There Is No Logic To The Argument That Zach Braff Shouldn't Use Kickstarter

from the it-makes-no-sense dept

Not this again. Back in 2011, we first discussed why it was silly that some people got upset that someone rich and famous would use Kickstarter, as if the platform was only allowed for unknown artists. That was about Colin Hanks, the son of Tom Hanks, financing a documentary via the site. Since that time, the argument has popped up a few more times, including when Amanda Palmer used the site, when Bjork tried to use the site and when the Veronica Mars movie was funded via the site. Most recently, it’s been aimed at quirky actor/filmmaker Zach Braff for his Kickstarter project, called Wish I Was Here. Braff set a goal of $2 million, which was raised very quickly.

And that’s when some people got angry. Just as before. But it’s a small group of people. There are at least 36,000 people (i.e., those who have funded the project so far) who did not get angry. Why? Because they like Braff and want to support him. I’m curious if the people who are attacking Braff for using Kickstarter ever have watched one of his TV shows or seen a movie he was in. Because, in that case, they’d be paying the same sort of thing… but most of that money would be going to a giant corporation, rather than to the actor himself. So what are they complaining about?

In a (slightly over-defensive) interview video, Braff points out that he’s always been about connecting and engaging with his fans, and this is just one more way to do that.

Frankly, he’s more defensive in that video than he needs to be. He’s got nothing to be defensive about. He notes, accurately, that he’s long been known as someone who engages deeply via social media, especially Twitter and Reddit where Braff has been active for years. He also talks about his own obsession with Kickstarter, and how great it was to get the various updates on projects he’d funded, and how he hoped his fans would enjoy getting updates about the movie making process. And, yes, he’s backed a bunch of projects himself, including the Aaron Swartz documentary.

For the life of me, I can’t see a single logical argument for why people are upset about this, other than (a) they don’t like Braff or (b) they’re jealous of him. Neither seems like a particularly compelling reason for why Braff, or any famous person, shouldn’t use the platform. The two most common arguments seem to be “he’s rich and should fund it himself.” But that’s stupid. First off, he’s probably not quite as rich as you think, and second he’s made it clear over and over again that the budget is much higher than the amount he’s raising and he’s putting in an “ass-ton” (his quote) of his own money as well. Also, if you think that, don’t fund him. No sweat off your back. For his fans who like him and want to support him, so what? The second argument is that this means he gets the money instead of some struggling filmmaker. However, as he himself has pointed out, the data suggests something entirely different:

I have something every detractor doesn’t have: the analytics. Most of the backers of my film aren’t people on Kickstarter who had $10 and were deciding where to give it, and then gave it to me instead of someone else. They came to Kickstarter because of me, because of this project. They wouldn’t have been there otherwise. In fact, a lot of people who didn’t know about Kickstarter came and wound up giving money to a lot of other projects too. So for people to say, ‘That’s … up; you’re stealing money from documentaries’ is just not a sensible argument.

All he’s doing is the same thing we’ve been arguing for years is the business model of the future: connecting with fans and giving them a reason to buy. Braff has done exactly that, and has built up a huge and loyal following who are really excited about this project. As we pointed out when Amanda Palmer raised $1.2 million on Kickstarter or when Louis CK made over $1 million by selling direct off his site, the fans who are buying in aren’t disturbed by how much money is being made. For the most part, they seem thrilled to be a part of something amazing.

I think that’s the key thing that the detractors simply don’t understand. This is about two key things: being part of an experience and a community. It’s not about “a movie,” but about much more than that. And, even specifically around “the movie,” people should be supporting what Braff is doing, because funding it this way means that it’s going to be Braff’s vision for the movie, rather than a giant Hollywood studio. A few months back, Jonathan Taplin, a filmmaker and defender of the old system, told me during a debate that no real filmmaker would ever use Kickstarter. At the 40 minute mark, he goes on a condescending rant saying sarcastically that “major filmmakers” could never possibly use Kickstarter because “the average” film only raised $10,000. But the average is meaningless for something like this. Furthermore, he goes on and on about (his friend) Martin Scorcese getting to do a movie he wants, and how that would never work via Kickstarter. But we’re seeing over and over again the exact opposite. When a star with a big following uses something like Kickstarter, it gives them more ability to make the movie they want without outside interference.

Now we’re seeing, quite clearly, that “major filmmakers” can use Kickstarter to do interesting things, and somehow, I get the feeling that it’s the same sort of people who insisted they couldn’t possibly make it in the first place who are now complaining that they are…

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Comments on “There Is No Logic To The Argument That Zach Braff Shouldn't Use Kickstarter”

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105 Comments
John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: How is it different?

My personal answer: With kickstarter, you aren’t buying anything. You’re contributing to the creation of something. With paywalls, you’re buying something.

Perhaps the mechanics are very similar (although I don’t think they’re that similar), but the intention — that is, why you’re paying the money — is very different.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

The argument I’ve heard is that Kickstarter is for people without hollywood connections. And as a hollywood insider, Zach should use those connections. However, he has said in interviews that he has tried traditional hollywood resources to make his movie without success.

But that’s not even the real issue: Why should someone be forever tied to the hollywood system merely because he has used it in the past?! That makes no sense. Kickstarter allows anyone, even someone inside the system, to connect with fans and make the exact project they want. Without corporate/investor interference.

That’s the beauty of Kickstarter. And to deny that to certain people for arbitrary reasons is simply asinine.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Liberty is a virtue.

