As the world’s favourite crowdfunding site escalates from 3D-printed key rings to multi-million-dollar vanity projects for wealthy Hollywood directors, we ask…
Almost every big movie or game is now part of a franchise. Why? Investment. If it’s not a safe bet, it doesn’t happen. Akira, The Birds, Commando, RoboCop, Highlander, Scarface and Lethal Weapon are all set for unnecessary remakes, while original ideas are ignored.
When Kickstarter arrived, it promised to upset this stale system and sell new ideas straight to the audience. It worked. But then Zach Braff, star of simpering faux-indie whinge-fest Garden State, showed up, gigantic, shameless cap in hand. Kickstarter got publicity, new money flew in… And investment-free funding changed. Now it’s not just first-timers getting a shot at their dreams, it’s rich people getting free money. Braff may have told the LATimes “I feel like we’ve all joined this little club”, but his backers provide donation, not investment. Zach doesn’t owe a dime from ticket sales to anyone else in his ‘club’.
Yes, big names shine a light on crowdfunding. But I’ve already had a major tech manufacturer ask me if it should Kickstart its new product. From their point of view, it’s a cheap way to test the market, but it’s also a quick way to kill an exciting new phenomenon.
Kevin Smith, a proper indie filmmaker who paid for his first movies with credit card debt, agrees. Now that he has money, he told Reddit, he’d rather fund Clerks 3 himself than “suck the loot out of crowd-funding”. Kickstarter’s not a charity, but it’s not for millionaires, either.
I’m one of those Kickstarter types who gets excited watching projects but rarely invests. But thanks to celebrity projects, fiscally freer folk are flocking to the site to get things done. So why are celebs asking us to pay for their projects that’ll line their already capacious pockets? Fight Club director David Fincher’s personal labour of love — turning The Gooncomic into a film — has raised US$442k. He’ll be throwing in way more to actually get it made, but that extra Kickstarter funding ensures that it gets beyond the conceptual stage.
Celebrity Kickstarter projects can even revive the dead. Veronica Mars, abandoned by studios, was jump-Kickstarted to life with US$5.2m of fan pledges. But headline projects also attract new people to Kickstarter. 63 per cent of Mars pledgers were virgin backers, and they have since injected US$400k into 2200 projects.
Plus, Kickstarter remains a meritocracy. Melissa Joan Hart (aka Sabrina The Teenage Witch) had a go, but only raised US$52k of a US$2m goal. Thank the Kickstarter Gods.
Celeb investment costs little and gives direct benefits. Dresden Dolls bandleader Amanda Palmer made an album that was available for just US$1 — which a record label would not have allowed. Celebrities already get paid by us, so what’s the harm in giving the money directly, for something we want, rather than paying more to line executives’ pockets along the way?