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Why Zach Braff’s Kickstarter doesn’t feel right

There’s a big furore today surrounding Zach Braff’s Kickstarter for his dream sequel to Graden State, a movie he directed and starred in that has a nice cult following. However he hasn’t made a sequel of any sort since, apparently because he doesn’t want creative control rested away from him. This is understandable, as every artist wants their work to be seen as it was originally intended, but what erks, is the way he’s gone about it.

He’s currently asking backers for two million dollars on Kickstarter, which has been easily surpassed in the past few days and is likely to continue – similar to the Veronica Mars movie campaign. And in some ways that’s great, as it shows the fans really want to see a sequel. That’s leveraging your fanbase in ways that aren’t traditional to Hollywood and mixing it up is great, but I can’t help but feel this whole thing is a little tasteless.

For one thing, Braff should have that $2 million himself. He’s said before that he doesn’t have $20 million in the bank and few people do, but $2 million? Braff was paid over $350,000 an episode for the last couple seasons of Scrubs. At 24 episodes a season, the guy should have a pretty stocked piggy bank. He is of course putting his own money into the project, but this last $2 million is the problem?

On top of that, he’s also said to have turned down a traditional financing offer for the movie. Again, understandable, but this seems to fly in the face of a lot of indie producers and directors on Kickstarter, who really don’t have any other option than Kickstarter. It really feels in an oily fashion that these big stars are hijacking a platform that was designed to help the underdog, not aid the already rich and famous into indulging their lucrative hobby.

And it’s not like you can’t do things your own way while taking Hollywood money. Just look at Louis Ck. He took studio money for his Louie show and did it just how he liked it. When it came to bigger projects like a standup special, he paid for it all himself and then sold it all for $5 a pop. He made a killing and is seen as a media trendsetter because of it.

Celebrity cameos: why not use every advantage you have to get the project funded? 

The bottom line though, is that figures like Braff don’t offer enough to their backers. The reason investors want a bit of creative control, is because they want to make money. Doners, who are stumping up the same amount of cash – albeit in smaller chunks – don’t get anything like that. At $250, you get a voice recording from Braff, a few art prints and clothing items, but that’s it. You don’t get a financial return on your investment in any way. Of course Kickstarter prevents this through its FAQ, which seems a shame – but is understandable to avoid Ponzi schemes and similar – but if you’re not just sticking the movie out there for free afterwards, this isn’t a community project, it’s a business venture and backers should be rewarded by more than just superficial items.

How about the real upper tiers though, the guys dropping thousands on this project. Spend $7,000 and you can name one of the characters, a name that will be featured in the script. For $10,000 you can be an extra with a speaking part. While the difference is there, this really isn’t that far from a studio influencing casting is it? Of course Braff does get to reserve the right to leave your paid for part on the cutting room floor in this instance.

KitGuru Says: I’m all for artists having freedom of expression. That should be the case in Hollywood as much as indie, but if you’re an already famous and wealthy guy you should be giving away far more for backer support. 

I know no one is forcing people to donate to these causes, but I feel like they’re getting a shorter straw than they deserve. 

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