With the in-development Veronica Mars film making headlines recently during it’s record-smashing round of fundraising on crowdosourcing site Kickstarter, Scrubs actor and Garden State director Zach Braff decided to put his latest project Wish I Was Here up for donations on the site.
Due to his personal wealth and industry connections, Braff’s decision was met with a great deal of criticism. The general complaint appeared to be that because he had other means available to him, he shouldn’t have utilised Kickstarter as it was taking away money from projects that truly needed it.
Braff’s rebuttal was that he had attracted donations from people who were not previously members of the site, which in all honesty seems to be a pretty fair assessment. I don’t see how anyone could honestly assert that Kickstater users looking to finance an independently produced documentary on Sudan, could be magically diverted into financing a feature film by an American millionaire. They are competing for funds from two fundamentally different groups of people.
Before this flare-up of high-profile funding campaigns and generic digital grumbling, Kickstarter released a startling group of statistics about the site and it’s relationship with film. Since the site’s inception in 2009, more than $100 million has been raised for indie film projects. Additionally, Kickstarter-backed projects have netted three academy nominations in the documentary category, and 10% of the major Sundance, South by Southwest and Tribeca film festival line-ups included projects funded by the platform.
The Kickstarter user-base is evidently committed to indie film, and Zach Braff and Veronica Mars aren’t going to be enough to impact that at all. With huge outside fanbases literally frothing for new content, regardless of platform, they were always going to throw fistfuls of money at the project if given the opportunity.
So this all sounds fucking wonderful, right? People are funding interesting ideas and projects, and great work is getting made. But for how long? A system awash with huge amounts of money and virtually no regulation is surely going to be a target of greed in any number of forms.
Musician Amanda Palmer has encountered huge criticism after she raised $1.2 million for a new album and tour, and promptly asked for musicians to volunteer perform for free at each gig. This is on top of the questionable nature of her expenditure, which according to multiple sources reeked of what is at the very least, gross financial mismanagement. The New Yorker has an article here, that discusses the Palmer issue in-depth.
The Hollywood Reporter‘s Schuyler Moore outlines in this article, just how problematic Kickstarter and crowdsourcing in general may become. With a bevy of potential legal issues surrounding a large group of people giving you a large sum of money, corporate and governmental greed and sense of entitlement could (and probably will) mar the potential of the movement just as it’s about to take off.
If crowdsourcing can address its major issues of transparency and accountability, while navigating the quagmire of legal issues surrounding solicitations of money, AND at the end of all that retain some sense of integrity and independence from external interests; then and only then will the platform have a future.
Assuming that this can be done, I honestly believe that the future of all art, all enterprising ideas, will be digital and crowdsourced. Cut out the greedy middle-men and let the people have their say directly, this world’ll be fucking better for it.