I’ve seen hipster bloggers try to stir up people on this issue with class warfare rhetoric. That’s just nonsense. When ever we try to “stick it to the man”, inevitably it is the little guy that gets it. So worrying about Zack and creating countermeasures for people like him are simply not productive.

…that’s even assuming that you buy into the class warfare rhetoric.

Any free market is open to all. Zack and anyone else big or small can appear as an equal and make his pitch.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Can't put my finger on it...

For the life of me, I can’t see a single logical argument for why people are upset about this, other than (a) they don’t like Braff or (b) they’re jealous of him.

That’s the beauty of Kickstarter. And to deny that to certain people for arbitrary reasons is simply asinine.

I think you’re both answering a similar question here so I’ll post my response:

First, I doubt highly that there is a single logical reason to get angry at Braff. Everything here is emotional. The morality point here is that “Braff got his, let someone else have a chance!”

And that’s a bad viewpoint to take. When you are highly connected, you have more options than the smaller kickstarters who might not make it with the same idea. But like you say, this isn’t a logical reason to attack Braff for trying something different. The opinion that we should let the smaller actors have a say in a digitally diverse field seems rather… Off. But I can’t put my finger on why.

We celebrated with Palmer. Tim Schafer of Double Fine had a LOT of support. What it seems like is that the industries of movies or music are getting a lot of backlash if you’re already developed without recognizing the issues that may hamper directors and producers that were tied to the old systems of making money.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Can't put my finger on it...

Maybe if people encourgae more filmmakers and such to bypass Hollywood, a viable, competitive alternative will forge its own place in the market. This would force Hollywood to either innovate to stay afloat or crumble to pieces. Sounds like a plan. After all, here people have a choice between harping on endlessly over the way things are or lending a helping hand to affect change.

Pseudonym (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The only naysayer who crossed my path was veteran screenwriter Ken Levine (MAS*H, Cheers, Frasier and not forgetting the classic Mannequin 2).

His argument wasn’t that Zach Braff shouldn’t use Kickstarter because he has Hollywood connections. His argument is that Zach Braff wasn’t getting any of his money because he has Hollywood connections.

I totally get that. For the record, that’s a feature, not a bug. The whole point of crowdsourcing is that you fund what you think is important, not what some non-creative industry executive scum thinks will improve their own career.

Among Hollywood creative people, there is a strong “pay it forward” mentality. You should be supporting the next generation, not the current generation. If you’re an established Hollywood creative type, you’re unlikely to find a Zach Braff pet project important enough for you to pony up your own hard-earned.

If that’s your priority, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do that. But the argument that he shouldn’t even use it is asinine.

Having said that, I do recognise that there is a trend of established players taking over outlets previous reserved for up-and-coming artists. Sundance used to be a place where non-established players got to show their movies to the industry. Some of that still goes on, but today it’s Cannes plus snow.

There is a balance to be struck here. A few John Ks or Michael Dorns or Zach Braffs will help legitimise crowdfunding, and that’s good. Nobody will be ever able to claim that it’s for “unprofessional” creative works only. But we have to keep up a steady stream of independent projects too.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

His argument is that Zach Braff wasn’t getting any of his money because he has Hollywood connections.

That was my attitude about musicians I helped. I wasn’t going to contribute to someone already successful, and especially to someone who had more money that I had.

I wanted to make a difference in the life of someone who really needed a break and whose long-term career success was going to depend on whether or not he/she got help early on. I also figured that a starving artist would probably appreciate the help far more than someone who had already gotten lots of money over the years.

jameshogg says:

Crowdfunding websites are the intellectual radicals here. They’re not even aware of it themselves.

The arguments against Kickstarter have been laughably baseless. Remember how Amanda Palmer was attacked for a) promoting piracy of her works (which even copyright advocates have to say is within her rights to do so) and b)making too much money? I thought, “Well, there you have it. A system which can help people encourage piracy of their own works by essentially putting it in the public domain and still become filthy rich… and the copyright advocates just want to stick their fingers in their ears and yell ‘I’m not listening!’ Absolutely perfect.”

The logical elegance of assurance contracts cannot be overstated here. Tickets, preordered content, crowdfunding, all of it has tons of evidence to back up a way of thinking that completely discredits copyright.

jameshogg says:

Re: Re:

By the way, you must always remember that corporations can themselves place Kickstarter bids. Even the ones engaged in piracy. All the way from Google to Megaupload: they’ll all start placing refundable pledges of their own (remember, nobody has anything to lose). They’ll eventually see that this is in their best interests in order to make a profit from advertising. The balance of power swings over to the artists.

Watch as more and more crowdfunding artists will put their work into the public domain after creation. Watch as more and more pirates are held accountable in ways that copyright could never begin to dream about.

With crowdfunding, if a pirate doesn’t pay up, he has nothing to pirate. But with copyright, if a pirate doesn’t pay up, he can get away with it.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“With crowdfunding, if a pirate doesn’t pay up, he has nothing to pirate. But with copyright, if a pirate doesn’t pay up, he can get away with it.”

Can you elaborate on that please? If a movie is funded and produced through Kickstarter, there’s nothing stopping me (assuming I don’t participate in the funding) from seeing it for free. If the project was to release on DVD, eventually someone will rip it. Somewhere, along the line, someone will take the content and upload.

jameshogg says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The punishment for that is less quality work, or even nothing at all. Remember, in order to get the great production effects, action sequences, etc of a movie it costs millions. That is on top of what the artists think they are worth. A pirate will know the consequences of his actions because he may not get the great movie he wanted for free. Artists can hold pirates to account very powerfully like this.

