Are Fans Being Exploited to Finance Films in Hollywood?

27 May

Actor Zach Braff from the popular television series Scrubs recently launched a crowd funding campaign for his independent film Wish I Was Here a follow up to the film he wrote, directed and starred in Garden State. Garden State was a critical success and did well at the box office. The production budget was 2.5 million and earned close to 36 million at the box office. However, for Wish I Were Here Braff decided to raise additional funds through Kickstarter a place where anyone can launch a project and raise money be it filmmakers, musicians, artist and designers. It allows creators to have complete control over their project a problem many creators lose through traditional financing methods. However, some have criticized Braff for exploiting fans and this new financing method. In this article we will explore if these complaints are valid, traditional and new financing methods that allow fans to support films they want to see.

Traditional Film Financing Methods:

Independent films are financed by multiple sources. 43 Ways to Finance Your Feature Film by John W. Cones claim these sources can include gifts, grants, and tax incentive programs, investors financing, lender financing, studio or industry financing and international financing options. For first time producers it is less likely to get studio or industry funding. The less well known you are investor and lender financing can be slim to none. Some artists have been known to put in their own money to maintain control over the end product of a film.[1] Typically, a film with studio, industry and lender financing etc. will have final say on a film. According to Zach Braff he was all set to sign a financing deal for Wish I Was Here but decided against it he states,

I was about to sign a typical financing deal in order to get the money to make “Wish I Was Here,” my follow up to “Garden State.” It would have involved making a lot of sacrifices I think would have ultimately hurt the film.”

He goes on to say,

“Financing an independent film the traditional way often means having to give away your right to “the final cut,” casting choices, location choices and cutting down your script to make it shoot-able on the cheapest budget possible.”[2]

New Crowdfunding Financing Methods:

Crowdfunding is a great option if you are unknown or outside of the studio system.  The most well known are Kickstarter and Indiegogo.com. Kickstarter is what Braff used to raise 3 million for his film. On Kickstarter and other similar rewards-based platforms, users donate money to individual projects but do not receive any financial returns.  Instead they may receive tickets to the premiere or T-shirts. Many see this method as a good way to test the commercial viability of new material.

Criticism over Zach Braff Crowdfunding Campaign:

Some claim Braff is taking advantage of crowdfunding and fans because he’s not an outsider to Hollywood. Below are a few comments taken from Deadline.com[3]

Comment by Michael — Friday May 24, 2013 @ 3:52pm PDT

“…a thirtysomething actor who is trying to figure out who he is.”

This is what he begged the public to finance. Seriously. He asked THE PUBLIC.

I never pegged Zach Braff for a narcissistic sociopath, but I guess you never know.”

Comment by ??? — Friday May 24, 2013 @ 9:44pm PDT 

How does the profit share work on this? He makes all the money no matter what? It grosses 30 million he keeps all that? Wtf? If he only spends 2.1 million he keeps the remaining 900k?Braff claims he just desperately wants to make a movie….so any profit he makes he better put back into other kick starter campaigns for other aspiring film makers. Otherwise F HIM!!!!!

Comment by Kickstarter — Friday May 24, 2013 @ 5:14pm PDT

Go read all the comments on kickstarter for this film. It is making people happy. Read what they say. They are excited. It is so hard to get a film made. Do what you have to do.”

Comment by douwe — Friday May 24, 2013 @ 7:00pm PDT

“I agree with @Kickstarter! Here is an actor who with his money and the public pledges is going to make a satire about the misfortunes of actors at the hands of narcissitic producer/studios. We are All saying, ‘Enough of the remakes and other murderous rubbish fousted by producers on the public!’ Hopefully it will be amusing!”

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62 Responses to “Are Fans Being Exploited to Finance Films in Hollywood?”

  1. Capitalize May 27, 2013 at 4:43 PM #

    Regardless of criticisms of crowdfunding or Braff, I’m curious as to why anyone should be angry at someone who is merely trying to make fans happy? Especially if the fans are choosing to pledge their money, since it’s not like they are being forced to.

    • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 9:49 AM #

      People always feel threatened by something new, which might explain the hostility. If fans are happy who cares. How the film turns out will all be on Braff. He won’t have studios or investors to blame.

      • littlebells May 28, 2013 at 12:53 PM #

        Great article OB! I think what he is doing is just fine. If fans are happy and he’s making films that have substance and aren’t the same pieces of crap HW pumps out their rear, then kudos to him and those who wish to support him. I see a trend with many audiences getting sick and tired of the same old same old.

        • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 6:09 PM #

          Hi LB!

          OMG! What a nice surprise. How are u and slider?

          IA with everything u said.

          • littlebells May 28, 2013 at 7:37 PM #

            Hi OB!

            Slider is fantastic! About to be consumed by millions of kisses

            • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 7:52 PM #

              Ahhh! Hi LB!! Give slider a million more from me.

  2. Open Book May 28, 2013 at 6:54 PM #

    How do u feel about crowdfunding. Do u think its a good idea to test to see if an idea is viable?

    • Comic Relief May 28, 2013 at 7:10 PM #

      Hi OB!

      • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 7:26 PM #

        Hi CR!

    • littlebells May 28, 2013 at 7:39 PM #

      I think it’s a great way to cut out the middle man (HW studios and financiers) and get us the audience members to choose what WE want to see.

      • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 7:54 PM #

        ITA! I think this is fantastic too. Have u ever participated in any crowdfunding campaigns?

      • Comic Relief May 28, 2013 at 8:08 PM #

        Hi LB!

  3. Comic Relief May 28, 2013 at 7:23 PM #

    I’m so glad this a movie about production and the funding of films.

    • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 7:31 PM #

      Z. Braff has supported 7 Kickstarter projects before his campaign for his movie.

      • Comic Relief May 28, 2013 at 7:57 PM #

        This fact helps a great deal because it verifies that he not only recognizes the importance of receiving but more importantly understands the value of giving.

        • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 8:07 PM #

          True!

          • ozzie20 May 28, 2013 at 8:30 PM #

            That’s nice of him. He’ll probably continue doing that after this film too. Even with this debate he’s making people aware of what happens behind the scenes and what they can do to help emerging artists.

            • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 8:49 PM #

              ITA Oz!

  4. Open Book May 28, 2013 at 8:06 PM #

    Some of the criticism is that Z. Braff’s in some way hurting smaller projects by ‘taking away’ funding from them. Do u agree or disagree?

    • Comic Relief May 28, 2013 at 8:08 PM #

      No. How would that be possible?

      • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 8:18 PM #

        Well some argue that a big campaign will drown out the lesser known artist. However, I think it will bring more attention to the site and therefore a bigger audience to the lesser known artist IMO.

        • Comic Relief May 28, 2013 at 8:23 PM #

          I’m sorry I should have been more clear. How is it possible for Braff to steal money or funding from other projects? I don’t really understand the implied concern of these critics.

          Do they think Braff is unfairly penalizing them/

          • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 8:30 PM #

            U Said: “Do they think Braff is unfairly penalizing them/”

            Me: IDK its new and people can speculate the worst to shut down progress. IMO people need to sit back and wait before coming to any negative conclusions.

          • ozzie20 May 28, 2013 at 8:32 PM #

            I don’t understand that either. In my view it’s the opposite!

            • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 8:43 PM #

              U Said: “In my view it’s the opposite!”

              Me: Can u elaborate please? In what way do u think it will help?

              • ozzie20 May 28, 2013 at 8:52 PM #

                I think in brings awareness to just how difficult it is for independent film making. More people will be interested in how it works and in finding out they may come across another project that they like and invest in that.

                • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 9:00 PM #

                  Ahh! Gotcha and well said. ITA Braff has already brought more awareness by his campaign. This story is all over the Internet. Plus Kickstarter has gotten a ton of traffic on the site. Meaning other campaigns are getting seen as a result of Braff’s.

  5. Comic Relief May 28, 2013 at 8:09 PM #

    Oh, I forgot to say this is a great topic for an article. I was glad to see that you were handling the topic in this way.

    • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 8:15 PM #

      Thank u CR!

  6. ozzie20 May 28, 2013 at 8:09 PM #

    Hi everyone!

    Cool article OB! I’ve always wanted to know more about crowdfunding and I’ve heard snippets of what’s going on with Zach Braff. Now I know the full story! 🙂 Being my typical Libran self I can see both sides of the argument.

    • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 8:14 PM #

      Hi Oz!

      U Said: “Being my typical Libran self I can see both sides of the argument.”

      Me: Which one do u side or agree with more?

      • ozzie20 May 28, 2013 at 8:26 PM #

        Hi OB!

        I think I’m leaning more to it being a good idea. I like that there is more control over the whole production rather than having some executives breathing down your neck. New ideas can actually be used rather than being tossed out because someone is scared it won’t make money. Whoever does this though really has to deliver! I wouldn’t want to face angry fans if it failed, lol!

        • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 8:37 PM #

          ITA I think anyone doing this are really taking a risk. However, when u are taking a risk like this u better bring your A-game. What do u think is worse facing angry fans or film critics?

          • ozzie20 May 28, 2013 at 9:00 PM #

            I would think fans would be worse. Critics aren’t the ones who are bringing in the money! If you annoy your fans, you’re going to lose money. Annoying a critic and all you lose are a few people (and their money of course) who listen to them.

            • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 9:06 PM #

              Exactly! U piss off fans then forget it. However, if u please them well they will reward u. I really admire what Z. Braff is doing he really is a pioneer for his peers.

            • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 9:08 PM #

              Do u think if Braff succeeds other actors like him will follow?

