Zach Braff: Man of the People or Horrible Person? (Neither)

Zach BraffEmmy winning writer/director/producer Ken Levine went after Zach Braff today in a blog post about the actor's recent foray into crowdfunding. The Scrubs alum has raised millions of dollars for his planned follow-up to Garden State from regular folks, when the Hollywood money machine proved to be unavailable and/or undesirable.

Levine's argument is compelling. He essentially says that Kickstarter was created for people who don't have access to Hollywood. Braff obviously does, therefore his use of Kickstarter to fund his movie is tantamount to breaking the crowdfunding Code of Hammurabi. Following a deft takedown of Sundance for having become a tool of Hollywood rather than an alternative to it, Levine writes:

Sundance is a lost cause. But Kickstarter isn’t. Not if we put a stop to this now. If you only have so much money to give to charity, give it to cancer research and not to help redecorate Beyonce’s plane. Support young hungry filmmakers. The next Kevin Smith is out there… somewhere. He (or she) just needs a break, which is what Kickstarter is supposed to provide. Zach Braff can find his money elsewhere. He did once before. He’ll make his movie. And if it’s half as good as GARDEN STATE I will praise it to the heavens in this blog and urge you to go spend your money to check it out.

This argument assumes, however, that Hollywood doesn't make mistakes... that when they hear a pitch for a good movie, they always fund it. That's certainly not true. Plenty of good ideas never get made and plenty of bad ones do. Maybe Braff barked up every tree he could, and still couldn't get it funded. Or maybe he just wanted to make sure, as he notes on his Kickstarter page, that he would be able to maintain creative control. All of that seems fair to me. Successful actors, even rich ones, should have an alternative to the company store.

So, I don't have a problem with Zach Braff going to the public and asking for money in exchange for things like private screenings and meet and greets. (For $200 he'll scrawl your name on a wall that will appear in the film. Yay!) Now, just to be clear, I think people that willingly give their money to a millionaire in exchange for stuff that costs him nothing are nuts. I wouldn't fund a movie in exchange for that. But it's a free country. Each of us can do as we please with our money.

But consider this: Zach's raised close to $2.5 million for his movie from almost 35,000 people. If he'd raised that money from private investors, he'd have to pay that money back and give away a big chunk of the profits. Raising the money through Kickstarter - for the follow-up to the enormously popular Garden State - means he doesn't have to pay anyone back and gets to keep all the profits.

He's a fucking genius.

Like I said, as well intentioned as Braff's investors are, I can't help but think of them as suckers on some level and like Levine, I won't participate. On the other hand, I'd almost certainly be willing to invest in a movie in which I believed in exchange for some of the back end. I know in most cases it'd be a gamble, but maybe my $250 could turn into $500 or $1000. If the movie tanked though, I'd be OK with it, because I'd helped produce something that meant something to me. That's a model that makes sense.

Maybe Braff and other independent filmmakers should be selling shares in their movies, not tickets to the after party. If they did that, those 35,000 investors would almost certainly act as guerilla marketers too. They'd have a real, tangible incentive to get the word out. In the end, the public would almost certainly get to see a lot more different types of movies... and a few of them might actually be pretty good.

Image Source: david_shankbone, via flickr


  1. The idea of wanting to invest in the movie is a good one, and plenty of people share it.  It would be great if we had the regulatory environment that encouraged/allowed that kind of investment.

    1.  Sad but true. This kind of approach is basically untenable as a proposition, despite how nice it sounds, thanks to the way the government has regulated that particular market.

      1. I’m a bit confused why “government regulation” is the big sticking point.  As far as Real Movies go, lack of profitability (whether real or imagined) is what keeps investors or other points-possessors from collecting on the back end.  Remember the big fight Peter Jackson and Bob Shaye had over the accounting books of the LOTR movies?  And those movies made almost a billion dollars apiece theatrically worldwide, so one would have thought people wouldn’t need to squabble over the nickels and dimes.

        Seems to me that one would need an incredibly carefully-worked-out and tiered payout budget in advance, allowing for every conceivable level of profitability, in order to ensure that every investor, actor, and crewmember gets paid what they’re due whether the movie tanks utterly or becomes the next Paranormal Activity.

        1.  The government regulation has to do with the idea of a distributed investment model more than whether or not it’s likely to be a winning proposition for the investors in this particular case.

          1. There is absolutely a model already available – a limited partnership.  I could be wrong, but I think a lot of films are organized as partnerships, and it’s possible, in theory, to buy a very small share. (Most LP’s wont sell small shares, because the overhead hurts their profits.)

            The only downside is that it’s complicated at tax time.  Investing $100 in a way that adds three pages to your tax return kind of sucks.

        2. “Remember the big fight Peter Jackson and Bob Shaye had over the accounting books of the LOTR movies?”

          Absolutely this. A likeable indie director like Braff is throwing himself to the wolves if he trusts his project, and future projects, to Hollywood accounting. 