If the pirate pledges, he can rest assured that he won’t be ripped off himself (it will get to the point where studios will refund pledges if the movie gets cancelled halfway – studios take the fall in this way already) and he also will not be ripped off by a middleman, legitimate or not, who may profit from someone not acting on the behalf of the artist. Legal retailers, remember, do not necessarily participate in fair capitalism when they sell bulk DVDs at a profit – if you follow IP philosophy closely, this profit could be seen as a form of IP theft.

Lets actually take this much further: I can watch a legal copy of a DVD for free while following all the copyright laws – by borrowing from a friend, reselling through Ebay or watching it at a friend’s house – I can free ride without any sense of accountability whatsoever.

Kickstarter, on the other hand, makes even THOSE kinds of unspoken free-riders accountable. Even the people who supposedly “contribute” to the artist by getting the DVDs second hand (they don’t) will have to pitch in with the pledges in a much more direct way. That’s the beauty of this. Copyright cannot do anything about these kinds of free-riders while crowdfunding can. So there’s an additional advantage there.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Oh okay. I was just confused when you used the term pirate: I would say you were incorrect to use it in that manner. Typically, it means someone who views content that is sold without paying. Here, with kickstarters, it doesn’t matter if he pays or not: he’s viewing the content for free, but that can only happen after the project has secured its funding and produced the content. If he pledges, he’s not a pirate. If he doesn’t, other people have already paid, the content has been produced and those people have gotten their perks.

jameshogg says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

It is probably better to say this: “piracy” does not really exist in an economic system where creativity is treated as services, not products. That sounds tautological, but considering how it is a much better way of stopping people from free-riding it is worth talking about.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Remember how Amanda Palmer was attacked for a) promoting piracy of her works (which even copyright advocates have to say is within her rights to do so) and b)making too much money?

She was showing people how to avoid the labels, gain fans and make money. If that approach takes off, the labels are out of business.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Interesting

It’s funny; the point is made all the time that getting someone to pay you for a good (scarce or not) instead of a competitor isn’t the same thing as “stealing” that competitor’s “potential profits”, and yet here that exact argument is being made by the haters.

“Zach Braff is stealing funds from indie projects!”

No he’s not, because the money coming into his project doesn’t belong to those other indie projects, you entitled douchebags. Keep your whiny little paws off of it and shut your mouths.

God, some people . . .

jameshogg says:

Re: Interesting

It’s an argument ad capitalism, isn’t it? Well… if there is such a phrase.

I’m as much of a Leftist as most people when it comes to taxing the hell out of the 1% even if Kickstarter themselves fall into that category one day (and believe you me, they will), but the free-market is the only sane perspective we can have here. People have a right to spend their money on whatever they like.

The whole thing is probably a secret distaste of Kickstarter in general. People generally don’t like change. Or anything anti-copyright.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The FIVE PERCENT that Kickstarter skims is reason!

I am not really sure if Kickstarter takes 5% of the money raised, but I think that is little boy blues issue. However, going rate for capital raising is likely 7.5% or higher for raises of this size and that does not include retainers or equity participation.

5% is cheap for a platform to help you raise $$$$$$$

Doug says:

Re: The FIVE PERCENT that Kickstarter skims is reason!

This guy’s problem is that he clearly thinks anything digital is just bippity-boop-zeroes-and-ones and has no value. You shouldn’t make money from a website! My grandson can make that website in an hour!

Classic old man who doesn’t understand technology.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

YouTube is trying everything

For whatever reason, YouTube is trying all sorts of business models. It tried funding content creators to get better shows to deliver to advertisers, but that hasn’t produced much.

Now it is cutting deals with content providers like Sesame Street.

For whatever reason, YouTube wants to go beyond what it has been doing.

Any content provider that depends on advertising money is always at risk of that money going elsewhere. Maybe that’s what concerns YouTube. If Kickstarter works for Hollywood stars, maybe YouTube can outdo Kickstarter.

Loki says:

The arguments are that because he already has access to to big Hollywood connections and money he should use those because otherwise he’s just taking potential funding away from say the next potential Kevin Smith, who really have few other outlets left because the entertainment industry has pretty much taken all of the other “alternative” sources of attention/distribution (Sundance, eMusic, MySpace) over already.

I can certainly understand the frustration at the possibility of Hollywood finding way to monopolize and kill off yet another outlets to route around the entertainment industry’s general deadlock on income and distribution. But people need to understand that people like Palmer and Braff are using Kickstarter BECAUSE they want want to break the stranglehold the big corps have, and that is a good thing.

Because the more the big names help to break the stranglehold, the less power groups like the MPAA/RIAA have, and the more it shows smaller players that it CAN be done with the big boys.

vintermann (profile) says:

Growing the pie vs. taking a slice

Most of the backers of my film aren?t people on Kickstarter who had $10 and were deciding where to give it, and then gave it to me instead of someone else. They came to Kickstarter because of me, because of this project. They wouldn?t have been there otherwise.

I asked another one who definitively has analytics, namely the kicktraq guy (Adam Clark): Do megaprojects hurt smaller projects? Do you see a fight for attention in your data? “On the contrary. Larger projects tend to prop up others during their run-up periods because they draw in attention” he said. So it’s not just Braff saying this, independent observers also do.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Growing the pie vs. taking a slice

I think one concern is that if the superstars raise the most money, Kickstarter will abandon supporting/promoting the smaller projects.

