Saturday, May 18, 2013

My final word (I hope) on Zach Braff and Kickstarter

I thought I was going to drop this subject but there have been more developments and I’ve been barraged by requests to comment. And since I can’t produce a slick video and get fifty major websites to embed it like some people can, I’ll have to take one more day on the blog to respond. Tomorrow I’m back to the usual nonsense I promise.

After getting the money he begged for on Kickstarter for his follow-up movie to GARDEN STATE, Zach Braff now has “gap” funding from Worldview productions. The Kickstarter campaign drew enough attention that he was able to achieve what he set out to do originally and that is get a movie financed that guaranteed him autonomy. I hope he refunds some of the Kickstarter money and I suspect he will. This was never a scheme to swindle anyone. And I have always said I admire that Braff wants to be true to his vision. But in essence those who donated money to his Kickstarter campaign were providing Braff bait. You were kind of pawns.

And again, young filmmakers in Kalamazoo don’t have the access to leverage their Kickstarter largesse and fame into making a financing deal with a production entity.

This gets back to the argument I originally made that in my opinion crowd funding sites should be championing the little guy, not $22 million dollar celebrities. For that opinion I have taken a lot of criticism. Who am I to say who should be allowed on Kickstarter? Who made me Grand Poobah of the internet? Hey people, do what you want. Support whoever you please. Buy Zach Braff a new Tesla if you like. But I think it’s wrong.

Kickstarter, in a response to my article and others like it, maintained support for Braff and other notables. Well, of course they did! Celebrities draw attention to their website and bring in more traffic.   If there’s a big winner in this whole brouhaha it’s not Zach Braff, it’s Kickstarter. Does the increased traffic result in more funding for the small productions? Maybe. I hope so. But it sounds suspiciously like the “Trickle Down Theory” to me. It’s up to you to decide whether that worked.

But it seems I am not alone in my stance. Kevin Smith, who I have never met, has been trying to get the financing to make CLERKS 3. On Reddit recently he wrote this:

"We nearly Kickstarted the budget back in November, but now I'm feeling like that's not fair to real indie filmmakers who need the help. Unlike back when I made CLERKS in '91, I've GOT access to money now - so I should use that money and not suck any loot out of the crowd-funding marketplace that might otherwise go to some first-timer who can really use it.

"So if I can get away with it, I'm gonna try to pay for CLERKS III myself. As much as I love the crowd-funding model (and almost did it myself in early 2009 with, that's an advancement in indie film that belongs to the next generation of artists. I started on my own dime, and if I'm allowed, I should finish on my own dime."

Sound familiar?

Other points:

In his glossy promotional video Zach Braff maintains that studios would interfere with his casting choices. He recently signed Anna Kendrick (a hot actress with an Academy Award nomination) and Josh Gad (the toast of Broadway in BOOK OF MORMON and a highly sought-after TV and film actor). Uh… what studio would veto those choices? It’s not like he wanted to hire me to play one of the roles. If he was going to hire all unknowns or even non-actors I could see where a studio might have serious reservations. This is a business. But Braff just hired two hot extremely talented young bankable actors. So I don’t buy that argument unless he intends to have Josh Gad play his mother.

One final thought: Just because a celebrity goes on Kickstarter does not automatically mean they’ll fund their project. Poor Melissa Joan Hart. Despite her vow that she’ll follow you for a year on Twitter (maybe the greatest incentive EVER), she has failed to secure financing for her movie. She hoped for $2 million and got $51,605 from only 315 supporters. But the good news is that’s 315 fewer people she has to follow.

Okay, that’s hopefully it for me.  Zach, I await your next video.


Loosehead said...

Big difference between "I think Zach Braff is wrong" (your position, I believe) and "You are wrong to think Zack Braff is wrong" (the opinion of your naysayers). One is you expressing your opinion, the other is someone trying to deny your right to have and express your opinion. If Zach Braff is correct to try and get non-studio funding, incidentally and indirectly increasing his own profit by removing a big drain on the proceeds of the film, then they should say why that is so.

Jill said...

I'm a Zach Braff backer and despite what you or others might believe, I am not mentally impaired nor was I forcibly separated from my money.
I work very hard for my money. I'm not a gambler or shopper but I enjoy traveling and searching out new experiences. I feel by backing this particular project I've joined a temporary community and I'm enjoying the daily updates regarding the project and a partial insiders view that I wouldn't otherwise have had. I don't feel like I was used as bait and if Zach now has additional backers then good for him. As far as I'm concerned, no harm, no foul.
For the record I have supported Kickstarter in the past on much smaller projects and will continue to do so.


It seems obvious that Zack Braff has been using his Kickstarter supporters as a leverage to obtain funds from the big studios. It's a despicable move. And with every passing day Kickstarter is becoming more and more a Ponzi scheme.

Mr. Hollywood said...

You are so right Ken. Period. Zack Braff should secure his own funding. He's coming from a very different place then the guy living in Omaha.
This is not debatable. Get the money from your buds Zack. Leave Kickstarter to the people who REALLY need their help!

Anonymous said...

The casting he wanted control over was himself as the lead.

Emily Blake said...

I don't really see anything wrong with Zach Braff using Kickstarter. He said he was contributing his own money to the project. What I didn't like was that no matter how much you contribute, you don't get a copy of the film. I get why, but still...

At first I gave $10 to the project, but then I started searching around Kickstarter at other projects. I found this great indie about being a teacher and decided to take the money I would have given Braff - since he had no problems making his goal - and give it to this other film instead. I'll actually get a copy of that film, and I'll help out a needier group.

But that's my choice to make. I think it would only be fair of Braff to let his contributors know exactly what's going on now that he has funding, and give them the opportunity to take their money back. If they want to give knowing the situation, that's their call. But they should be informed.

Observer said...

On the heels of the Braff Kickstarter, another actor started their own. This person doesn't have a huge amount of star power. The film site and Kickstarter are poorly designed, with a rambling synopsis, spelling errors and a Kickstarter goal far beyond what I think this person is capable of raising. The amount chosen was purely because Braff did it.

Fact is, this person isn't going to fund their film through Kickstarter. They looked at the model, saw a celebrity doing it, figured all celebrities will get thousands of fans throwing money at their projects, and shot far beyond what they should have. As a result, they'll end up with nothing.

I have a bigger problem with this type of thing, where a somewhat known actor thinks they can score big off fans and shows a less-than-stellar plan off by over-asking for funds on a page rife with spelling errors. The lack of care taken to present this to the fans shows what a cash grab it is. I think we'll see a lot more of this thanks to the Braff Kickstarter.

Jest Jake said...

Never a true fan of Kevin Smith, but he might convert me yet - especially after his Kickstarter comments. As for Braff, nobody will ever convince me that he wasn't using Kickstarter to gain leverage to have his film made his way, that was a given. But him kicking back some of the funds he's received? There's not a chance in hell of that happening, Braff is to far to selfish for that. What Braff should do is at the very least give every one of those fans who donated money to his vision a free ticket [to see the film in a theater] so they don't get taken advantage of again.

And, of course, Kickstarted defended Braff. The 5 - 7% or whatever it is they get makes that defense a no brainer.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Wow... I never realized until now, but look how old Zach Braff has gotten: the thin hair, the middle-aged spread, the sunken-in eyes... wow...

Mister Charlie said...

You're right, Ken, it should be for people without access to money. Your arguments about this are spot on all the way down the line. And of course you are only expressing your opinion.

Bebe Rebozo said...

Oh stop it!!!

Julie Ann Sipos said...

Ken, I like you all affronted and latest causey.. I also like you old school and rambly, but that's beside the point. As for your perplexing resistance to breaking the rules and bucking the system, your whole good humored brand is there are no rules and the system is working relentlessly against sitcom stars from ten years ago, among other hasbeens, wannabes and never weres. In making Garden State, Braff seized his fleeting moment to transcend another largely forgettable network comedy, depending on your taste. Call it ruthless, deceptive and/or genius, but why the fresh-faced innocence, Ken? Hollywood is here to direct every last one of to run for the hills and jump off the sign; the lucky ones get to offer up a few memorable laughs en route. If this new venture goes well, an emerging creative voice will have pulled the rare Tom Hanks and you'll be deliciously roasting the crap out of him come Oscar night. Good on him. And you. Love, Julie

Frank Paradise said...

Hopefully Ken will change his mind about Kickstarter when Adam Sandler begs for 20 million to finance his next hilarious film about a very old boy who acts like a dog.

BigTed said...

Have you heard that Brian Grazer is thinking of crowd-funding a 'Friday Night Lights' movie? I never had a problem with Zach Braff, but if Grazer can't get a movie financed the old-fashioned way, who can? Especially one based on a TV show that's already based on a movie. I can believe a 'Veronica Mars' move would never get made any other way, but this is a big studio property that should be able to get studio money.

Mary Stella said...

The heck with Zach Braff. How do I get in touch with Kevin Smith? Kevin, I'd contribute to help you finance a movie.

DrBOP said...

More baseball stories!


