You were a huge fan of a cult-favorite TV show a few years back. Due to the dismal ratings, said show was short-lived on TV. A few years later, you find out about a way to help make that favorite show into a movie via an online pledge drive. You are so STOKED for the TV show to come back as a movie you become a supporter. Contributing $50 to the cause without thinking twice, you have become the latest player in a string of corporate projects being supported via crowdfunding.
What is crowdfunding? According to Wikipedia, crowdfunding is “is the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations.” Crowdfunding has popped up through various sites like Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo.com, two major crowdfunding websites that are used in the United States.
One of the most successful crowdfunding projects was for the creation of a Veronica Mars film. Veronica Mars was a cult TV show that was short-lived but has a strong fan base. A Kickstarter was created by Rob Thomas, the show’s creator, with a goal of $2 million dollars. The outpouring of financial contributions for this Kickstarter was so strong that the Kickstarter exceeded the goal by $3.7 million dollars. Now keep in mind that no contribution level entitled the financial backer to any portion of future profits, meaning that all contributions were essentially “pre-sales”, not investments. These contributions were pre-sales to a large company, Warner Brothers, who is likely to make a pretty penny off the film since they didn’t have to front any of the costs to make it.
Two more major movie makers came to crowdfunding,with Zach Braff raising $3.1 million for a Garden State sequel and Spike Lee raising $1.29 million for his next as-yet-untitled film. The success of these established Hollywood filmmakers using crowdfunding is not without criticism however. James Franco, who used crowdfunding himself to raise money for his own novel to be produced and directed by up-and-coming filmmakers, stated that he feels crowdfunding is there to “give a chance to talented people that deserve it but maybe wouldn’t have the opportunity to otherwise.” Film director Kevin Smith echoes a similar thought regarding crowdfunding for the possibility of a Clerks III, saying “I love the idea [of crowdfunding] and I want to do it so desperately, but I think I’ve missed the window based on the fact that I do have access to materials, I do have access to money…I feel like I should leave it for cats who need it at this point.”
Never to take criticism without rebuttals, Spike Lee spoke out against his critics of him using Kickstarter to raise money for a film even though he has access to money as an established filmmaker. In the age we live in, where often the only films making it to major theater release are blockbusters action films, Spike Lee claims that crowdfunding is the only way he can continue to make good movies in a film world dominated by major movie studios with little interest in good stories. Kickstarter came out in defense of Spike Lee and the other successful Hollywood crowdfunding projects, claiming that the publicity that the established Hollywood filmmakers brought to crowdfunding has actually increased funding of independent projects. Since Spike Lee’s Kickstarter, $1 million in additional money has been pledged to 6,000 additional Kickstarter projects.
Crowdfunding is not limited to filmmakers alone and plenty of other established-in-their-field acts have had success and criticism for their use of crowdfunding. With it’s widespread popularity, I see crowdfunding as here to stay. But the crowdfunding by famous people with money for their pet projects does need to be done carefully. As The Onion’s AV Club states, “There’s nothing wrong with going to fans for help, but it’s a fine line between asking for encouragement and being exploitative.”
Have you ever supported anyone on a Kickstarter or Indiegogo project? If so, what was it? What are your thoughts on folks with access to money and/or power using their fan base to finance their next project?
Image from flickr, Author source: Amy Tripp Myers