That doesn’t make sense. How does it hurt Kickstarter to allow small projects, or help them to kill them off? Remember, it’s not as though they have to put a lot of manpower into each project. It’s just an automated service.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Growing the pie vs. taking a slice

That doesn’t make sense. How does it hurt Kickstarter to allow small projects, or help them to kill them off? Remember, it’s not as though they have to put a lot of manpower into each project. It’s just an automated service.

Actually Kickstarter does feature projects. So it promotes some more than others. Therefore, if Kickstarter becomes most concerned with the bottom line, it might choose to feature the “big” projects more than the little ones.

That’s what some people are asking. Will Kickstarter “sell out”?

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Growing the pie vs. taking a slice

I’ll give you an example of what creatives sometimes run into. I’ve had a literary agent and have talked to a number of others. What most of them will usually tell you is this: “It takes as much effort to sell a $100,000 project as it does to sell a $1 million project, so I am going to focus on the ones with the bigger potential payouts.”

My agent told me she wouldn’t pitch magazine articles, but she would handle books, preferable blockbuster books.

So these creatives who have had to scramble to raise whatever funds they can are worried that once the stars come into the picture, they’ll get pushed aside. If Kickstarter starts to court the stars, the unknown creatives may find less help and attention for themselves. Not necessarily from potential donors, but from companies which might assign people to pay attention to the big stars and ignore the little ones.

Twitter did it when it was launching. It was providing special attention to celebrities in ways that it wasn’t doing for the average Twitter user.

Most of you have probably seen this, too, in other industries, where big accounts get perks that don’t go to the small accounts.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Growing the pie vs. taking a slice

I can see some of what you’re trying to say in your comments here, but I think your reasoning is fairly flawed.

With your arguments above, i can see two problems. With your comment regarding literary agents, the agents are actively trying to sell something on your behalf. If they’re correct about the effort involved, of course they’re going to do that. But, Kickstarter largely just offer a platform, the same platform regardless of whether you’re a podcast asking for $500 to cover running costs or a known actor asking for $2 million for a movie. It’s true that they do some other work behind the scenes, but ultimately the platform is the same for all parties, and Kickstarter don’t have to do any more work to host the lower value projects (whereas your agent might have to do more work to sell your magazine article than the book).

I’m also not sure what you mean here:

“Not necessarily from potential donors, but from companies which might assign people to pay attention to the big stars and ignore the little ones.”

What are you talking about? Are you saying that you think Kickstarter handles these companies, or are you talking about things that happen external to that site? If the former, I’d like to know what you’re referring to, if the latter how is this Kickstarter’s fault or problem? Their job is connecting the donors to the projects.

As for your Twitter example – so? The fact that they’ve given some extra attention to celebrities (as much for avoiding the legal challenges posed by fake accounts as the profit aspect) doesn’t mean that the Twitter account for my blog is less useful. It’s just that I don’t get any marketing from Twitter. It still works well enough for the purposes I have. If Kickstarter allows Spielberg to crowdfund his next movie, that doesn’t mean that unknown filmmaker X doesn’t get to crowdfund his microbudget epic.

Finally, there’s a couple of wider points to consider. The first is that Kickstarter is introducing the idea of crowdfunding to a great many people who have never considered such a thing before. On virtually every popular project I’ve looked at, there’s comments surrounding it along the lines of “I’d never heard of Kickstarter before, but this sounds amazing and I’ll be glad to donate to other projects”. In other words, someone donating to a Veronica Mars or a Zach Braff may well stick around to donate to that other interesting project they’d never have seen if it weren’t for the bigger boys. It’s not a zero sum game – just because I donate an amount of money to a larger project, that doesn’t remove my ability to also donate elsewhere – I’m looking to invest in projects that interest me, not to just offload $50 I happen to have spare to the first to ask for it.

The other thing to consider is that Kickstarter isn’t the only game in town, nor is it unique. If true independents feel edged out of Kickstarter, there’s nothing to stop them going to IndieGoGo or someone from setting up a more focussed new site based on the same concepts. Kickstarter happen to be the most talked about brand name in the field, not the only choice.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Growing the pie vs. taking a slice

“Not necessarily from potential donors, but from companies which might assign people to pay attention to the big stars and ignore the little ones.”

I meant Kickstarter. Some creatives are concerned that Kickstarter will begin to ignore them and not put in any effort to help them out.

The other thing to consider is that Kickstarter isn’t the only game in town, nor is it unique. If true independents feel edged out of Kickstarter, there’s nothing to stop them going to IndieGoGo or someone from setting up a more focussed new site based on the same concepts. Kickstarter happen to be the most talked about brand name in the field, not the only choice.

That’s what I think will happen. If Kickstarter becomes associated with big stars and loses its “soul” then less known artists may go elsewhere.

There’s no particular reason to use Kickstarter if Kickstarter doesn’t enhance your ability to raise more money. And if you find yourself being drowned out by bigger projects, you may find no value in it. Or, more likely, as crowdfunding becomes more popular, the big stars will just crowdfund directly from their own sites and not bother to pay a 5% fee to Kickstarter.

As I pointed out before, there are lots of different reasons people are motivated contribute to Kickstarter projects. Crowdfunding efforts can become more specialized as the concept expands. The people who want to buy new products may go one place. The people who want to help unknown artists may go to another place. The people who want to associate with famous creatives will go elsewhere.