      2. There was a provision in the most recent jobs act that allowed for relaxation of securities law to allow this kind of crowd funded micro-investing. But the issue is that it’s such a new concept for the financial community that no lawyer would ever sign off on it. I know I’ve already looked into it.

      3. IANAIB, but in theory you could start up a mutual fund that would invest in movies or other creative endeavours. I don’t know you would make too much of a return on it, but it’s certainly possible – that’s the current structure they have set up for lots of small investors to make significant investments into bigger things as far as I know.

    2. Um people, there is such a film exchange where you can sell shares and let people invest by crowdfunding your film it’s called Pirate My Film and it was started by Max Keiser (of RT’s Keiser Report) and it’s pretty cool actually. They even accept Bitcoin, now how about that!

    3. There was a bill called the Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act HR 2930 of 2012 that would have allowed “crowdfunding” to be actual investing instead of just pre-ordering and donations. AFAIK that bill is stuck in the Senate.

      As far as this Braff scheme goes, I think it’s pretty shameless for Braff to take people’s money this way and I really hope this is a shark-jump for kickstarter.

  2. I suspect that the regulatory hurdles would get messy(SEC is serious business unless you are an experienced criminal, in which case it’s a notch on your CV); but Kickstarter’s position is a trifle awkward:

    For noble philanthropic causes, the model works fine(or at least as well as the sometimes-scandal-and-overpaid-CEO-riddled world of noble philanthropy allows): You make your contribution, if the project goes ahead, great.For contributions that roughly match the value of the item being kickstarted, the “We, um, aren’t actually a store; but it sure does look like one, doesn’t it?” model works reasonably well as well. Not perfect; but everybody mostly knows what they are getting in to but also doesn’t just end up handing somebody a bunch of cash for their commercial venture.

    For situations like this one, though, it would be handy to have some ability to offer more substantial success-dependent rewards to more substantial backers. Of course, going from ‘kickstarter’ to ‘Hollywood accounting meets stock valuation shenanigans, SEC filings abound!’ would not be pretty.

  3. Levine says “The idea – and it’s a great one – is that Kickstarter allows filmmakers who otherwise would have NO access to Hollywood and NO access to serious investors to scrounge up enough money to make their movies. ”

    This may be what Levine *wishes* Kickstarter was about.  But who is he to decide that for us?  It’s certainly not what Kickstarter’s own stance seems to be.  Their website has language that welcomes all kinds of projects, “big and small”.  Nothing about “unknowns” or “if more than 10 people have heard of your band, you’re not hip enough for Kickstarter”

    1. Yeah, and the thing about Kickstarter is that the sort of people who get the money to do projects of any decent size are the ones who (supposedly) “don’t need the money,” not the novices/outsiders.  Because, of course, they’re the ones who are well known enough, who have the track record that would make enough people want to give them money.

      1. Exactly.  Look at the Kickstarter computer game history over the last year: a number of _awesome_ medium-budget projects that I’m looking forward to – but most of them are conceptual sequels to already-loved games by well-known design teams.  They already had recognition.

        I’ve funded four genuinely small-group indie games, and three failed to meet goals.

        1. I work in the game industry and have been following the Kickstarter game campaigns with some interest.  That’s completely true, and to make matter worse, almost none of those campaigns (of any size) actually raised the amounts of money they needed to fully fund their projects.  Almost all game projects have additional (often significant) funding, usually the developers’ own savings.  Which not only means that if anyone has to drop out of the team they can’t afford to actually hire someone to replace them, but that many teams will end up losing money on even “successful” Kickstarters.  
          People commenting that a successful filmmaker/game maker should “use their own money” for the project instead of turning to Kickstarter tend to annoy me, as it’s almost certainly the case that they already are.  Braff planned on raising an amount more than half a million dollars short of what was spent on “Garden State,” (not even counting the costs of rewards) so I rather suspect he’s doing the same.
          A problem with all this is that increasingly game (and now movie) companies appear to be saying, “Prove that there’s support for this game/movie by doing a successful Kickstarter, and we’ll give you the extra resources you need to make the project happen.”  Since the creators can’t get their funding from the traditional sources, and the Kickstarter route doesn’t provide sufficient funds, the creators end up in a bad place.  This simply allows studios to be more risk-adverse while pushing the risks onto the audience and creators.

  4. Some of my favorite shows were obliterated by entertainment industry reptiles. I have zero problem undermining their scaly stranglehold on media in any way possible. If Kickstarter is one such weapon, albeit imperfect, so be it. 

    1.  Exactly. How many shows with a loyal fanbase have been axed as they didn’t pull in the right ratings in the right bracket (despite being shifted to crazy timeslots).
      Not seen Garden State or a fan of Braff but i don’t see what is wrong here? Its not a zero sum game as he is only taking funding from people who want to fund it and not from other competitors (i.e if it was a voting competition to get funded).
      The whole “access to hollywood” is rubbish. how does that work if they only care about making sequels or comic book tie ins. Not to mention “We totally love the film but could you make a few small changes? This Niels Bohr guy can he have muscles, be a fighter pilot and be American (audiences won’t want a non American lead character after all) other then that we can make your movie.

