This week I became a sponsor.
That’s right, I’m now officially one of the moneymen. With a few clicks online, my place was secured as a backer of Wish I Was Here, the Kickstarter-funded movie from Scrubs star, Zach Braff. With a site target of $2 million, this is no small Kickstarter project, but in the scale of Hollywood productions is undeniably at the indie end of the spectrum – more in line with Braff’s debut writer-director-star feature, Garden State, than, say, his last starring role in Oz the Great and Powerful.
And that’s no bad thing. Garden State was a gem of a film: an intimate story framed by some memorable cinematography and a soundtrack that brought a whole new audience to the likes of The Shins, Colin Hay and Frou-Frou.
In a smart move by the team behind the appeal (the script was co-written by Zach and Adam, the brothers Braff), the investor rewards have nodded to their talent for selecting music that really connects with film and fans: for my $20 pledge I’ll receive regular picks from the proposed soundtrack, streamed direct to my computer. Other rewards for those with deeper pockets include tickets to the première (where you can sit next to Braff himself), the chance to name a character or even to have a part in the final movie. It’s a well-constructed page – earnest, honest and funny – but moreover it features a cracker of an appeal video from Zach and pals.
The social buzz around it has made interesting viewing: I pledged my cash in the first $100k group and was amazed to see the gentle rumble of momentum (not to mention *ching* of cash registers) as Braff’s A-list friends, James Franco, Michael J Fox and Courtney Cox, all brought their weight – and, importantly, Twitter followings – to bear.
Before the first day was out, the page had already raised $725,000, and, at time of writing is up to $1.7 million. Not bad in just over 48 hours. There’s bound to be a natural plateauing of investment over the coming week, but with 28 days still to go, it’s likely that the fundraising will exceed all expectations – not uncommon for popular projects on the site.
Empire Magazine tweeted about the appeal, though, for a publication that was a 4-star fan of Braff’s first feature, appeared surprisingly indifferent to the project. Similarly, I was rather surprised by the number of “Why doesn’t he fund it from the $millions he made from Scrubs?” tweetbacks and replies. It was good to see a subsequent interview with Mr Braff on Empire Online by Ali Plumb that gave a little more colour to the story, along with a number of comments defending the film-maker’s right to use this medium to secure funding for his movie.
Let’s be honest, whatever Zach Braff makes through this online appeal is unlikely to be the end of the story; I’ve already described how the Kickstarter model has been used by entrepreneurial souls to demonstrate to the slippery big fish out there that a passionate market exists to support any given product/project/person. It’s highly improbable that there isn’t therefore some form of match-funding scheduled once Zach makes his first $2m – and I can’t believe that this won’t include financial investment from the man himself. The criticism just seems a little unfounded. And it’s not like he’s trying to make Independence Day 2. Although that might be quite fun to watch…
Irrespective of the project, I don’t think that it’s fair to criticise anyone for using Kickstarter to get their dream off the ground – famous or otherwise: in the end any project will live or die on the idea at its very heart. If it’s not compelling or realistic enough to make people part with the requisite cash, then they’ll be part of the 43% of Kickstarters that don’t make it.
Having ‘established’ industry people using the platform may offer would-be investors a greater level of confidence in the quality of the finished article, or even just provide a project talisman to believe in – especially important after 84% of projects funded in 2012 ended up being delivered late. As long as the justification for not using traditional funding mechanisms feels appropriate to you, then what’s the problem?
And if you’re really not comfortable with a millionaire asking for your money then just don’t donate.
Sponsorship was born out of patronage in Ancient Greece more than 2,000 years ago – crowd-funding has simply reduced the reliance on finding that mythical single backer. More importantly, it has demonstrated that this collective power can achieve something greater than the sum of each individual contribution: together we can create synergy.
(There, I finally got that word into a blog.)
By Jonathan Izzard on April 25th, 2013