Everybody’s talking about Zach Braff’s Kickstarter project “Wish I Was Here” for his follow up feature to Garden State. There seems to be some controversy about it, with people asking whether or not Zach, as a multi-millionaire from the more mainstream film and TV industry, has a right to ask the public to hand over money so he can make his project with the full creative freedom that Hollywood so rarely provides. I’m struggling to understand why. Given the fact that just 2 months ago I finished up my dissertation about the future and potential of crowdfunding, I simply HAD to put in my 2p’s worth.
So a few years ago there was this story in the news about a bunch of office workers and bankers, etc. coming home from their 9-5, getting all scruffed up and going out on the street pretending to be homeless, begging for money. This was a tax-free way of supplementing their regular salaries.
So imagine there are normally 5 homeless people on a street per day, begging for money. Imagine that every day, each of them receives £1 in spare change. Then, imagine that 5 office workers pretending to be homeless join the street. Suddenly that £5 a day is being split 10 ways instead of just 5. So not only were these bankers etc. getting their money tax free for no work, they were also depriving the ACTUALLY homeless people of their chance of spare change.
Let’s apply this to Kickstarter.
Kickstarter IS NOT A STREET FULL OF BEGGARS. It is an online platform for people with a project or a product to pitch it directly to their audience and ask for assistance in funding it.
Zach Braff is not the metaphorical banker, and the other users of Kickstarter are not the metaphorical homeless. Zach is using his pre-existing fan base as the audience he is pitching directly to. If a Zach-fan signs on to Kickstarter and donates $10 or whatever, Zach is not depriving other users of that money. And at the end of the day, he’s not being dishonest about it, and nobody HAS to donate
The whole point of crowdfunding is that creators can pitch their ideas and have them judged on the merit of their project alone. Yes there are the die-hard fans who would fund Zach Braff no matter what he pitched, but mostly people want to help him out because he’s a good director, and they believe in his vision.
It’s highly likely that people who are complaining are people who feel that Kickstarter is their thing. Like they alone have a right to ask perfect strangers for money. But the chances are, if they aren’t getting their projects backed, it’s not because Zach has signed up to Kickstarter, it’s because people don’t want to back their project.
Film finance works on pre-existing audiences and advertising and that’s the same from micro-budget through to blockbusters. Complete nobody’s who have no previous works and no pre-existing audiences will struggle because even if their idea is great, and even if they advertise it well enough to reach millions of people, people won’t part with their money if they think it will go to waste.
Zach’s a popular guy. He has an audience. He has previous work that pays testimony to his talent as a filmmaker. He’s doing what he needs to do to get his project funded, and filmmakers shouldn’t fund projects out of their own pocket otherwise how will they keep going?
Take away his previous jobs that have earned him his serious dollar, and suddenly he’s just a filmmaker with a vision, a compulsion to make it the way he wants it and the means to do so.
I say more power to him.