      TL;DR he isn’t harming anyone elses film and he will get his made. Why the butthurt?

    1. Yes but the SEC hasn’t released rules yet, so no one can really do anything with this right now.

  5. The ability to invest directly in films will become a reality in the US for ‘non-qualified’ (i.e. poor/normal) investors with the JOBS act. It’s moving very slowly but the commitment to allow this is already there. 

    Why someone like Braff would trade the Kickstarter model, with zero risk and 100% return, for a group on investors who he has to return money too is hard to fathom.

    The real beneficiaries will be the people who aren’t famous enough to have a track record people feel comfortable supporting. Let’s not forget, whatever people think of Braff the odds on him failing to make this film and get it out are almost zero. For your average amateur filmmaker that’s not the case.

    1. Braff was on Terry Gross yesterday, where he said he would prefer to use  a small-investor model. However, there is not a legal way to do that now.  

  6. Two comments –

    One, until the SEC releases and finalizes the JOBS act small-investor-regulations loosening, Kickstarter and others literally legally CANNOT allow the type of investments proposed here.  They’re flat-out-illegal.  You are not allowed to make those investments right now, he would not be allowed to ask for them, etc.

    Kickstarter was very carefully designed (legally and financially) to get around that hurdle.  By offering either goods or services, or merely credit, it’s not an investment (with an expected financial return).  The entire point of the crowdfunding efforts to date is to allow some form of crowd-based non-sophisticated-investor funding within the existing law.

    This may be legal next month or year, depending on the state of the JOBS act small investor changes (which are currently opaque to me).

    Two, regarding Braff and conventional film funding vs Kickstarter…  It’s up to him to chose his funding venues, and up to the crowd to go with it or not.  The idea that nontraditional funding methods for movies are somehow wrong is an insult to the idea of crowdfunding.  If a multi-millionare angel investor says “I’ll fund it personally”, if Kickstarter campaign works, if Braff’s 10 closest friends all chip in, whatever…  It doesn’t matter.  All of these methods are equally valid.  Movie gets made.  Hollywood not being the gating item or controlling entity is the point.

  7. Actually many films are financed through limited partnerships. There are fee’s to set it up. And the gov is involved to make sure that nobody has it too easy to do a make “The Producers II”. He could’ve done this, and by the way if he believed so much in the project he could afford to contribute some if not all if he wanted to. But with “fans” willing to pay it, why should he? I agree, it makes me uneasy that so he is exploiting so many idiots.

    1. Equity investments for non-public companies / partnerships currently (until the JOBS act changes are made…) require that you be a “Qualified Investor” / “Accredited Investor”.

      From the SEC:

      4. a director, executive officer, or general partner of the company selling the securities;
      5. a business in which all the equity owners are accredited investors;6. a natural person who has individual net worth, or joint net worth with the person’s spouse, that exceeds $1 million at the time of the purchase, excluding the value of the primary residence of such person;7. a natural person with income exceeding $200,000 in each of the two most recent years or joint income with a spouse exceeding $300,000 for those years and a reasonable expectation of the same income level in the current year; or

      (the other cases I trimmed are all institutional)

      Today, it would be illegal for me (or the vast majority of those reading these posts) to make those types of investments.  Despite the fact that I make a whole lotta money by normal standards, am aware of risks, can afford to lose some of my money, can do financial analysis and hire more people to do that for me, etc.

      1. Yes, but if they let you invest, they would be admitting that your money belongs to you, and the wealthy gatekeepers who make the laws don’t want you to have the same property rights as they, because then you might parley that into the kind of wealth they enjoy. They’ll tell you its for your own good, but it’s really for thiers. They see the economy as a zero-sum pie where rationing those below them increases their slice, and their very act of limiting upward mobility strangles the economic engine that produces real wealth (as opposed to mere money) in the first place.

        If Congress actually gave a rat’s ass about people not get shafted, it would outlaw Hollywood accounting as the blatant balls-out fraud that it is, but they answer to the lobbyists who pay for their re-election campaigns. At least the Roman Senate had the honesty to admit to being bought and paid for by the equestrian and patrician classes.

        It amazes me that people are willing to start revolutions over what church they pray in, but roll right over for the institutionally enforced inequality that sets one law for the rich and another for the poor and middle-class, ensuring the rich get richer while the vast majority of the rest get fucked over and out.

        What does not amaze me is the consistent apoplectic chorus of supposed Kickstarter “supporters” who invariably hew and haw at how unfair it is that they don’t get to be the gatekeepers Kickstarter exists to cut out.

      2. Hm, that’s strange, because I bought some LP shares back in the 80s, and I wasn’t worth no million.  But I think I’ve seen the Qualified Investor regs before.  Maybe they were passed in the 90s?