Ultimately the issue won’t be with crowdfunding, but whether Kickstarter can continue to define itself in comparison to other crowdfunding sites. eBay and Amazon benefit from bigness because people go to those sites specifically to buy something and comparison shop. The more stuff there is, the more they can find. But relatively few people go to Kickstarter simply to crowdfund, because relatively few people are thinking, “I’ve got money. What deserving project can I support?” That’s how arts charities sometimes are run (i.e., getting people to donate), but there’s a lot of marketing to potential donors to have that happen. And then you get into the competition factor of which artists are the arts foundations going to support.

Since Kickstarter says it isn’t a marketplace in the usual sense, size may not help it. If anything, Kickstarter has benefited as a place where potential projects have been curated. Not everyone is allowed to use the platform. So, who does Kickstarter include and who doesn’t it include? That’s what is being sorted out now.

Although some of you think Kickstarter has no say in who gets to use it for fundraising, that isn’t the case. Projects are rejected. And if everyone tried to use it, even if they had no chance to raise money, Kickstarter’s failure rate would go up and reflect negatively on Kickstarter. Unlike some sites which don’t monitor whether people make money using the platform, Kickstarter does do that. Its image and publicity is tied up in how much people raise and how much the projects exceed their goals. It’s not an indifferent platform, as some of you seem to think. It’s never been open to everyone, unlike, say Twitter. It is curated.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Growing the pie vs. taking a slice

Some creatives are concerned that Kickstarter will begin to ignore them and not put in any effort to help them out.

If they’re expecting Kickstarter to put in effort to help them out, then they’re in the wrong place. That’s not what the site is about.

Although some of you think Kickstarter has no say in who gets to use it for fundraising, that isn’t the case. Projects are rejected. And if everyone tried to use it, even if they had no chance to raise money, Kickstarter’s failure rate would go up and reflect negatively on Kickstarter.

That makes them biased toward safe projects, not large ones. In fact they are well served by having lots of projects in many different areas more than they would by having a few large ones, because that reduces the risk of large scale failure.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Growing the pie vs. taking a slice

That makes them biased toward safe projects, not large ones. In fact they are well served by having lots of projects in many different areas more than they would by having a few large ones, because that reduces the risk of large scale failure.

There are ways to play the game. Amanda Palmer set her goal way lower than she knew she could hit. And she combined three different projects (an album, a tour, and a book) into one project to cover a lot of bases and raise a bigger amount.

Look, I like Kickstarter. And I like the idea of crowdfunding. I like even better the idea of crowdsourcing and eliminating the need for fundraising altogether.

I’m just explaining that financial support of creativity that has nuances that are worthy to be explored.

It is reasonable for people to ask why someone who has already been well-paid by the system needs to crowdfund. Why do the “rich” need people to give them money? That’s part of the bigger question of world economics.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Growing the pie vs. taking a slice

Why does a project even need all of the money that Braff and others need? Why do expenses have to be high? Why can’t he self fund? Where is the money going to?

This are all reasonable questions. Maybe the problem is that the system is so screwed up that it is too expensive for Braff to self fund.

Or maybe he shouldn’t be doing projects so big that he can’t self fund.

If little people can fund movies out of their own pockets and get friends to work for free, why not Braff?

Why does creativity need to cost anyone any money?

Those are the bigger issues.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Growing the pie vs. taking a slice

Why do expenses have to be high?

I have do idea what his expenses are like but yeah Hollywood movies are seriously out of control.


Or maybe he shouldn’t be doing projects so big that he can’t self fund.

I don’t agree with that. If he has a good idea that he needs, or just wants, extra funding for, he should be free to seek it.


Why does creativity need to cost anyone any money?

If you can find high quality all volunteer work and donated equipment and have the spare time to devote to it, great. Not everyone does, and it’s a good thing that there are ways to raise money for creative endeavors.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Growing the pie vs. taking a slice

It is reasonable for people to ask why someone who has already been well-paid by the system needs to crowdfund.

Sure, as long as you’re open to answers, such as in this case “he’s raising part of the money through crowdfunding and part from his own money because he doesn’t want to be tied to Hollywood”. I have no problem with the questions, it’s the conclusion that “he shouldn’t be doing this because he already has money” without asking the question that doesn’t make sense.

Why do the “rich” need people to give them money?

This is not a question unique to crowdfunding. Why should I pay for a movie ticket when Tom Cruise is already rich? Why doesn’t he just fund the movie and pay for my ticket? I’m sure he can afford it. This is really the same question just applied to a different business model, and how much money the person has is equally irrelevant. If you want to see the movie, you buy a ticket. If you want to ensure that the project is completed, you help fund it. If not, you don’t.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Growing the pie vs. taking a slice

This is not a question unique to crowdfunding. Why should I pay for a movie ticket when Tom Cruise is already rich?

And the Rolling Stones are discovering that people don’t want to pay a lot of money to see them.

As more people discover they can be entertained and entertain themselves without spending a lot of money, I think we will see more of this. And I think a lot of people are too broke to fund rich celebrities anyway.

We’ll have to see what happens when lots of celebrities use Kickstarter and if the odds of success decrease as more use the platform.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Growing the pie vs. taking a slice

Right now there is something of a novelty factor with celebrities and Kickstarter, and each time one of them uses it, it’s a new story. Particularly when each project raises more money than the previous project. Each new record becomes a story.

When they all use Kickstarter, then we’ll see if it continues to work for them all or if celebrity crowdfunding fatigue sets in. I have no idea, although I think the overall trend will be to continue to drive down the costs of creative creations so there isn’t reason to need to raise much money in the first place.

Perhaps at some point it will all be so commonplace, the media will look else where for stories.

Anonymous Coward says:

To everyone saying that kickstarter should only go to new faces I have this to say:

Just because someone has money doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to aquire capitol to launch something.

