The Zach Braff Kickstarter Thing

So Zach Braff—a known actor/producer/director—tapped crowd funding outlet Kickstarter to raise $3.1 million for a pet project. This has people divided between two reactions:

A. "Good for him!"
B. "That asshole!"

I can see both sides, so let's review. We'll start with B.

A lot of people (mostly aspiring filmmakers) are upset that someone who has already made a name for himself, and who ostensibly has—if not the money itself—access to resources (studios, producers, financiers), would instead opt to use this independent means to raise funds for a project. The argument seems to be, "That's less for us!" And it's not entirely invalid. If a potential contributor only has so much money to donate, giving to a known entity like Braff may very well trump their giving to someone else. Braff also had the resources to get the word out about his campaign far more broadly than a lot of struggling indie writers/directors. He's been getting all the attention. (And by the way, this ongoing fuss is only giving him and his project more attention.)

Crowd sourcing or crowd funding has been seen by many who have dreams of working in the industry as a way to make that one, or two, or dozen films that will showcase their talents and break them in, get them noticed. But it's kind of like self-publishing. The easier it gets to make your own movie, the harder it is to get any one of them noticed unless it wins a bunch of awards (and even then it depends on which awards). And this is all assuming you can raise the money to begin with, which is difficult enough, even when going begging online. When everyone has a project, no one wants to give to anyone else. It's every man for himself. Sad but true. There are exceptions of course, but they only prove the rule.

On the flip side of this, crowd funding is used by many indie directors to keep from having to answer to a producer or studio about the final product. That is to say, when the money comes from a studio or production company, those entities want a say in what happens and how and when. They want to protect their investments and hopefully get a good return on them in the form of a film that makes money. But what's a writer or director to do when they want to make a movie that's not destined to be a blockbuster? When no one in the industry will sign on to make that movie? Or when they want to stay true to their artistic vision without interference from higher ups? Well, they ask friends, family, and strangers for the money in return for acknowledgement and a few prizes. That is, they crowd source.

Even indie directors who have made many films and could possibly get other forms of financial backing for their work, having proved their talents and abilities, still do this. They prefer to do it, for all the reasons I've listed in the above paragraph. They want control of the work. Final cut. A say in the casting. The ability to protect the script. &c. And these are the reasons (as I understand it) Braff says he wants to crowd fund his movie, too. So . . . Are the very people who do it for the same reasons going to fault him?

No. Again, it's the ones who have yet to make even that first film, or the ones who have only made one or two, and then a lot of these people haven't even tried to use Kickstarter themselves to fund any projects. They're more outraged at the idea of Braff using it than anything else. These are people who want to be part of the industry, the system, and can't understand someone who is in already wanting to go outside it. And I'm not disparaging them. I'm in the same place, still trying to break in, and my initial reaction was irritation too. But then I thought about it. And I thought about some of the indie directors I met at AFF who use crowd sourcing, even after six or ten or twelve films. And I concluded there are simply different ways to make a movie, and some ways are right for some films/people and others are right for others. Congress between the various sides and ways shouldn't be dammed up. Ideally, paths stay open on all sides.

Ideally. Though of course we all know how difficult it is to get to the top of that hill. At least the first time. You know how, when you drive somewhere new the first time, the trip seems long and sometimes confusing? But the next time you go, it's faster and easier. And the more often you go, the more routine it becomes. Yeah. It's like that.

Those of us who are still trying to get there the first time, well, good luck to us all. Braff made it up, now he's coming down for a bit, no rule against that, and it's his journey. Everyone gets their own. Everyone makes their own path.

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