        (As a side note, I shouldn’t have bought them, and I think the current regs are a good idea.)

  8. Access to Hollywood is not such an obvious commodity.  Steven Soderbergh couldn’t get a single studio to touch his Liberace film because of The Gay.  He had to go to HBO.  Steven Soderbergh.  That guy with the Oscar and the hugely successful Ocean’s franchise.

    1.  How about Liberace and Wayne Newton buddy pic about a Vegas con, where they rip off a mob controlled (Giancana?) casino?

      1. Maybe if Liberace were really straight and just pretending to be gay to get into Angie Dickinson’s pants.

  9. Where does this line of logic stop? Do you feel I’m wrong to give $30 to the original Space Quest creators for a spiritual Space Quest successor, since the powers-that-be deem adventure games dead?

  10. It’s this simple: I want a new Zachary Braff movie, and here’s a mechanism to help make it happen. Couldn’t care less whether he could have went with conventional funding. What’s so great about the conventional Hollywood model?

  11. He’s smart for being one of the first big names to do this.  If many did, this wouldn’t work.  He’s banking on the novelty factor, much as Radiohead did with their “pay us what you want” album.  People will do it when only a handful of artists use the model because it’s novel.  When everyone starts asking for money, it will become a lot harder to get it.

    1. I can’t see any parallel between this and “pay what you want.”  This is “you give me money for no return” and pay what you want is “you get the thing whether you pay me or not.”  They seem pretty opposite.

      As for the idea that the “pay what you want” model only “worked” because of the novelty, I’m not sure I understand that either.  What does it mean for it to have worked and how would it not work again?

      1. the parallel is that they both work because of a novelty factor.  it’s a small, new market where a big name can elicit behavior that probably would not be elicited in a big market.  if we all got to pay whatever we want for music, I think fewer people would have paid for Radiohead’s album (i.e. it would not have “worked” as well).  if a lot more big names start trying to crowdfund movies, it will not work as well because it won’t be as interesting of an approach and a lot more people are asking for money.  the market will get bigger and noiser.  right now, Braff is a big fish in a small pond in terms of name recognition for crowdfunding.  if that market gets bigger and more visible, that name recognition is harder.  anyway, this is all just my speculation.  YMMV.

  12. The point of Kickstarter is to remove tools like this clown from the equation. We should not be surprised he doesn’t like it.

  13. The problem with crowdsourced investing, of course, is calculating individual interests, paying dividends, and figuring out how to pay actors on a percentage of box office, DVD sales, and the like.

    Do you really think we could figure out a way to send fifteen cents to thirty thousand people who “invested” $250 into a movie twenty years ago? I doubt it. How would we even track them all down?

    1. Cafe Press has rules that would probably work, such as minimum check size, monthly payments, etc.  If they can do it, anyone can (with effort, and technology).

    2. We’ve been managing it for quite a long time with stocks and shares. This really seems to be, at root, about reinventing the wheel. It’s a flatter more democratic version of normal capitalism. 

      The pitch is made for investment, investors (of various sizes) put forward their resources, the project goes ahead. If it makes a profit the investors are paid according to the size of the investment, via their share certificates. If not, they don’t gain anything.It’s a gamble.If, in twenty years, they’re still paying out on the original project (Star Wars say) you won’t really get a penny unless you have your original share certificate – or digital version thereof.Crowd funding is interesting, but real crowd investing could genuinely change the world.

      1. It’s certainly about reinventing the wheel, or at least reinventing an entire duplication of the securities exchange industry. The reason we have an SEC is not merely because people are corrupt, but also because there is a hell of a lot of complicated business involved in tracking and paying the owners of a company justly. IPOs are complicated, expensive, and involve a lot of lawyers because compliance and disclosures are highly technical, and because having the sort of resources necessary to maneuver through the IPO process demonstrates an adequate level of institutional capability to handle all of the complexity involved in having an unknown X number of people with a legal interest in profits and operation.

        I’m not saying this is impossible; I’m saying that we shouldn’t fall victim to the tech-entrepreneur cult of disruption mindset in thinking that we can reverse-engineer the security exchange industry in a handful of websites “but for the regulations.” Crowd investment runs into a straight-up avalanche of legal and philosophical problems that are sufficiently damning *without* the technical problems of having a brand-new New York Stock Exchange built into a WordPress template.

        1. Excellent reply. Thank you.

          I really hope greater minds than mine (hah!) Can work out a way of managing this.

          1. When a buddy of mine and I were discussing this topic over Sunday brunch, we came up with one possibility: all “crowd-invested” parties get bought out first. A sort of first-in-first-out model, so that they’re promised either a buy-out of their interest at a certain percentage of their investment (say, 150% or 200%, so they might double their money), or, if the project is a flop, assets are liquidated and distributed.

            This has a second advantage in that if a project is ridiculously popular with these first-wave investors, a second wave of more “institutional” investors (like banks) could see that interest and invest money in the project. That money could then be used to buy out the early investors at the beginning, before all the dirty business of tracking folks down for penny-payments on trivial dividends.