Hell, I WISH crowdfunding was popular around the time of Firefly and The Cape. Then we could have seen continuations of the epic stories that the gatekeepers decided weren’t quite popular ENOUGH.

“Oh we’re cancelled? Well.. I guess we’ll just fish for interest on the internet. You know, where millions upon millions of people will throw money at us to correct the injustices you have committed here today.”

I don’t care if you are rich, poor, famous, unknown or alien from deep space. If you are working to build something I’m intersted in, I’ll throw a few bucks your way.

Honestly… I think most of the people complaining, as you said, are either people who don’t think Kickstarter is anything but a tool to make your beginnings and is ‘beneath’ large scale productions, or people pissy that a guy with money is being given money to make something people want.

Frankly, I prefer the crowdfunded method. The biggest upside is that you can cover sunk costs up front with FAR less risk to yourself, and then rely on the nill marginal cost to spread the thing around at next to nothing. This builds up brand familiarity, which leads to further success on future kickstarter projects, which leads to more free to nearly free stuff hitting the markets!

I love the idea of a content producer making all their money up front and then being able to say ‘Hokay! Here’s the thing I promised, finished. And free, since it doesn’t cost anything to distribute or reproduce it. Oh, and if you happen to like it, I’ve got another project starting up that could use your funding!”. Would you look at that… a sustainable business model based on popularity. Go figure.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hm. To me, what annoyed me were the rewards (I haven’t looked to see if this has changed recently) – not really providing a way to view the finished product also makes me curious about final sources of funding and how much of the film he’ll actually own.

Still, those backing just want to support him, so more power to them!

horse with no name says:

Qrong question

It’s not a question of if he can or cannot use the service, it’s rather a question of bad taste. It’s on par with a Wall Street banker begging for cash on a street corner so he doesn’t have to pay for his lunch. It is classless.

The worst part I think is that this sort of thing can lead to donor fatigue. People start to get tired of bailing out everyone else, and decide it’s just no longer worth it.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Qrong question

It’s on par with a Wall Street banker begging for cash on a street corner so he doesn’t have to pay for his lunch. It is classless.

A similar way to conceptualize it would be a college fund. Would you rather donate to help a poor kid go to college or a rich kid go to college?

The worst part I think is that this sort of thing can lead to donor fatigue. People start to get tired of bailing out everyone else, and decide it’s just no longer worth it.

I know lots of musicians and have helped out some in a variety of ways. What I won’t do is fund any Kickstarter projects. It’s better for me to tell my friends that I don’t do Kickstarter at all than to have to explain why I’ll chip in for some, but not others. I’d rather focus on a few people than to donate a little amount to lots of people.

So this crowdfunding stuff is something I have been involved in and thought about for years. My criteria has been in the past: (1) talent, (2) likely success of the project, and (3) it won’t get done without my help.

However, I don’t plan to take on any new creative projects because my interests have shifted to bigger economic issues than the arts. I’m focusing on very big picture economic and sustainability issues these days. Arts funding will fall into place if economic/sustainability issues are addressed. If we find a way for everyone to get by on very little income, or if we find a way to raise everyone’s income to a decent level, artists will be part of that system. On the other hand, if the 99% watch their incomes continue to drop, they won’t have the money to support themselves, let alone artists.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Wrong question

The other big issue with Kickstarter has been:

1. Do you want to help someone?
or
2. Do you want to buy something?

Kickstarter has discouraged the second part. The founders have said that this has never been how they wanted to pitch the concept. And also some of the Kickstarter projects turn out to be unreliable or unpredictable in delivering the premiums. So if you are expecting something for your donation, you might be disappointed if (1) the project fails, (2) you don’t get it in a timely manner, or (3) the quality isn’t what you expect.

So it has been more about patronage than reason to buy. Do celebrities need patrons? That’s what the discussion has been about.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Wrong question

Also, we may find that it’s best to separate arts crowdfunding in ways it has always been:

1. Angels
2. Patrons

Broadway has often used angels to put in money for projects. If the project is profitable, they share in that.

Art patrons have tended to gravitate more to projects where there is no share of profits (usually because the assumption is there won’t be any profits and if there is positive income, it will go back to the artist to keep the artist afloat). Patrons are helping to support otherwise “starving” artists.

As it becomes easier to do online crowdfunded investments, we may see the celebrities using the investment route and the unknowns using the patron route, with websites focused on one or the other rather than trying to do both within the same format. That’s where Kickstarter is being challenged now: Who is your target audience? What is your mission?

horse with no name says:

Re: Re: Qrong question

I would love to hear your explanation. I wonder why a guy who has made millions has to have his hat in his hand on the virtual street corner to do something. It’s as if he doesn’t want to risk his own money on something, which would be a very poor vote of confidence.

So I would love to hear your explanation, rather than just a hand waving dismissal.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Qrong question

What’s to explain? If everyone agreed with you he wouldn’t get any money donated. Clearly that’s not the case since the project is working fine. If the facts don’t fit your narrative, maybe you should reexamine your conclusion. On the other hand, I suspect you’ll reexamine the facts instead. Probably all those people donating are just dumber than you and don’t realize what they’re doing, right?

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Kickstarter has always chosen who can participate

I’ve given a longer explanation elsewhere, but I’ll put this in its own post so more see it.

Some of you seem to be assuming that anyone who wants to crowdfund can use Kickstarter as long as they pay the necessary fees.

