Faith vs Funding: On Kickstarter and Independent Movies

Jim Parsons & Zach Braff, from the pitch video for Wish I was Here

Jim Parsons & Zach Braff, from the pitch video for Wish I was Here

When Zach Braff first sent out the link to his Kickstarter page for his movie Wish I was Here, the movie had six backers who raised around $200. Today, three days later, the project has 27,430 backers and they have, in total, pledged $1,937,483*.

Before I discuss further, I must say that I have not looked into any of the other independent movies that were made through Kickstarter. I heard about the Veronica Mars movie last week, which is probably why I decided to check this one out when I saw the link on my Twitter timeline.

On the page, Braff briefly outlines why he has decided to use Kickstarter instead of signing a ‘typical financial deal’. He then gives an abstract of the story, moves on to give a short description of the expected soundtrack for the movie, the cinematography and the production design. He is clear on whom he will be working with on this project and gives us an outline of their credentials. The images from the early sketches for Wish I was Here have also been posted in this page. There is also a column that details out what each backer would receive based on the amount that they have pledged. There is also a pitch video at beginning of the page which has Zach Braff sitting in front of a poster of Garden State and in between Jim Parsons, Donald Faison and Chris Hardwick join in to add their views about this project. Faison is seen stating his distaste for the “moneyed-people” very often.

Overall, I would say, it was a good pitch. It could also be why he has managed to get so many backers. But this project is already facing a bit of a backlash on the inter-web with people pointing out that Braff does not really need to depend on Kickstarter and that he could fund projects on his own et al.

But what I would like to bring into this debate is the larger question of what could become of independent movies if it has to source funding in this manner. It is a great way to help artists. But how much information should these movie-makers share with their prospective backers?

The following is the synopsis for Wish I was Here from its Kickstarter page:

“Wish I Was Here” is the story of Aidan Bloom (played by me), a struggling actor, father and husband, who at 35 is still trying to find his identity; a purpose for his life. He and his wife are barely getting by financially and Aidan passes his time by fantasizing about being the great futuristic Space-Knight he’d always dreamed he’d be as a little kid.

When his ailing father can no longer afford to pay for private school for his two kids (ages 5 and 12) and the only available public school is on its last legs, Aidan reluctantly agrees to attempt to home-school them.

The result is some funny chaos, until Aidan decides to scrap the traditional academic curriculum and come up with his own. Through teaching them about life his way, Aidan gradually discovers some of the parts of himself he couldn’t find.

I would say it barely gives enough information about the story. It might work for Zach Braff who is well-known and has a movie with a cult-like following to his list of achievements. But what about emerging movie makers, writers and directors? Would these backers have had as much faith in this storyline if it was from someone lesser known, creating a pitch-video with even lesser known actors? Does this mean that in order for a Kickstarter movie project to be successful it will need the backing of a celebrity?

Or does it mean that a lesser-known writer will need to give a detailed outline of his story on a public forum? Will that mean that public are exposed to spoilers even before the movie is made? But is the detailed storyline enough to judge the possible success of the movie? Does the backers have any role in observing the process, to see if everything is running smoothly? I’m only asking because I am curious to know how this process works and what the outcome is likely to be. Does it mean that movies that are not determined by market surveys and profits, can supersede the quality of movies made by larger production houses? But then again Kickstarter has seen projects with backers of various kinds, willing have faith in products and activities of different kind. So, there might still be hope for independent, new movie-makers. Yet I wonder, in a time, when being moneyed is difficult, will people have enough faith to fund art?


*As of 27th April 2013.


One thought on “Faith vs Funding: On Kickstarter and Independent Movies

  1. remembered this post of yours… you should check out… it’s the Indian answer to kickstarter… interesting to see that most projects associated with ‘the arts’ typically manage to raise a substantial amount of money…

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