Zach Braff wanted to make a sequel to “Garden State”. He decided to raise money via Crowfunding site Kickstarter. The goal of the campaign was $2 million. And at last count, they had raised $2.47 million.
Some people have criticized Braff for doing this, since he’s already famous and has plenty of industry connections. Isn’t Kickstarter for the indie filmmaker who doesn’t have any other means of raising money? No. Kickstarter is a democratic resource for people to pimp their artistic projects and allow people to be part of it.
Braff is famous and talented, and has a huge fan base of people who love his stuff. What’s wrong with him appealing to them directly, especially since most of these people would buy tickets anyway?
What’s interesting to me, as someone who encourages young filmmakers to just start making movies, are the reasons why an established actor like Braff would choose not to work within the studio system.
The thing is this: dealing with a studio is what the French would call an “emotional ass ache”. It’s awful. Even a good production deal still subjects the Director to the adolescent mood swings of whatever executive is in charge. Additionally, the main creatives on the project don’t own the rights. And then, of course, there’s “Hollywood bookkeeping”, which is always slanted in favor of the studios.
Kickstarter is desirable because, well, all that money is free and clear. Once Braff shoots his movie and gives away all his free stuff to his supporters, from a production diary to a walk on role, he doesn’t owe them anything else. He doesn’t have to show them any profits or dividends. In fact, he could make the movie and shove it in a shoebox and he wouldn’t incur any legal penalty (so long as he gave a copy to his backers).
Studios have long had a monopoly on financing movies. They are really banks that were willing to gamble on a movie project. With Kickstarter, the process has been democratized, and it’s great. In fact, when you look at some of the crap the studios have been churning out, you have to wonder how many were ruined by notes and changes made by the execs. It would be nice if a Director had the option of saying “hey, we have this great script and we are going to make it with the studio, but these morons want to add a lot of fart jokes and a loveable dog, so how about you guys help us finance it and we can do it the right way?”
Now, if you’re not famous and you don’t have millions of fans, this shouldn’t be discouraging. If anything, you should be inspired by the power of a fan base. So get more fans! You don’t need 2 million dollars to make your movie (if you do, show me the budget and I will show you 11 ways to cut it down and actually have more fun while making it). But if you can start building your fan base now, then if you ever do launch a Kickstarter campaign, you will have a shot of reaching your goal.
Some people think you just throw up a project on Kickstarter and people will donate; not so. It isn’t charity! They need to know what’s in it for them. I loved “Garden State”. So, for me, it’s selfishly fulfilling to know that donating $25 or so will help me get to see a sequel. You need to have fans that WANT to see your next project, and want to be part of it, so they will feel compelled to give money.
And even if you only have a budget of a few thousand dollars, the freedom to make your movie the way you want is worth it. After all, Braff drives his reasoning for using Kickstarter home with his summary of the Hollywood casting process:
Traditionally, in order to procure your financing, a filmmaker will often have to choose from a list of pre-approved actors with whom the financier is willing to make the movie. Although there are often many wonderful actors on these lists, you may not see the actors you had in your mind to play those parts. The lists are compiled of actors who’ve been in films that have had large successes overseas. Their names are put into an algorithm, and a computer calculates how much money the financier will be able to pre-sell the foreign distribution of the film for based on that actor’s past successes. Bored yet? Basically, you have to cast who they want, not who you want.
Be careful what you wish for. Don’t move to LA and dream of becoming a Hollywood Director (who is forced to alter his or her script and casting choices to fit the needs of the studio) when you could be making and profiting from your own movies, where you live, right now. To learn more about how to do this, visit filmschoolsolution.com.