If you follow their link, however, one of the two “Blockbusters” they refer to is a somewhat known video game company, who are known to attract very tech-savvy fans. The other was a small publisher with a good idea for a role playing game, and a relatively low goal that was massively overshot. Neither had a massive established fanbase, and both set goals far lower than two million dollars. Either way, we’re not looking at a name celebrity using their fame to reach the blockbuster level.Large, celebrity-endorsed projects will inevitably cannibalize funding for smaller projects.What Kickstarter is ignoring, or more cynically, turning a blind eye to, is the fact that a celebrity could bring in so many people and so much funding that the majority cannot possibly think to themselves “that Kickstarter sure is a great idea” and return to fund projects. A lot of people may visit once, be confused about the fact that they need to register to donate money to Zach Braff, and won’t ever return. And in terms of the current Kickstarter user base, to assume that they will fund Zach Braff’s movie as well as a cool project that actually needs funding is to assume that they have more disposable income than most people do. Large, celebrity-endorsed projects will inevitably cannibalize funding for smaller projects. The chance to give a truly creative project a shot was a remarkable opportunity.In its relative infancy, Kickstarter gave people with no chance of acquiring the money needed to create their film, build and distribute their invention, or even go on road for a month on tour in exchange for giving funders a reward. Rewards ranged from a simple “thank you” to digital downloads and even physical copies or involvement in the project itself. I personally have funded a handful of Kickstarter projects; the chance to give a truly creative individual or group of individuals a shot at doing something truly special and otherwise impossible was a remarkable opportunity.
However, trouble and controversy began brewing last year. Amanda Palmer, best known as author Neil Gaiman’s wife (second best known as the singer of the Dresden Dolls and for her own solo work), launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund her latest album and tour. For an album and tour with a full band, Palmer set a goal of $100,000. Not only did she meet her goal quickly, but by the time she had finished with Kickstarter, she had surpassed that amount by over a million dollars. Outwardly, I have no problem with this; she clearly has some passionate fans. Where did the extra million go?The problem came when, a few months later, Palmer asked her fans in each city to spend their time learning her music to join her onstage for the full show as auxiliary musicians. Their compensation? Beer and high fives. When criticized, Palmer insisted that it would be prohibitively expensive to bring a handful of additional musicians on the road; strange, considering her $100,000 budget included distributing an album and taking her core band on the road. Where did the extra million go? And couldn’t she have asked her husband, clearly a multimillionaire several times over, for financial assistance? After a week of backlash, Palmer finally agreed to pay the musicians an undisclosed sum, and made a sardonic remark about how this would affect other aspects of the tour. I presume these other aspects included her new car and live-in butler.Arrested Development, another cancelled cult show has managed to come back on its own merits and not via Kickstarter. Later, controversy reared again when the creators of the cult television show Veronica Mars set a Kickstarter to create a movie based on the series. They set a goal for $2,000,000 and then raised over 250% of the goal. It’s important to note in this circumstance that the star of the show, Kristen Bell, is a name celebrity in her own right. Additionally, this show has been subject to outspoken fan support following its demise in a similar fashion to Arrested Development, another cancelled cult show which managed to come back on its own merits and not via Kickstarter. The rationale of the creators is that they cannot secure a budget from a studio, however Universal has already announced that they will distribute and thus profit from the film.
Most recently, the aforementioned Zach Braff has taken to Kickstarter to fund the sequel to his 2005 “meh”-filled excuse for a soundtrack, “Garden State”. Braff, who a quick internet search leads to multiple results pointing to his $22 million net worth, is also asking for $2,000,000 and has already surpassed it by $500,000. As of this writing, the Kickstarter has 14 days left for funding. Braff’s rationale is that he needs a budget in order to cast who he wants to cast and make the film in the way he wants to make it. Essentially, he wants a budget to answer to no one but himself in the process, but doesn’t want to pay for that himself. That’s how Orson Welles did it, right?Perhaps the biggest tragedy of this is that Joe Smith, who truly needs public support, is now competing with wealthy celebrities.The bottom line to all of this nonsense is that the general population is being asked to prevent rich people from the possibility of becoming less rich, while helping them to get more rich in the process. In the case of the Veronica Mars people, they could easily have secured a bank loan for this project with Kristen Bell attached. Even on the off chance that this was not the case, they clearly could have pooled $2 million between them to see the project happen. Both projects could have been taken on by their creators with a risk. Perhaps the biggest tragedy of this is that Joe Smith, who lives in a studio apartment in Flint, Michigan and can barely afford to eat yet has an idea for one of the greatest cinematic stories to ever be told, is now competing with people who were on television and are now in films and now want to create sequels to stories that were never that popular to begin with. Garden State is a cult film, and Veronica Mars was a cult television show. Sequels to media that were never terribly popular to begin with are now directly taking support away from new stories and ideas that may have proved to be groundbreaking.
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