Zach Braff Kickstarter Success: Will Crowdfunding Transform Showbiz?
Over the past four years, Kickstarter has earned a reputation as the place where creators can make their dreams come true by tapping funding outside of traditional industry sources.
It’s not an inaccurate picture of the website, but it’s hardly a complete one. The perception is somewhat blurred by the entry in recent months of high-profile projects that successfully mined millions of dollars in donations, including a Warner Bros.-backed film adaptation of the defunct TV series “Veronica Mars” and Zach Braff-led indie pic “Wish I Was Here.” Studio-based projects with name talent attached will likely follow, carrying with them the potential to reshape at least one corner of the film-financing world.
“We’re a guinea pig, and if we do well, we’ll see more movies in the $3 million to $10 million budget range,” said Rob Thomas, creator of “Veronica Mars.”
But by and large, Kickstarter is a place where relative unknowns seek donations to fund creative projects of all kinds, and some of them aren’t thrilled to be sharing the site’s collective largesse with those who have a higher profile — and a presumed advantage to accessing capital.
Regardless, both the famous and anonymous on Kickstarter have come to know it is far from being a consistent hit-maker. Projects launched by people or organizations that already have a following tend to benefit most, and can gain exposure to an even larger audience; for those without a degree of notoriety, it’s difficult to find backing.
“The biggest successes tend to be known properties or have known brands attached to them,” said Scott Steinberg, author of “The Crowdfunding Bible.” “It’s not ‘Field of Dreams.’ If you build it, they won’t come. You have to get them to come or bring it to them.”
Film projects have pocketed an impressive $119 million on Kickstarter over the past four years. Ten percent of the films at Sundance were backed by Kickstarter users — with four winning awards. The site also can boast an Oscar winner: “Inocente,” a documentary about a 15-year-old homeless San Diego girl, won the most recent Academy Award for Documentary Short.
Perhaps it was inevitable then that Kickstarter would move mainstream. Thomas and his UTA reps convinced Warners to launch a monthlong campaign for a feature-length version of “Veronica Mars,” with star Kristen Bell. The project raised $5.7 million — $3.7 million above its goal — from 91,585 fans, in return for prizes such as DVDs, scripts, posters, a personal greeting from a star, a role as an extra, character-naming privileges and one speaking role for a backer who contributed $10,000. It became the biggest film Kickstarter campaign in history, and perked up the ears of studio execs and stars with passion projects.
Inspired in part by the success of “Mars,” Braff teamed with producers Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg last month to launch a Kickstarter campaign that fetched $3.1 million from 46,520 donors for the follow-up to their 2004 Fox Searchlight cult hit “Garden State.”