  14. Kickstarter is not charity, it’s commerce.
    Backers are not “giving money to a millionaire” they’re buying stuff. $30 buys you a ticket to an advance screening, $200 buys your name on the wall, and a shirt and art prints and the soundtrack, and a script and the production diary.

    Is it worth it? well, not for me. But obviously to a Braff fan it is.
    He does not get to “keep” this money – If he’d raised this money from investors, he’d have to give it back. If he raises it from Kickstarter, he has to provide the goods to the people that bought them..

    To cast people buying things they want, from people they respect, as “suckers” seems pretty god damned bitter and cynical.

  15. Ugh. Another internet article/blog post rehashing the same tired points about whether or not Braff is “allowed” to use Kickstarter to fund his film. Thanks to the previous comments clarifying the JOBS Act and pointing out crowd-investing isn’t yet legal, a point Braff himself made when interviewed in other (better researched?) articles.

    Anyone can Kickstart a project! It’s not up to you or me to determine if they’re allowed to do so, beyond our personal choice to back or not back the project.

    Kickstarter is self-regulating.  If a person is able to get backers to fund a project, it means they’ve made their case, offered something people want.  Some people like cat calendars, some people like interpretive dance, some people like graphic novels, some people like Zach Braff.  Support flows accordingly.

    Laughing at people who choose to spend $200 to have their name scrawled on a wall in his movie assumes that money and support must follow some rigid set of rules.  Doesn’t work like that.  Money can represent purchase, can represent patronage… it’s not your $200.

    I haven’t kicked in to his project, but I might.  Especially after reading so many opinions telling me how wrong he is to do so, and insinuating his backers are fools for supporting him.

    Here’s a better idea for a post.  Pay $10 for Braff’s Kickstarter, take the ride.  Get back to us in a year and tell us if it was worth it.  I assume this BoingBoing post has generated at least $10 in revenue.  Considering how it brought nothing new to the conversation, you haven’t yet earned it.

  16. Any chance Michael Schreiber can come back and edit this post to add something like “Unfortunately, half of my argument is legally impossible in the current regulatory environment, I was (unaware/disingenuous) when I suggested otherwise”? 

    I got kind of tired of this story a while ago, but I clicked through because I didn’t think Boingboing would just rehash it again.

  17. I kicked in $200 because I loved Garden State and I’m looking forward to attending the backer screening with the little lady. Totally don’t understand the butthurt floating around about this issue, but best of luck with it.

  18. Why all the sudden capitalist reasoning here on BB? What’s wrong with fans simply supporting what they love, and want more of, and want to be a part of?

    1.  Sorry. My bad. The author is “Editor-In-Chief of”. There you have it.

  19. Levine’s argument is compelling. He essentially says that Kickstarter was created for people who don’t have access to Hollywood.

    If this is true, then Kickstarter is a lot stupider than I thought it was.  I hope this is not true.

    I thought Kickstarter was created so that creators could go directly to their potential audience for the funds to initiate a project.  I was unaware of any means-testing or hipster-virtue requirement.

  20. I’d like some rich benefactor to offer to match the 2.5m and give it to Braff as payment for NOT making a sequel to Garden State.  That would make my year.

    1. It’s not a sequel to Garden State. There, and it cost me nothing. Made your year. 

      Your year is cheap, btw. May want to recalculate.

    2.  Was thinking something similar when I read this:

      The next Kevin Smith is out there…

  21. I’m so unbelievably tired of the “but you could’ve given to CHARITY” argument that seems to crop up every time someone thinks that a Kickstarter isn’t ‘worthy’ for whatever reason. 

    There are tons and tons of absolute crap films that get made by formula every year because the money men believe the math, and often don’t care about the creative side. Just about every director and writer within the industry complains that it is all but impossible to make a movie the way you want to — with your story, your cast, your vision. Kickstarter projects allow for that. If I’d rather vote for someone who wants to challenge the current Hollywood funding model with my money, it isn’t because I suddenly am planning on refusing funds to my local food bank, or won’t back other small artists on Kickstarter. It is because that’s more of what I’d like to see, period.

    Until it is easy for individuals to invest in film projects, Kickstarter (and Indie Go Go, and other venues) are what we have. If you’re giving $50 to the Veronica Mars movie, you aren’t getting ‘nothing’ for that investment. You get your rewards. If you just pitch in $1, you still aren’t a sucker. You just aren’t an /investor/. Neither of those people are idiots.

    1. YES. The Kickstarter = charity argument shows a fundamental misunderstanding of Kickstarter.

  22. What an arrogant fucktard. I’m sorry, when did Ken Levine get to decide what art projects I am allowed to contribute to in exchange for goods and/or services? I don’t remember voting for him.

    Here’s a suggestion: maybe someone can crowd fund a Bioshock game with a combat system that doesn’t gargle donkey balls. Oh but wait, that would be stealing money from cancer victims! Ugh.

