It was probably a year or two back when you first heard about Kickstarter. It might have come to you via news that a few of the A.V. club kids from your high school were using the site to back a science-fiction movie they were always going on about at lunchtime, or that your spouse's obnoxious best friend was trying to get his latest iteration of the invisible sweatband off the ground. However it was that you were first introduced to the crowd funding website, you indelibly thought it was a neat idea... and then never really thought much about it again. Until famous people started using it.
And that's when you either got psyched — as did so many Veronica Mars fans when series creator Rob Thomas launched a campaign to earn enough dough to give his Neptune residents their own movie — or livid. The latter mindset came in no short supply when the public heard that Zach Braff was using Kickstarter to fund a new film Wish I Was Here, one in the spirit of his 2004 dramedy Garden State. Understanding Kickstarter as a means for aspiring artists to craft passion projects they might otherwise not be able to afford, people take issue with famous folk utilizing the service, claiming that the likes of Zach Braff can just make a movie on his own money.
Of course, Braff has shared some words in his defense, via the video below: "It's way more than making a movie. It's creating this community ... in our lives, in our jobs, in our work, there's less and less interraction ... It's a sense of community. It's a club. It's a club of like-minded people who are interested in the same thing." But what might be even more convincing is Kickstarter's words of support for celebrity accounts, and the data to prove their value.
The website released a blog post sharing some surprising number hikes to come as a result of high-profile projects like Braff's. "The Veronica Mars and Zach Braff projects have brought tens of thousands of new people to Kickstarter," the post says. "63% of those people had never backed a project before. Thousands of them have since gone on to back other projects, with more than $400,000 pledged to 2,200 projects so far. Nearly 40% of that has gone to other film projects."
You'd be skeptical to accept any enthusiasm from either Braff or Kickstarter at face value, given the obvious motives either party would have about promoting this sort of endeavor. But if we are to believe these reports, it is clear that the beneficiaries are numerous — and the sorts of people for whom Kickstarter was created, and believed to be a godsend, in the first place. The post continues: "We’ve seen this happen before.
Last year we wrote a post called Blockbuster Effects that detailed the same phenomenon in the Games and Comics categories. Two big projects brought tons of new people to Kickstarter who went on to back more than 1,000 other projects in the following weeks, pledging more than $1 million. Projects bring new backers to other projects. That supports our mission too."
Despite projections like these, opposition to Braff's Kickstarter will sustain, inevitably. People will surface the flaws in his approach of what was deceptively branded as a spiritual sequel to Garden State, continuing to ask why the filmmaker can't use some of his Scrubs money to make the film. Ultimately, however, no matter what you feel about Braff or his latest creative endeavor, you have to look at the silver lining: his playing poster boy for the company seems to be helping those seeking its services out of necessity. Because of the newsworthy campaigns, smaller projects are earning run-off attention.
People are learning about Kickstarter thanks to Wish I Was Here and Veronica Mars... and thanks, in part, to all of the heat these items are receiving. Press is leading them to the site, where they are discovering hidden gems in which to invest their attention, passion, and money. So whether you want to see Wish I Was Here get made, whether you think we should be the ones paying for it, be thankful for it: it might help you take your own movie off the ground someday.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter