C'mon Hollywood: Why should we pay you to make movies?
This past week we witnessed a new evolution of crowdsourcing. The campaign to greenlight a VERONICA MARS movie, based on the short-lived TV show starring Kristen Bell, was able to raise more than it’s $2 million goal in less than 24 hours, making Kickstarter history and sounding the war drums for fans all over the world. It felt like a glorious victory for the show, which has a loyal and dedicated fanbase, fueled by the show’s creator, Rob Thomas. For his part, Thomas has remained committed to seeing the show return, which lasted for three seasons before petering out due to low ratings.
As of this writing, the Kickstarter campaign has garnered $3.6 million, which is well above the proposed goal and still with 25 days to go, while expanding into more international markets. It sounds like a dream come true, right? The fans have spoken with their wallets and now their dreams of seeing the show continue will come true! Everyone wins!
Or do they?
Let’s first consider what Kickstarter (and others like it) is: Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects, such as films, games, music, art, design, and technology, brought to life through the direct support of others. Now, who would need such a thing more? Big-name studios or new filmmakers?
The majority of film projects that are successfully funded via Kickstarter fall in the $10,000 or less goal. So, what does that kind of money say about those raising money for their film? It says that it’s mostly independent filmmakers trying to make their way into the medium; people who don’t have a major studio property or Hollywood connections. They’re simply ambitious artists trying to make a career in a very tough industry, with the majority of the money probably coming from family and peers.
Now, guess how many film projects have raised $1 million or more via Kickstarter? Only one: VERONICA MARS, a well-established property owned by Time Warner., a billion-dollar a year corporation with its hands in film, television, books, Internet, etc. Yes, a company with plenty of damn money to fund a feature film of a cancelled TV show.
Here’s the first issue (and what I see as the biggest): Crowdsourcing a major studio film immediately steals the wind from the sails of lower budget indie projects that are trying to take flight. There’s no proof in numbers on that yet, but it’s what I suspect will happen if this becomes a trend. By taking the spotlight away from new filmmakers trying to make their first feature and giving it to a group of well-established creatives and big-name studios, it makes it that much harder for them to take advantage of the Kickstarter phenomenon, which best serves the starving artists who have yet to garner any kind of recognition that could net them that kind of support.
If VERONICA MARS’ success creates a flood of campaigns by well-established filmmakers then you suddenly have a rush of people tossing money into nostalgic-minded or creator-centric projects (think GHOSTBUSTERS 3 or Scrubs: The Movie, etc.), leaving the new guys back to square one, their new window of opportunity gone, like a bully stealing lunch money on the playground. “Sorry dude, I already pledged $85 bucks for a sequel to SERENITY. Good luck with your indie flick, though.”
Then, there’s the common sense factor: Why should we pay studios to make movies? Don’t we already pay when we buy a ticket? Consider that the studio isn’t funding VERONICA MARS’ budget at all. The budget is whatever is raised on Kickstarter. Warner Bros. is picking up marketing and distribution, but that’s it. I mean, really, could we have made it any easier on them? It’s the most risk free investment they’ve had since Nolan ushered in THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy.
And, here’s the kicker; there’s no guarantee that VERONICA MARS will be successful! Fans pledging $3.6 million isn’t small potatoes, but it doesn’t guarantee that the final film will generate any more than that at the box office (or VOD, which is where the film is headed). Warner Bros. could easily have funded the film themselves after seeing the level of interest, but instead they’re going to allow the film to proceed with your money as the budget. The risk of a flop remains the same, whether they fund it or not, but why take on the budget if they can just use your cash? Not only that, but get you to pay twice (or more) with DVD, digital downloads, and rentals.
I’m more than happy to see the fans have a project they love come to life again. I think it’s great. I think the pledge support alone has proven that the desire is there. However, it feels like abuse when they’re paying the budget for the film when there’s a billion-dollar studio that is well within its means to fund it on its own. There’s a whole generation of filmmakers scraping things together to make their own projects, which are underfunded and without the benefit of big-name stars and studio support. These are the creators who will usher in the future of TV and cinema; fresh voices and new ideas that will create the next VERONICA MARS and the like.
Fans can support what they want and do what they want with their money. If a cheap t-shirt and a “signed” DVD is worth paying to have a movie made and then paying to see it, then so be it. But, think about every shit movie you paid to see in theaters; Would you want to pay that twice? Would you want to be responsible for it? Let the studios take the risk, just like any other business. Your ticket purchase is enough. You want to invest? Do it for those that are hungry for a first chance, rather than those wanting another risk-free gamble on a past failure. The choice is yours.
|Extra Tidbit:||What do you think? Should studios have the right to muscle in and use Kickstarter? Do you think it's fair? Is there enough room for big studio projects and smaller indie fare? Let's hear what you think about this!|