Michel Gondry spoke at SXSW to a packed house; it was fantastic to see one of my favorite directors speak about his creative process. During the talk, he mentioned a project he did where fans could buy portraits of themselves, sketched by Gondry himself, for only $20. He did about 1,000 of these portraits before he ended the deal
, saying that while some portraits took only 2 minutes, he started getting fancier and fancier as time progressed, and eventually he didn't think that was a good business to continue it. When he said that, a collective, sad sigh was felt across the conference room, since I'm sure I was not the only one in the room who wanted a hand-drawn Michel Gondry portrait -- and if $20 wasn't the right price to make sense, business-wise, surely there was an appropriate price point that would
make sense (and, in looking at his site, it appears that he raised the price
to $99.95 with a copy of his DVD). Now, while it is true that Gondry is a famous movie director, surely a few hundred dollars for minutes of work is enough to get him interested, especially when he considers that this portrait further serves to endear him more to his most passionate fans, who are incredibly appreciative that he would ever even think to offer such a deal:
It's amazing enough that Michel has the time to draw thousands of portraits a week amidst his incredibly busy schedule and his "Green Hornet" workload. Hopefully this commitment will urge other filmmakers to devote similar generosity towards their fanbases...
So, contrary to what Gondry thought, his portrait offer most certainly made good business sense and was a great example of an RtB deal, since it was soaked in his charmingly quirky artistic personality. Then again, perhaps another example of Gondry's unique understanding of the business world is with this strange notice
that he sent out to the purchasers of the portraits, sometimes well after they had purchased the image, telling them they could not resell the image ever
"By placing your sketch order, you hereby acknowledge... that the sketch is for your personal use only and you shall not have the right to sell the sketch for any commercial purpose whatsoever."
To ask this of his truest fans (especially after
they have commissioned a sketch) is not only most likely unenforceable legally
(case law here is still a bit messy, but courts have said that you can't just give up your right of first sale based on one side's declaration), it also serves to sour the goodwill and affection that Gondry's true fans have bestowed upon him. Now, that's