It was Scrubs star Zach Braff who announced that his new comedy – the follow-up to 2004’s well-received Garden State – could not get made without the help of fans’ financial support on crowdfunding site Kickstarter. But a month on from launching a high-profile campaign to raise funding for independent film Wish I Was Here, Braff has not only hit his $2m Kickstarter target but secured millions of dollars in extra support from a traditional film financier.
The Hollywood Reporter revealed on Wednesday that Worldview Entertainment is stepping in with extra funds that will take the film’s total budget to about $10m. “Zach has proven again that he is a creative force in independent film, and we were immediately drawn to his powerful and unique story,” Worldview CEO Christopher Woodrow told the site at the Cannes film festival.
Kickstarter is increasingly used by film-makers to raise finance for movies. Last month, producers of the Veronica Mars TV show secured a staggering $5.702m (£3.70m) to revive the detective series as a feature film. In September, the Charlie Kaufman–scripted stop-motion film Anomalisa raised a then-record $406,237 (£250,600).
Wish I Was Here is written by Braff and his brother Adam. Braff will direct and play the lead role of a father, actor and husband struggling to find his identity. Braff admitted in a video directed at fans as part of his Kickstarter campaign that he was close to a traditional financing deal to shoot the film, but didn’t want to give up the final cut and the right to pick the cast. In response, fans donated $2.6m.
But Twitter users and bloggers subsequently questioned why the actor, former star of the hugely successful, long-running sitcom Scrubs, did not simply use his own cash to make Wish I Was Here. Others wondered if it was reasonable to ask fans to contribute when they would not benefit if the movie became a surprise box office hit. News that traditional funding has been secured from a financier that will presumably want a return on its investment may further cloud the question.
In an interview with the LA Times about his Kickstarter campaign last month, Braff denied suggestions he had “Oprah Winfrey money”. He said: “I’ve done well in my career, but I am not sitting on $22m. I’m doing this so that one negative audience comment in a test screening won’t force me to change the end of my movie.”
He also said he felt fans were being well-rewarded for their contributions, with special early screenings and after-parties available to many.
Kickstarter is hit or miss for many independent filmmakers. Kevin Smith has said he’s going to bypass “Clerks III” on Kickstarter partially because he wants to avoid the headaches Braff is now getting, he wanted to ‘return to his roots’ and fund it himself, like he did the first “Clerks” and he believe Kickstarter should be there to “help the kind of up-and-coming filmmakers and entrepreneurs.”
Overall, I’m intrigued by what Kickstarter is allowing folks to do. It’s giving a funding option for entrepreneurs, artists and bands they never would have gotten before. Let’s be honest with ourselves, many banks aren’t handing out the small business loans like they were thanks in part to Dodd-Frank and Kickstarter is filling a void.
It also has been so successful, that it is legitimately making many wonder if the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) is even necessary since in 2012 it was reported that Kickstarter provided more money for more projects than the NEA did in all of 2011. Kickstarter’s co-founder felt he had to apologize on Talking Points Memo for that — why, I have no idea?
Having helped fund a project or two on Kickstarter, I mostly do it not for a return on investment (Like $5 to $50 is really an investment for a $20,000 project?), but to get the idea off the drawing board and into the production phase. If the guy with the idea ends up making a million dollars sometime down the road, so be it. My goal is getting a product in hand at the end of the day during the early adapter phase.
In the past it was waiting for a comic book, now it’s waiting for a “Settlers of Catan” game board.
As for the Braff / Smith debate, I believe Smith is on to something when he says that Kickstarter should be reserved for the up and comers. Guys like them have access to money and can get it with typically a call or two to a Weinstein. You and me, who have hopes, dreams, a drawing board, a camera and dreams need something like Kickstarter. The big guys don’t.