Kickstarter has been in the news an awful lot of late. According to their website, they have been facilitating the funding of more than 41,000 creative projects since they first opened their crowdfunding doors in 2009. In total, more than 4 million people have pledged over $607 million, but in the last couple of months, two very high profile projects have been overshadowing all the other creative projects (in areas as diverse as art, design, fashion, food, publishing, technology, photography, theatre, games, comics, music, and of course, film & video) that Kickstarter is assisting with.
Rob Thomas, creator and chief brain-box behind Veronica Mars, which CW cancelled in 2007, announced as early as 2010 that he and Kristen Bell wanted to continue the story in a feature film, and that the only thing it hinged on was the financing. Fast forward to 2013 and Kickstarter; the goal of $2 million was surpassed within 10 hours. By the time it closed, one month later, it had raised over $5.7 million.
Zach Braff, of Scrubs fame, also has a project he wants to get off the ground. Putting it on Kickstarter, he has so far raised in excess of $2.5 million with just under 2 weeks to go. In the description he wrote about the project, he shares how he had himself backed a number of projects on Kickstarter and the fan support that Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell received for the Veronica Mars film inspired him to see what kind of support his little venture could garner.
That’s one side of the coin. As Richard Lawson of The Atlantic Wire mentioned in an article a few weeks ago, “There’s the unseemliness, yes, of rich celebrities asking random people for thousands of dollars and offering them no accountability for money spent or share in the profits, before anything has really been seen.” But, I would argue that those thousands of dollars aren’t invested en masse: over 6600 people have pledged between $10 and $20. Over 5,000 have pledged between $20 and $30, and so it goes. Some give a little, some give a little (or a lot) more. I think it’s being part of the process that fascinates. We can talk about celebrity culture until we’re blue in the face, but when Braff’s film comes out eventually, there will be at least 38,000 people saying “I helped make that happen”. You’re putting your trust and money in something, but you do the same thing when you drop your car off at the garage. You hope to be treated fairly and that at the end of it, your car will be better than it was when you came in, and your pocketbook won’t be completely empty. In this case, you’re helping make a movie. Studios do it all the time; they sink money into a film and hope it doesn’t flop. They try to ensure that with the choice of director and the cast and writers, hoping those people’s previous ‘bankability’ will continue to hold true. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. They’re out for profit. The backers on Kickstarter, I believe have different agendas. As Lawson himself concludes in that same article from April 24, 2013, “maybe I’m just more afraid of disappointment than other people. Whatever it is, I still think these crowdfunders are crazy. But that doesn’t mean they’re not right.”