    1. LOL oh dear, did someone just need to get out their Bioshock feels? Might have tried reading the article properly first.

      Now if you’ll excuse, I’m going to find an article about Michael B. Jordan and complain about Space Jam.

  23. How is that any different than the Double Fine Kickstarter or the Inxile (Wasteland sequel) Kickstarter? Both of those companies are well established and traditionally get their money from publishers but this time went to the fans. 

    I’d be happy to fund a movie/book/comic/game that I really wanted to see made. I don’t need to get some of the back end to do it.

  24. Not only is the idea that Kickstarter should only be used by “some” projects idiotic, equally daft is the notion that something like Braff’s Kickstarter is taking away money from some other projects.  I guess in the same way me giving some money to a friend’s Kickstarter instead took money out of Braff’s mouth?  I highly doubt that there are people that logged in to Kickstarter with $100 burning a hole in their pocket window-shopping for what to buy.  It’d be interesting to see how many donors to super-successful projects got to the project page via the Kickstarter main page vs. direct link to the project.

  25. Well, I’ll say this for Braff: he’s gonna jump through a few hoops to get his movie made.  Not particularly challenging hoops, but at this writing it seems he’s committed to signing 568 posters and 501 DVDs and 482 art prints, which would make for a sore couple of afternoons, if you ask my wrist.  And then he has to record at least 55 voicemails and 104 made-to-order 20-second video greetings.

    I’m particularly taken aback by the number of people who have pledged thousands of dollars apiece for the chance to be extras.  You know, the job that usually pays about $140 for 8 hours.  I’m not really passing judgment on the Braff fans who were willing to shell out for this opportunity.  I simply had no idea they existed.

    Maybe I oughta watch Garden State.  I couldn’t stand Scrubs.

    1. My experience being an extra was about 16 hours sitting in rooms with other extras (and no actors), and then about 30 minutes or so of filming a scene with the actual actors of the film. Couldn’t imagine doing that for free…

    2. He’ll have his assistant sign them all.  Then his assistant, suffering from hand cramps, will accidentally spill an iced half decaf vanilla carmel macchiato with grated nutmeg on Zach’s brand new Imogen & Willie custom made $400 jeans.  Braff will then hold a Kickstarter campaign to have them dry-cleaned, which will afford him time to vet another assistant, which he’ll then send to the Zach Braff School Of Personal Assistants which, of course, will be funded by another Kickstarter campaign. 

  26. I saw Garden State when it came out. Personally, I found it boring, and pretentious, filled with characters I wouldn’t wipe my feet on. So, I won’t be investing in it.

    But if someone else wants to spend their hard-earned dollars on a sequel, then that’s their prerogative. More power to them, and Braff, I say. 

  27. I think no one would blink if someone paid $100 for a live music concert.  Many of which now feature pre-taped music.  And much of that money would go to rich successful people, not starving artists.  

    1. Actually a lot of people bemoan ridiculous concert prices and refuse to go on principal, and because it’s simply unaffordable. Doesn’t mean there aren’t enough lemmings to fill a hall.

  28. I’ve contributed to Kickstarter projects that do stuff I’d like to see happen.  There’s a lot of tosh in there, but a lot of tosh doesn’t get funded too.

    It’s a free world.  This all sits within Kickstarter’s framework, so big deal.  I’m not funding it because of a residual dull feeling about Braff after the first series of Scrubs – it seemed to dumb right down to rake in the cash.

    Who knows what the impact of this is?  Are there no more Kickstarter friendly investors than before, but diverting their meagre funds to this movie, or are more people joining the community on the back of the news that people like Braff are looking for money?  I’d estimate the latter.

    Kickstarter might morph away from funding small, exciting projects (although given that those are its DNA, I doubt it) – but even if it did, another rising star would step into the gap, perhaps more niche in its content.  Like funding dioramas of molecule sized robots at war.

  29. Ah, remember the days when artists like John Sayles and John Cassavettes took jobs to pay for their indie passion projects? People are free to spend their money however they want, I guess. But I find it strange that there are many people who can’t understand why this would rub people the wrong way. It’s akin to a guy hopping out of a limo in a tux, and then holding out a styrofoam cup and asking you for change.

  30. I’ve thought about kicking in a few bucks here and there for Kickstarter projects before… the main thing that stopped me is that I don’t own a credit card, and they don’t take Paypal.

    What got me to finally not just make an account, but buy a prepaid credit card so I could fund it? 

    The Veronica Mars movie Kickstarter.

    I’m not an idiot, I know that if it succeeds in any way (other than one) all the profits go to Warner Bros, a big corporation I’m not especially fond of.   But the fact is, I feel 100 times better paying a corporation to get something I approve of produced than I do paying them after the fact because I want to see it.  And this way I get a copy of the movie so I don’t have to go out to a theater (and some extra swag).   I’d love the chance to directly fund the production of more things I want to see, whether they’re huge things involving my favorite stars, or small productions… even if I get nothing else out of it than the thing I want to see getting produced.  The thing existing and being something I enjoy is the only success that I need. 

