Zach Braff went on Kickstarter today and asked his fans for $2 million dollars to make “Wish I Was Here”, the indie comedy follow up to his 2004 directorial debut “Garden State”.
The Kickstarter camping has been running for all of 12 hours and has already raised over $1 million dollars.
Good for you Zach Braff. Bad for us, everyone else.
See, Zach doesn’t actually NEED your money to get his movie made.
Zach says that he *could* have gotten financing to make his movie through the traditional avenues of private investment, but that he didn’t want to have to compromise on casting decisions, locations, where and how to spend the budget, final edit, etc. Things that he *might* have had to have done otherwise in order to get the movie made.
This assumes that a) the investors would insist on that sort of creative control, b) that said creative control would be to the detriment of the final product, and c) that Zach would accept a deal that made him give up that sort of control.
For sake of argument, why don’t we say that yes, Zach is a terrible negotiator, and his investors are asshats who would ruin any movie they laid their wallets on. Well, why doesn’t Zach just self-finance his own movie then? I’m assuming that after seven seasons as the lead on a hit TV series, and in the absence of any reports that he lives a lavish MC Hammer lifestyle, that Zach has enough coin to cover the $2 million dollar budget all on his own. I mean, he does believe in his own project, right?
But let’s assume that Zach made some really bad investments and can’t swing the whole budget himself. He doesn’t have ten wealthy Hollywood friends who believe in him enough to pony up $200K each to let Zach make the movie his way? You’re telling me that his friends Donald Faison or Jim Parsons – who have lots of money and are going to be in the movie – Would force Zach to make creative concessions that would hurt the film?
Or what about the lone investor who financed Garden State originally? As Zach states in his Kickstarter plea, Garden State happened because a wealthy fan of Scrubs liked the screenplay for Garden State and wanted to help Zach make it. Assuming that Zach didn’t totally screw this investor over on the profits, the guy probably made a nice return on investment by backing that movie. Where is this guy today? Does he not want to make more money?
Nope, Zach implies that the only way to get Wish I Was Here made is through Kickstarter, by having YOU donate cash to the project.
“Donate” mind you. Not “invest”. You get zero financial return on investment. Zach gets free money from you and retains ownership of the property… Which if successful, he will profit greatly from. All the backers are basically giving a rich guy money to potentially get even richer and with zero financial risk to himself if the movie bombs.
That’s not the really bad thing about all this though. The REALLY bad thing is that Zach has now opened the floodgates and Hollywood will view it as a source of free money. Kickstarter used to be a place where people could try and generate funding for a project that would NEVER have gotten made otherwise. These starving artists would have thrown their own money at the project if they could have. Kickstarter was for people on the outside of the industry who didn’t have the financial means or the connections to wealthy investors to still try and get their projects going… And to an extent that remains the same. Those small projects an unkown artists will still be able to ask for money through Kickstarter… Except now you’re competing against some seriously big names fronting much bigger projects, and Kickstarter is about to be inundated by movie stars and famous directors asking for a handout.
“Zach Braff isn’t competing with a little web short though” you might say. No he’s not. But that little web series IS competing with Zach Braff. See, there’s only so much private discretionary income to go around to be donated to passion projects through Kickstarter. So let’s say there’s a couple of ordinary guys who wanted to make a short film based on the video game “The Legend of Zelda”, who would not have been able to do it without outside financial help. Fans of the games or fans of the filmmakers might have backed that project if they liked what they saw… But if they’ve already donated this year to getting Zach Braff’s celebrity-studded, professionally made feature length film movie funded, do you really think they’re going to throw the same money at an eight minute web short, or even throw money at it at all? And what if it’s not Zach Braff’s $2 million dollar indie comedy they’re competing with for donations, but Inception 2 and Thor 3?
I understand that Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here is a long way from say, a Kickstarter campaign to fund Avengers 2. But it’s a slippery slope, and the allure of free, no-obligation money is just too great for Hollywood to pass up. A Kickstarter campaign for Die Hard 6 might only raise $10 million, which isn’t enough to make Die Hard 6… But it is $10 million the studio doesn’t have to spend of their own money. Why finance 100% of a movie when the audience is willing to subsidize it for you?
What’s worse, Kickstarter might be used as a vetting process for the already risk-averse studios before they even greenlight a film. Do you want to see Iron Man 4? Well now it needs to generate $20 million on Kickstarter first before they start filming “in order to guarantee that there’s still interest in the franchise”. That’s the road we’re going down.
Now you might argue that Veronica Mars kicked this all off and they should take the blame for what’s about to happen to Kickstarter, but I think that was a different scenario. Rob Thomas believed there was an audience for a Veronica Mars movie but Warner Brothers didn’t… Kickstarter was the only way to prove the financial viability of the project to the studio so that they would release the rights and authorize production. The Veronica Mars movie would NOT have been made any other way. It just wouldn’t.
Wish I Was Here is different. Zach owns the rights. Zach is wealthy (presumably). Zach could be shooting that movie tomorrow if he just opened his wallet or made some phone calls to investors that would let him realize his vision for the movie without giving up creative control. But instead he wants YOU to pay for all of it. And he will still have 100% ownership over it remember, he’ll keep all the profits when he sells it.
In Zach Braff’s defense, Kickstarter is not a charity, and no one said it was. It’s the free market… and he’s smart for getting in their fast before all the other big players do and really ruined it. But to all the REAL indie film makers out there – the ones who are borrowing money from family and maxing out their credit cards ON TOP of what money they raise through Kickstarter – it just got a lot harder to get your projects funded. There’s a lot more competition from famous people who (and let’s be honest here) didn’t really NEED Kickstarter to fund their project. But hey, free money, right?