              • ozzie20 May 30, 2013 at 7:17 PM #

                Yes, I do. I think this is like an experiment. Everyone’s watching to see if he pulls it off. If he does, it’ll encourage them to do it.

        • Comic Relief May 28, 2013 at 8:40 PM #

          Ozzie I agree.

          The most important thing I heard from the article was that Braff was sure that conventional funding would have changed the message of the movie. I really think many of Braff’s critics don’t understand how easy it is for funders to transform their participation into something self-serving, into something inappropriately commercial or into a contrary campaign for one thing or another.

    • Comic Relief May 28, 2013 at 8:18 PM #

      Hi Ozzie!

      • ozzie20 May 28, 2013 at 8:26 PM #

        Hi CR!

  7. Open Book May 28, 2013 at 8:12 PM #

    There’s been reports of indie filmmakers telling people not to support Braffs campaign and film. What are your thoughts?

    • Comic Relief May 28, 2013 at 8:31 PM #

      “…indie filmmakers telling people not to support Braffs campaign and film…”

      Like I said before; it sounds like his competition is more worried about their necks than anything else. Some people are sure that an expression preference for someone is also a condemnation of some other individual or campaign. This just is not so.

      • Comic Relief May 28, 2013 at 8:36 PM #

        “expression preference” should sound like “expressed preference”

    • ozzie20 May 28, 2013 at 8:46 PM #

      They’re really saying that? Sounds a bit like sour grapes! With Zach the only negative side I can see is whether he has enough money to completely fund it himself. I assume that he’s like anyone with alot of money. He maybe worth so many millions but it’s tied up in many things and can’t be transfered quickly or easily. I hope that makes sense!

      • Comic Relief May 28, 2013 at 8:50 PM #

        Lots.

      • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 8:52 PM #

        Yes it does make sense. Your saying his millions aren’t liquid and easily accessible. I believe he has the money to make the film now he just needs and looking for distribution.

        • ozzie20 May 28, 2013 at 9:03 PM #

          That’s what I was trying to say! I could not remember how to describe it. Liquid assets, capital etc.

          • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 9:13 PM #

            Hey! We are artist not accountants Oz!

            • ozzie20 May 30, 2013 at 7:21 PM #

              LOL! We need Lurker to help us out. 🙂

              Side note; miss you Lurker!

  8. Open Book May 28, 2013 at 8:20 PM #

    BTW here is Braffs Kickstarter campaign page.

    • ozzie20 May 28, 2013 at 9:13 PM #

      I like that even if you pay the minimum you still get something to feel part of the process. It’s not like they’re taking your money then telling you to get lost!

      • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 9:17 PM #

        Hahaha! I know. What a nice way of putting it Oz. I was thinking give me your money and get the hell out. Hahaha!

        Oz! Just to let u know. I would still sit in the front row of your SNL appearance…. I would make u chew gum during your act to avoid getting showered with vomit.

        • ozzie20 May 30, 2013 at 7:39 PM #

          Aww! If I’m having gum you’ll have to be in charge of rolling me off stage. Nerves plus gum and I’ll be competing with Violet Beauregarde in terms of stomach swelling, lol!

  9. Comic Relief May 28, 2013 at 8:31 PM #

    The most important thing I heard from the article was that Braff was sure that conventional funding would have changed the message of the movie. I really think many of Braff’s critics don’t understand how easy it is for funders to transform their participation into something self-serving, into something inappropriately commercial or into a contrary campaign for one thing or another.

  10. Comic Relief May 28, 2013 at 8:34 PM #

    If you think I’m over exaggerating about the influence of investors just look at television or the nightly news. The absence of discussion, unfocused evaluations, and unspecified benefactors frequently makes for less than worth-while mediated opinion. Funding participation frequently assures or enables funder representation.

    • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 8:40 PM #

      This is so true CR! I think crowdfunding give consumers some control over what they want to see versus leaving it up to studios looking out for their own interest.

  11. Open Book May 28, 2013 at 8:47 PM #

    Just to let everyone know. I don’t work for Z. Braff and did not participate in the campaign funding. I only heard about this story a few days ago and decided to research it further and read the positive and negative reviews. I have tried to present both sides of the debate before coming to any conclusions.

  12. Comic Relief May 28, 2013 at 8:48 PM #

    Unfortunately, I have to go. Thanks for a great topic, I appreciate you helping me/us to recognize that I have more opinions about the topic than I had previously thought I had.

    • Open Book May 28, 2013 at 8:53 PM #

      Goodnight CR! Thanks for coming.

      • ozzie20 May 28, 2013 at 9:13 PM #

        Night CR!

  13. Open Book May 28, 2013 at 9:21 PM #

    Everyone!

    I have to go for the evening. Thank u for a great comments, questions and discussion.

    Have a great evening or day!

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