a terrific movie. But I wouldn’t give him a dime. Why? Because it defeats the whole purpose of Kickstarter.

The idea – and it’s a great one – is that Kickstarter allows filmmakers who otherwise would have NO access to Hollywood and NO access to serious investors to scrounge up enough money to make their movies. Zach Braff has contacts. Zach Braff has a name. Zach Braff has a track record. Zach Braff has residuals. He can get in a room with money people. He is represented by a major taent agency. But the poor schmoe in Mobile, Alabama or Walla Walla, Washington has none of those advantages.

So someone who otherwise might have funded the Mobile kid instead will toss his coins to Zach Braff because he figures it’s a better bet and he gets to rub shoulders with show business.

Too painful? Well, read on if you can.

This is what Hollywood does, dear reader. It sees an opportunity for exploitation and takes it. The Sundance Film Festival is another prime example. At one time it showcased modest little movies by unknown filmmakers. Kevin Smith made CLERKS – a grimy black and white film starring all unknowns. The result was discovered talent. Now look at the festival. Every entry features major Hollywood stars. During the festival they all descend upon Park City, along with Harvey Weinstein, reps from every major studio, and a thousand CAA and William Morris agents. Any hint of the original purpose of the film festival has long since vanished.

And that's the problem. The big celebs and cheapskate production companies have decided to jump on the fundraiser circuit. As if they needed to raise funds.

It bothers me. It should bother you, too. Because the more Kickstarter focuses on the Big Name Celebrities, touting them as success stories, the more folks like Tess Alexandria will get lost in the shuffle. It's kind of like seeing someone in an Audi show up at the Goodwill. Yeah anyone can shop there, but whenever the Audi driver buys something there, there's less choice for people who can't afford to shop elsewhere.

I get the purpose of making the most money possible, but if that's Kickstarter's only motivation then they shouldn't be surprised if small and large creatives talent calls them out on their hypocrisy.

All we can do is try to ignore the rich celebrities using their star power for their own gain and help undiscovered people like Tess realize their dreams. Because Zach Braff really doesn't need any help. And Tess is someone the majority haven't heard of but absolutely need to.

Hollywood elite: stand down. Give the rest of us a chance.

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AnonymousCoward's picture

Zach Braff has responded.

kidsleepy's picture

"People can smell bullshit a mile away."

No kidding. This is the most self-absorbed crock of shit I've ever heard. He says he likes to have engaging conversations with people, and yet when it comes to actually answering the question "do you think you raised so many millions so quickly because you are a popular celebrity as opposed to a no name," he glosses over it.

He was talking about how he had his own blog back in the myspace days and was putting up 'day in the life,' videos of rachel bilson on "the last kiss."

I assume he must have raised money for those films too because fan base. Right?

fairuse's picture

I have no idea who this guy is. I walk in a different place; never watched any of the TV or film he is in. I won't say he is pitching shit but he is playing the role of Kickstarter's ad hoc global marketing voice. Sure Hollywood is crashing places like Sundance & Cannes but it's not the case here. Hollywood is "The Studios" with its insanely incestuous production machine; remember the "Studio Actors"? This is Independent funding via people net r2014.

Kickstarter is just a platform in the public eye, which is good. Once upon a time there was no internets just people nets. People nets got independent films financed to some degree, other sources adding funding. Way back when Spike Lee needed funding for a film it was all on him to either let the studio pay, with all the creative control on final cut theirs or he could go to the people net plus sell his soul to advertisers.

In short I don't see what the fuss is about. Kickstarter is just a refinement of people net. Saying "That guy is a celebrity therefore go play in "The Studio" sandbox is missing the point -- movie needs $ and folks will assemble and pay if it is what they want. Spike Lee makes money on blockbuster films, so saying he should forget about keeping 100% of creative control of his project is naïve. Here is 6 min Spike Lee on Bloomberg News.

I would hope the Not-Fanous-Yet projects see this as plus. And Don't Forget, TANSTAFL.
Full disclosure: I supported the Iron Sky movie and still do but they are getting big Cannes: 'Iron Sky' Crowdfunding Raises $200,000 in 24 Hours

Bumper sticker -- No Studio Suits
I may be correct in my analysis or even ass-backwards wrong; i don't care because opinions don't pay my bills and it's about movies -- [Disney fairy and bluebirds here but I didn't want Takedown].

kidsleepy's picture

All opinions are welcome, especially when so well thought out. My take is, I don't think the not-famous-yet movie makers see celebrities coming in and raising money for films they could easily green light via a studio they have a relationship with as a plus. There is a finite amount of money people are willing to donate, regardless of the wet dreams crowdfunding sites promise us. And the chances of a no-name receiving any crumbs after the big names have gotten the spoils? Don't see it happening, unfortunately.
Put another way, if it were like that then we'd be seeing a lot more no-names become big names.

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