    And, hey, now that I have a Kickstarter account, if I want to fund something a little less corporate, the bar is lower.  I even have a few bucks left on the credit card I’ll probably throw that way.

  31. I found the backlash against this project to be highly irrational. One article I read even suggested that it was abuse of Kickstarter because Braff “gets to stick his penis” in a pretty girl. Just goes to show that you can use emotional appeals to get people worked up about anything. 

    1. I don’t think it’s irrational at all.  Sure, the one example you gave is, but the general bad taste people have in their mouths isn’t.  Sure, he can do whatever he wants and sure, those supporting him can do whatever they want.  But this is a guy who: 1.  has the money to finance his own film if he wants and 2. has already received offers to finance and make the film, but he wanted final cut and “points” (his words), meaning a larger percentage of the profits.  In Hollywood, hardly anybody gets final cut, especially somebody who has only made one other movie (no matter how much of a minor success it was), so getting it financed through Kickstarter just to have final cut instead of financing it himself if he doesn’t like the deal offered to him (a deal that millions of filmmakers would give their eyeteeth for) feels wrong somehow.  But to sucker others into paying for his movie just so he could get a higher state of the profits? That’s scumbaggery of the highest level.  He’s taking no risks in order to reap a bigger payday.  This whole thing reeks of Tom Sawyer suckering the kids to pay him to paint the fence.  Sure, as a kid reading it it’s cool, but when you grow up you realize how much of a shit this kid really is.

      1. None of this constitutes Kickstarter abuse. I don’t think you can assume he could finance it himself. He says he can’t–is he lying? And his desire to have final cut on his film is a totally legitimate reason to crowd fund–presumably he isn’t the first one to be attracted to crowd funding for this reason. The fact that he might license the film for distribution is a given and something that isn’t barred or banned by Kickstarter–and furthermore something most other Kickstarter funded filmmaker would do as well. And the idea that he’ll get a higher cut of the profits isn’t a given–the film needs to be profitable first, but additionally SO WHAT? But the fact remains that he is operating well within the rules of Kickstarter, people are giving to the project of their own free will, and a b-list celebrity has just as much of an ability to legitimize Kickstarter for lesser known filmmakers as he does to harm it. If you have a RATIONAL argument as to why this is ABUSE of Kickstarter, I’m all ears. So far I’m just hearing irrational celebrity bashing. 

        1. I KNOW WHERE MY CAPS LOCK IS TOO. It’s not abuse, never said it was.  He’s following the Kickstarter rules to the letter.  I was responding to why there is backlash.  It’s an emotional reaction to a rich guy asking for people to give him more  money so he can get richer and not have to shell out his own money to do so.  If you can’t understand why people would be turned off by that, I don’t know what to say to you.

          1. I understand why people are turned off by it, because of irrational celebrity bashing based on the emotional appeal of jelousy. He’s an easy target for that, as is Amanda Palmer. And that’s where the real abuse is here. 

          2. Ah, the bitter politics of “envy”  that Romney told us so much about…..

          3. Or you can view it as a guy asking people to pay for him to do work (produce a movie), that the people who would be paying actually want, work that doing would take time and energy away from other projects he might do.    So he apparently isn’t inclined to do it unless he has money up front to cover the immediate costs… I don’t see why that’s such a big sin.  Or any sin.  Doesn’t he have a right to say he doesn’t want to do a piece of work unless his price is met?  Does he not have the right to, if he’s able, also make additional money off that work above and beyond that, if it proves to be so successful that people want to buy movie tickets or DVD copies or the right to air it on TV? 

            If you think it’s not okay for him to decide what he’s going to work on and what he’s going to get paid for it because he’s rich, can I count on you to, if you win a decent lottery jackpot, keep doing the job you were doing before?   At the complete direction of the boss as to your hours and duties, and also refuse a paycheck?  I mean, since you’re now a rich guy and can afford it, why should you ask your boss to pay you, so you can get richer?

          4. Because people are already going to pay him to see the movie?  According to your train of thought, it’s like asking the boss to pay him before working for the work he’s going to do, then asking the boss to pay him after he does the work as well.  It’s not a sin, nor a violation of any rules.  Again I’ve stated he can do what he wants, and the people who give him $150 for a signed copy of Garden State can do what they want with their money.  Just like all of those kids can give Tom Sawyer all sorts of stuff to paint his fence.  Doesn’t stop me from thinking that those kids are idiots and that Tom Sawyer is a little shit.  But, I guess “disagreeables shall always be disagreeable.”, right?

          5. Except many lines of work already DO ask for payment before, and payment after the work is done: You know, half now, half when the project’s completed.

