Shockingly, Kickstarter Doesn't Work For Every Movie (Psst: Neither Does The Old System)

from the pointless-articles dept

Internet contrarian Evgeny Morozov has built something of a career out of being the online curmudgeon du jour when it comes to being skeptical about those who see benefits and opportunity on the internet today. So it comes as little surprise that he’s now turned his “hype deflater ray” on Kickstarter, in an article for Slate that tries to bash Kickstarter for not funding every possible movie. I’m not joking. That’s about the extent of the critique. He cites a study that finds that certain types of movies do well on Kickstarter (and other similar platforms), while others don’t. Uh. Yeah.

…this revolution has a few mitigating circumstances. First, Kickstarter might produce many new documentaries, but the odds are that those documentaries will be of a very particular kind (this critique also applies to other sites in this field like,,, They are likely to be campaign and issue-driven films in the tradition of Super Size Me or An Inconvenient Truth. Their directors seek social change and tap into an online public that shares the documentary’s activist agenda. A documentary exploring the causes of World War I probably stands to receive less—if any—online funding than a documentary exploring the causes of climate change.

I see. And does the “old” system of Hollywood regularly make documentaries exploring the causes of World War I? I’m really not sure I understand how this is a criticism at all. Unless a platform can fund any and all types of movies, it’s not really that big of a deal? Under those conditions, nothing is particularly good. Basically, what this paragraph seems to argue is that, “gee, Kickstarter is good at funding projects that lots of people want to see, but not so good at funding projects that people aren’t as interested in.” I’m not sure that’s a critique. It seems to be the purpose of the site itself.

Second, some films require significant startup costs (think drama-documentaries or history movies) or involve considerable legal risks that may be hard to price and account for. Say you are making a film that includes an undercover investigation of the oil industry. When you have the BBC’s lawyers backing you up, you’ll probably take many more risks than when you are relying on crowdfunding. But if Kickstarter is your platform of choice, you’ll probably forgo venturing into the thorny legal issues altogether.

I’m curious to know if there’s any actual evidence to support this argument. One could just as easily claim that when your project has the backing of a big corporation with liability-averse lawyers, you’re a lot less likely to be allowed to take risks, than when you rely on crowdfunding. I don’t know which is true (though having spent too much time around movie industry lawyers, I’m pretty sure my statement is a hell of a lot more accurate than Morozov’s), but where is the actual data to support this bizarre claim?

There are further complaints that seem equally silly. For example, Morozov points out that someone raised money on Kickstarter to help get his film on physical screens in movie theaters — and that’s somehow proof that Kickstarter isn’t that special, since the “old” way of showing a movie is still involved. I’m at a loss as to how any of this is mutually exclusive. There is nothing inherent to Kickstarter that says if you use it, you can only do things online. What’s wrong with using it to show a film in theaters?

All in all, this seems a lot like Morozov set up what he thinks Kickstarter should be about — and then knocked that down. In the logical fallacy world, that’s known as a strawman.

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Comments on “Shockingly, Kickstarter Doesn't Work For Every Movie (Psst: Neither Does The Old System)”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Crazy

And you have evidence of all this? Irrefutable evidence that says the majority don’t want to pay for it but do want it?

We’ll wait while you present it…

Also not paying for it is different than not valuing it at all or having decided that the content is not worth the value being asked and so on and so forth.

But I digress. I eagerly await your evidence to support the statements you have already made. Can’t wait to see it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Crazy

If that was true, the entire movie industry would’ve imploded a long time ago.

Recent statistics suggest that it is not even close to imploding. And bear in mind that we are going through a global recession. The kind that makes unemployment rates in some first world countries go over 20%.

But I understand that it is more comfortable to hang on to the piracy misconception to explain our lack of success, rather than to admit that we have no talent or business sense. Hurts less when it is someone else’s fault.

Mesonoxian Eve (profile) says:

“When you have the BBC’s lawyers backing you up, you’ll probably take many more risks than when you are relying on crowdfunding.”
Someone’s misinformed what those BBC lawyers are there for.

It’s not to back up a filmmaker, but to tell them “Now, we see there’s a billboard in the background. Remove it. There’s a GM logo. Make sure it’s gone, too. See that woman? She looks like a Kardashian. Edit her face.”

To think lawyers are out to protect anyone makes the statement a comical farce of how reality works.

Tunnen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

On the History Channel? If that’s was the case I think it would be a reality show following red necks that work in an army surplus store. Perhaps pitting them up in a competition with another nearby army surplus store to see who can sell more crap. They would ensure that there is a father-son love hate relationship, the son would likely have a girlfriend/wife that constantly berates him. I guess they could make the girlfriend/wife have a strained relationship with his parents. Throw in some other artificial drama for the cameras. Voila, you have yourself a new series for the History Channel. =P

fogbugzd (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Silly AC. You must be under the impression that the History Channel is about history.

The History Channel is about junk dealers. Their main lineup features a pawn shop, a Cajun pawn shop, junk pickers, restoring junk, and restoring junk cars.

In fairness, they are diversifying a little. They also feature some shows that illustrate that it is really cold when you get above the arctic circle. Last year they were featuring shows that make you glad that you don’t hunt alligators, but I guess people picked up on that point after a couple of seasons.

Tunnen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The History Channel, The channel that is trying to get into the history books for being the network that broadcasted a reality show for every blue collar profession…

Come watch out new series Garbage Collectors, depicting the realities of people working in the refuse collection business. Followed by, The Porcelain Kings. Follow the exciting adventure of father and son as they install toilets across America. Next week make sure you catch People Movers, where we observe the day to day interactions of a Greyhound bus driver as he takes passangers from Seattle to New York…

iambinarymind (profile) says:

Microsoft's Windows 8 won't save hot dogs...

While Microsoft Windows 8 may have the ability to run various software packages (i.e. Word, Steam, Internet Explorer), the truth is it will not create a hot dog that I can then consume for dinner.

PC software is great and all, but just think about the various up and comers in the sausage industry.

Who is going to save my weenie?

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