That’s never been the case. You apply to Kickstarter. Some projects aren’t accepted. Kickstarter wants projects to succeed and keeps track of what percentage of projects make their goals and how much those projects raise. And then it publicizes those success stories.

So that’s one reason why people have been discussing whether they will be shut out as big stars start using the platform more.

Of course, Kickstarter isn’t the only game in town, and as crowdfunding expands there will be lots of different ways it is being handled. I’m big on participatory creativity and my personal preference is that the projects become crowdsourced, rather than crowdfunded.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

A site pitching to celebrities

Celebrity Crowdfunding Tips | White Label Platforms | Launcht: “Celebrities should use Launcht for their crowdfunding campaigns. Total fees on the raise would be more like 3.5% and the traffic would go to the celebrity?s website, thus building engagement with the celebrity and not with KS. Celebrities spend a lot of money to build engagement with their social media channels and to grow their web presence, why shunt all the attention away from these things? Celebrities don?t need Kickstarter. Celebrities have the networks, the reach, the appeal, and the infrastructure to pull off a campaign themselves. All that a celebrity crowdfunding campaign needs is the simple crowdfunding platform software to host their own campaign!”

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Here's how one person explains it

According to this person, it’s more of a personality thing. And I suppose that will go with the territory. If a famous person proposes a project, it may or may not get funded depending on the number of fans.

But it will invite the usual celebrity sniping, and people will be snarky if they don’t like you. So perhaps crowdfunding will be a bit too exposed for some to bother with.

Why Hate Zach Braff’s Kickstarter Campaign but Not Veronica Mars’s? – Meghan Lewit – The Atlantic

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Here's how one person explains it

And here, also explains what happens when you crowdfund. People start asking questions about your project. They are going to ask where the money goes, whether you really needed to use the money that way, etc. We’ve already gone over this with Amanda Palmer, which this article mentions.

Some of you will say that people who don’t like the project don’t have to support it. And that’s true, but they also feel free to criticize you for doing it. Crowdfunding may require a thicker skin than just doing your project and tapping into the usual investment sources.

The Kickstarter Principle: Crowdfunding doesn?t work without transparency and trust ? Tech News and Analysis: “The lesson from both of these incidents is the same, I think. If you are going to appeal to the crowd for support, then you are essentially striking a bargain with them: they provide money, but you have to do more than just provide whatever the end product is. You have to be as open and transparent as possible and do whatever you can to maintain the trust of those supporters, and that changes the dynamics of the situation completely. And once that trust is lost, the game is effectively over.”

Darren B (profile) says:

Not that easy even for celebs.

It’s probably easier to get a sequel to a cult film,or a movie version of a popular TV show funded,than to get a totally new show up and running like Rae Dawn Chong is trying to do with her project that appears like it won’t get the funding in time,and that’s only 25 Gs.

The Celebrant – a television pilot about a woman who serves her community in the Seacoast as a “Celebrant” a spiritual witness to life and everything in between.

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-celebrant

Darren B (profile) says:

Not that easy even for celebs.

It’s probably easier to get a sequel to a cult film,or a movie version of a popular TV show funded,than to get a totally new show up and running like Rae Dawn Chong is trying to do with her project that appears like it won’t get the funding in time,and that’s only 25 Gs.

The Celebrant – a television pilot about a woman who serves her community in the Seacoast as a “Celebrant” a spiritual witness to life and everything in between.

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-celebrant

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Not that easy even for celebs.

And I think that’s what we are talking about. We haven’t yet seen lots of celebrities get into this. Once they do, will they upstage all the unknowns?

Or as the percentage of celebrity projects increases, will their failure rate go up? Using Kickstarter as a publicity stunt won’t have as much appeal if the fans can’t be rallied to support the project. Or, the stars can do what Palmer did and set the goal low enough that it is sure to be met.

Of course, then there is the project fulfillment. You have to budget for all the goodies that you’ve promised and some people may decide it is a distraction from just getting the project done.

As I said, I think what will happen is that the crowdfunding market will start becoming more niche-based. Kickstarter is the big game right now, but in time there may be sites that cater to celebrities. Others that cater to foodies. Others that cater to unknown artists. Others that focus on local projects. Others than are event based.

We saw what happened with the daily deal sites. We’ll likely see it with the crowdfunding sites, too.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not that easy even for celebs.

Another issue that may hit Kickstarter is if some sites charge a sliding percentage based on scale. Some sites are likely to start charging a smaller percentage for the million dollar deals than for the little deals. Kickstarter can’t really do that because then it would look like it is favoring the celebs over everyone else.

Another way to favor the celebs over the little guys is what some music sites do. They charge a flat fee for their services. It’s great for high volume projects, but not a good deal for small projects.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Not that easy even for celebs.

Here’s the latest one to fail. I suppose this is the negative side of celebrity association for Kickstarter. The projects bring more attention to Kickstarter when they succeed and also when they fail. Unknowns who fail tend to slip under the radar, but celebs who fail make more interesting stories for the blogs. So financially Kickstarter makes great money on the successful celeb million dollar projects, but imagewise it loses a bit on the celeb project failures. Yes, failure is built into the Kickstarter project system, but I don’t think the company wants to go out of its way to generate stories about the projects that can’t make goal.

If celebrity Kickstarter projects end up for most of them as the equivalent of reality TV and Playboy covers (what you do when your career is flagging), then it may put a damper on the concept.

Years ago eBay tried doing celebrity charity auctions. I could see problems with that from the beginning and it didn’t continue for very long. Lack of bidding interest was too visible, so what was meant to be a goodwill thing ended up being negative PR for a number of celebrities and they backed off.

