Hollywood Talent Turns To Kickstarter To Escape 'Institutional Censorship'

from the exodus dept

In discussions about artists like Amanda Palmer using Kickstarter, plenty of people continue to insist that their success was made possible by their traditional industry backgrounds. We've already gone over lots of reasons why this is silly, most notably the fact that such artists do a lot of work and certainly don't coast on anything. But it also usually ignores the artists themselves, who more often than not clearly say that they are going it alone because traditional structures were holding them back. The fact that creators who have received some amount of benefit from labels/studios/publishers decide to move on anyway, and then see their careers grow, doesn't say less about platforms like Kickstarter, it says even more.

This sentiment is not limited to music, or to independent creators. Kickstarter is getting a lot of attention, and that's bound to attract bigger and bigger names. The latest, sent in by jtomic, is a feature film called The Canyons which involves some pretty serious Hollywood talent. The script is written by Bret Easton Ellis (author of American Psycho) and directed by Paul Schrader (as in, the guy who wrote Taxi Driver and the screenplay for Raging Bull). Ellis, Schrader and the producer are putting up a bunch of the money themselves and turning to Kickstarter for the rest—all because they want to escape the confines of Hollywood:

The film is a collaborative effort stewarded by former Lionsgate producer Braxton Pope as a response to the changing landscape of the film industry. Pope, Ellis and Schrader are partly financing the film themselves through Pope’s new company Sodium Fox in order to maintain complete creative control of the distinct source material. According to Schrader, “We all experienced the frustrations of financing and institutional censorship. But now, with advances in digital photography and distribution, we can tell a story in the manner we choose. Movies are changing and we’re changing with it.”

They expand on this in the video, which includes some excellent comments from all three creators. Pope talks about how the Hollywood process encourages "groupthink" and makes it hard for a film to stay true to the artists' vision. Schrader and Ellis both compare the current revolution in film to that of a hundred years ago when the medium was in its infancy, and are clearly excited about the prospect of making a film without notes from meddlesome studio execs.

There are some pretty cool funding tiers too, many of which are unsurprisingly sold out. The cast itself is being largely crowdsourced through an online audition platform, netting undiscovered talent from around the world, and anyone who pledges at least $10 gets to vote on finalists. For $500, Ellis and Pope offered to watch your short film and share their honest reactions (with links) to their followers on Twitter & Facebook (all 10 slots for that one are already sold out). For $1,500 they'll do the same with a feature-length film. For $5,000, Ellis reviews your novel (again, sold out) or Schrader gives you notes on your script (a few left at time of writing). One lucky backer has already snagged the single $10,000 "De Niro's Money Package", which comes with a money clip autographed by Robert De Niro and given to Schrader on the set of Taxi Driver.

So there can be absolutely no doubt that these guys are using their momentum from the traditional Hollywood system to make this project possible—but I'm at a loss as to how that says anything good about Hollywood. I doubt any of these creators had any real need to finance a film themselves, but they saw a growing opportunity to go directly to their fans and make movies the way they really want to make them, and they jumped on it. That's not coasting on the past—it's embracing the future.

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