Freddie Wong and the team behind the blockbuster web series "Video Game High School" have shattered the record for a film campaign on Kickstarter, the crowdfunding site that has helped a number of aspiring and established filmmakers secure financing for their projects.
Wong, Brandon Laatsch and Matt Arnold, who created "Video Game High School," raised $808,341 from more than 10,000 backers as of Monday night, when the campaign ended. The money will be used for the second season of the show, which began production last week.
Certain projects on Kickstarter have raised millions of dollars, the most famous being the Pebble Watch, but this project takes the cake on the film side. It has raised close to double the amount as the next two most successful campaigns for a film or video project, Blur Studio's "The Goon," and Charlie Kaufman's "Anomalisa."
"Kickstarter has shifted from funding creative projects to funding products and video games; the biggest funded are consumer electronics and video game projects," Wong told TheWrap. "So we're very happy it can support us in this way. Not only do we have direct access to an audience in terms of being able to get feedback, but direct access in terms of being able to have projects funded so we can try and take some of the risk out of film production."
The "VGHS" team had set a goal of $636,010 – the full cost of season one, which they broke down to the dollar on their own site, RocketJump, in this chart. That season, which raised almost $275,000 on Kickstarter, attracted more than 50 million viewers last summer between YouTube and RocketJump.com, a proprietary site that will also host season two.
Most of the extra money the campaign raised will be used on production. Wong, Laatsch and Arnold have already begun on season two, filming on location and using YouTube's new studio space in Los Angeles. They have also brought on high-profile sponsors, like Dodge, to defray the costs of costly action scenes.
This new season will take viewers further inside the world of the eponymous high school for video game savants. Wong compared it to the evolution of "Harry Potter," as the story went from revealing that a wizard world exists to exploring the social lives of the wizards and the existence of several other schools around the world.
In this case, the story will go from introducing viewers to this unique high school to diving further into the dynamics at the school and its competition with other schools. Whereas the first season was more of a film strung out over 10 10-to-20 minute episodes, this season will consist of six TV-length episodes ranging from 22 to 25 minutes.
"In the time we had been shooting season one, people's tolerance of longer-form narrative online went up significantly," Wong said. "Everyone loved the last episode of season one, which was 22 minutes long. We wanted to open it up, explore B plot and side characters."
Some of the extra money will also be dedicated to rewarding contributors, which took up a significant amount of their costs in season one. This time around, they have 10,613 people to reward.
The strangest prize is an easy choice. For $2,500, Wong will show up on someone's doorstep and deliver them donuts.
"The first priority is to go to reward people," Wong said. "Whatever the pledge, we have to make sure people get that."