We’ll have to see how it plays out. Will Kickstarter transform celebrity projects or will the failed ones be seen as vanity projects that never should have been conceived in the first place?

The Daily Dot – Why Melissa Joan Hart’s Kickstarter project failed: “It’s finally happened. Kickstarter users have said ‘No thanks!’ to a celebrity’s film project.”

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Not that easy even for celebs.

I don’t know, as far as I know Playboy and reality TV are both still going strong.

Oh, Playboy and reality TV are going strong, but the celebs who appear on them are often perceived as lacking any other opportunities. It’s the sort of thing you do to keep yourself in the public eye when better offers aren’t coming. (Kind of the celeb version of jumping the shark.)

But, like I said, it’s probably still too soon to tell whether lots of celebs will successfully crowdfund, whether many of them will try but not hit their goals, or whether most celebs will decide to fund in less visible ways.

And it may turn out that Kickstarter works better for sequels to successful projects than to fund original material.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Not that easy even for celebs.

Oh, Playboy and reality TV are going strong, but the celebs who appear on them are often perceived as lacking any other opportunities.

My point is that Kickstarter is Playboy and reality TV in your analogy, so while it may turn out that it attracts has-beens, your example doesn’t say anything about how successful it will be, only about the sort of celebrity it may attract. I’m sure Kickstarter would be thrilled to be as well-known, financially successful, and long-lived as Playboy (though without other aspects of their reputation of course).

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Not that easy even for celebs.

My point is that Kickstarter is Playboy and reality TV in your analogy, so while it may turn out that it attracts has-beens, your example doesn’t say anything about how successful it will be, only about the sort of celebrity it may attract. I’m sure Kickstarter would be thrilled to be as well-known, financially successful, and long-lived as Playboy (though without other aspects of their reputation of course).

I’d be more inclined to compare Kickstarter to a daily deal site. As the concept of crowdfunding expands, more sites will develop to serve certain niches. What is happening right now is that Kickstarter may find it doesn’t work to be all things to all people.

Kickstarter has already refined what it is by greatly tightening up the design projects. It doesn’t want to be a store.

We’ll have to see how the celebrity market develops. It might become huge and everyone will do it, or if enough projects fail to hit their goals, celebrities may back off from crowdfunding if they have other ways to raise money.

If it becomes huge, sites catering to celebrities might develop and take business away from Kickstarter. Or Kickstarter might hang on to the celebrities and the unknowns might go elsewhere. Or Kickstarter might have a mix of knowns and unknowns, but other sites will develop platforms to serve particular target audiences.

I guess for Kickstarter the challenge will be for it to maintain its “cool” factor. So how people use it will be a branding issue for the company. Sooner or later all tech and social media companies get replaced by the new generation of companies and that will likely to happen to Kickstarter, too. No, I don’t think it will disappear, but some new crowdfunding or crowdsouring or creativity site will catch everyone’s fancy and off we’ll go to the next big thing.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Not that easy even for celebs.

You know, I suppose one thing I am saying is, “Will becoming trendy be Kickstarter’s undoing?” Seems like that happens to a lot of online companies.

I believe in the P2P concept, so I am not suggesting networking and community support will go away. In fact, I think it will only grow stronger. But as a part of that, I see the concept of “celebrity” becoming less important, too. I believe in the democratization of creativity and am not really impressed with Kickstarter projects that can cite millions of dollars raised. By cheering these on, we seem to be using the same standards of success as always: big money gets more attention.

Jay Are says:

Shorting the Little Guy

I have a lot of respect for the thought processes going on int his discussion, and I do agree that just because someone has “made it” in Hollywood before doesn’t mean they should be blacklisted from kickstarting a new project- especially if they already tried to get it done through the “proper” channels (i.e. appealing directly to Hollywood higher-ups). But, unless I’m making an error of logic I’m unaware of, I foresee a potential technically-legal-but-exploitative use of the ‘starter in which an entity whose job is SPECIFICALLY to research, create and fund the highest quality product for something will “ransom” the potential of a high-quality product against the public to get THEM to pay for something that should be provided. Example: okay, Braff wants to make a movie but no one bites so he kickstarts it. Good for him, hopefully viewers all win. But what happens when, say, Paramount Pictures makes a movie, it goes wild, then they say “Hey, you know we decided to disappoint everyone and not make a sequel, it’s just not in the budget, sorry!… unless some fans want to kickstart it…” (when the whole point of your budget IS to fund such projects) then lo-and-behold instead of a giant company with billions on tap to make a great film… the fans just paid for it and Paramount reaps the advertising anyway. Or they reap $5 million when they say “our target to make this is $100 million” but because of their vast resources it only ends up costing $95 mil. I realize I may be ignorant of Kickstarter’s rules that prevent this, but as I understand it, there’s not a lot of control guidelines and if Paramount or some huge company asked one of their stars to set up a fund (never mentioning the studio was behind it), it would be totally legal- if reprehensible.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Shorting the Little Guy

But what happens when, say, Paramount Pictures makes a movie, it goes wild, then they say “Hey, you know we decided to disappoint everyone and not make a sequel, it’s just not in the budget, sorry!… unless some fans want to kickstart it…”

I don’t see the problem. If fans want to support the project, they will, and that’s fine. If they don’t, they won’t.

if Paramount or some huge company asked one of their stars to set up a fund (never mentioning the studio was behind it), it would be totally legal- if reprehensible.

Now that would be a problem. Hopefully the information would get out about who’s behind the project, but I don’t know.

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