            You seem inordinately wedded to a business model where people HAVE to take huge financial losses up front (or give up a huge amount of creative control to somebody who is willing to take that loss) in order to gamble at a speculative profit down the line.  This doesn’t seem to be me to be a great model for ANYBODY, it’s just the one we’ve usually been stuck with.  If he wants to change it up, great.  Good for him, even if he’s rich.  Because, if he got the movie produced, it still might not make him any real money, but the people who funded it will probably enjoy it, as would the people who got paid to work on it. 

            I don’t personally want to support it, I’ve no interest in the movie, but I don’t think the people are stupid for doing it.  They want the movie to exist, and they’re paying him to do that work in advance.  They may also pay down the line to see the final product.  Which means, yeah, it might cost more for them to see it than another movie, because they’re not being subsidized by a lot of other people as a movie with a broader interest and maybe a few explosions.  Or the people who funded it may later choose to watch it someplace like Netflix where they only pay $8 they were going to be paying ALREADY that month, and it’s effectively free beyond the cost they laid out to get it produced.  Or they may choose to watch it on TV, eventually.  Or they may pirate.  There are a lot of options.   If the movie doesn’t exist at all, there are no options.  Presumably they want it to exist, or they wouldn’t be funding it.  I’d personally prefer if he went crowdfunding, he release it freely, Creative Commons, and him not doing it would certainly affect my decision to donate, if I were anywhere near the fence, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not doing it that way. 

            And yeah, of course you’re free to think the people funding him are idiots, or that he’s a little shit… just as I’m free to think you’re a cheesenozzle who’s waaaaay too wrapped up in what other people are doing for your own good.   Now that we’ve established nobody’s trying to challenge anybody’s freedoms, can you make an argument why you think it’s a bad thing or that the people are idiots for helping to fund something they want to see?   If not, I may go get something to eat… I know, you probably think I’m a sucker for paying for the ingredients for a meal to a millionaire who could produce it for me for free, but that’s just how I roll.

          6. Yep. In this case that’s exactly what it is. There’s really no other explanation for it. 

  32. The backlash against Zaach Braff is completely irrational. 

    I did a kickstarter a while ago, looking to raise 10k to record the soundtrack of my videogame, and I’m pretty sure that I was able to raise the money *because* there were big proyects trying to raise money at the same time I was.

    Big projecs get more eyeballs on the platform, allowing small guys to be noticed and succeed ( Kicstarter even gives you he traffic data 45% of our backers came from outside links, and 55% were repeat backers that were already on the platform).

    PS: And now we are about to release it :)

  33. I’ve felt a little bit awkward about some kickstarter projects in the past, but I think the comments here have changed my mind about it.

    Edit for clarity: What I mean is that I’ve shed my negative feelings and now support the idea of kickstarter being used by anyone for anything.

  34. With the smallest donation, a supporter gets email updates throughout the entire process of creating the film.  He’s already sent out 17.

    People aren’t getting fleeced  – they’re going to enjoy these insider emails and behind the scenes stuff for the next two years. And obviously they believe it’s worth 10 bucks, so everybody crybabying should shut the feck up with all this whining about Braff scamming people or ruining the kumbayaness of kickstarter. Worry about your own life.

  35. What I hate about Kickstarter is the lack of emphasis on enriching the commons. If you use crowd sourcing to fund your development you should make it open (CC-BY-SA or Open Source in the case of software). Enrich the commons, charge enough to cover your costs and work!

  36. The other alternative to shares in a movie is helping make it:

    There’s lots of ways to “contribute” to projects you like – it doesn’t have to be monetarily. Sure, it can be if you’re as cack-handed as I, but it’s worth considering options.

  37. Nobody seems to have made this point yet, so I’ll say it. Lost in the conversation about investors is a fairly basic point: investors lend money with the expectation of getting the money back and the hope of getting back more than they invested. The key feature of a project that has investors is that it’s a money making enterprise, and investors may feel that they should have a say in certain aspects of the project to guarantee that. Kickstarter is more in line with the patronage model: people give money to the project because they think it looks interesting and want to see it get made. The key feature of this type of the project is that it closely resembles the vision expressed by the creators. See the difference?

  38. Didn’t Amanda F’in’ Palmer already discuss the idea of “famous” people doing Kickstarters? Oh right she did and it was even linked to right here on this site:

    For non-product Kickstarters it’s about being part of the experience, saying, “I helped make that,” and not about giving money to someone. It’s about being a fan and joining in with other fans to get more of the thing you love. 

  39. It seems like you’re very much caught up in the idea of not being “a sucker.” You said in your article that “people that willingly give their money to a millionaire in exchange for stuff that costs him nothing are nuts.” Braff is offering some things that are of incredible personal value to his fans. You may not like him as much as I do, but regardless, it’s stuborn and shallow to say that you won’t help fund him because your reward won’t cost him enough money.

    1. Fair point… but I was really more caught up in what the potential value that the $2.5 million represents in terms of equity… if the movie is a hit. That money could very easily turn into tens of millions of dollars for him if it’s even half as successful as Garden State. I think that handing over that kind of equity in exchange for a ticket to the after party is nuts.

Comments are closed.