Thomas said...

Ken I have to admit, I'm a bit baffled by your resistance to this. It's not that people who back Braff's project (I am one of them) don't get anything.

Braff is not offering "I'll follow you on twitter" rewards. For 30 dollars you get an advanced on-line screening with Q&A, a copy of the script and a production blog. If you are fascinated by making movies, that's a pretty cool thing. And you get to be part of something. I get that since you have been part of it on numerous that holds no appeal to you. But for many it does.

The way I looked at it was the same way I looked at every Kickstarter project I've backed so far: what's the end goal and what do I get in exchange for my money. (First project I ever backed was 20 000 dollars for a dvd of a one night only performance by my favourite Jazz guitarist. The reward for 50 dollars: a exclusive album, and the dvd/cd for the project. That works out to 25 dollar per album. That's a pretty good deal. (CD/dvd prices are slightly higher in the Netherlands than the US).)

The rewards with Braff are pretty fair for what you are getting.

The pre-sale of the foreign market was a stupid thing to do before the kickstarter ended. It doesn't look good, no matter how logical it is for him to do it. You can't make the kind of movie he wants to make for the barely 2 million he'll have left from kickstarter (after fees and costs for the T-shirts, albums, artwork etc. etc.). He did always say that it was going to be part of it. But PR-wise it's a dumbass move.

Zach Braff gets to make an other movie. Great. Garden state is a lovely film. He's had more experience directing since (some scrubs episodes), I'm curious to see what he does next.

And maybe the casting of Josh Gad would not have been approved by backers, since he is unknown outside the US (I only know about him through a daily show interview and a few episodes of his failed sitcom). He's from broadway, that doesn't travel.

Mandy Patinkin is hot right now with Homeland, which is a hit everywhere in the western world I believe. But he does have a reputation for walking away and some backers might not want to take that risk.

Now Braff has said he could get backers the traditional way. But he wanted to keep control and try something new.

If someone else has a good idea for a movie and wants to kickstarter. Maybe they'll be successful. If the Melissa Hart example teaches us anything I think it would be "you best bring it".

Braff is working hard to bring it. He doesn't need to refund anything, since he will probably deliver on what he promises: a movie and some very cool extras.

I might be crazy but I doubt I'm insane.

Johnny Walker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny Walker said...

Ken, you're a brilliant, funny, generous guy. Sometimes, however, you're wrong. This is one of those times.

What you're talking about is an error ridden article from The Hollywood Reporter that has since been retracted following Braff's statement, below:

Dear All,

The movie trade publication "The Hollywood Reporter" released an article today with a lot of wrong information about our project and I need to clear up some of what they said. I seem to get called a "douchebag" quite often these days. And that's fine; not everyone's gonna root for my success... but I can't sit by while my fans get wrong facts.

This is a whole new way of making a movie. There is lots of discourse on Earth about it. Some of it is very misinformed. Let's clear it up so you have it from my mouth. I will tell you the truth. As David Mamet's writes in his masterpiece, "Glengarry Glen Ross": The truth is the easiest thing to remember:

The Truth:

— The story out there about the movie being fully funded by some financier is wrong.

I have said on here and in every interview I've done on this project that the film would be fully financed from 3 sources:

My Kickstarter Backers
My own money
Pre-Selling foreign theatrical distribution.
Those three amounts will bring us to a budget of around 5 to 6 million dollars.

— Nothing about the making of this movie has changed. This movie is happening because backers funded it.

This film would not be happening without my backers. The traditional way is to have a financier put up the money and then sell the foreign rights. What I did, was to say to my fans, "If you and I provide the capital, we don't need some rich dude dictating how we make the movie; we can then go sell foreign distibution and we'll be all the way to our goal. Are you interested in that? So far 38,455 people have said yes.

— What happened today is that a financial company agreed to fill in the gap between what Kickstarter backers have funded and what I have put in, and what the movie will actually cost. Shooting could not happen without this.

When you pre-sell foreign distribution, you don't get that money for some time. So you need to go to a company to provide something called "Gap Financing". They are essentially a bank. Loaning us the "gap" between what we've raised together and what we need to actually make the movie. I have no idea where a 10 million dollar number came from but it is wrong and a lie.

— This loan is secured against proceeds generated by selling the foreign rights to the movie. That's been the plan all along.

This loan, helps us start! We're opening an office and casting and we're fully under way. We couldn't be doing that without "Gap Financing" to cover our... (wait for it) gap. As these foreign sales are occurring as we speak at the Cannes Film Festival, you will likely be hearing more and more about them. It is good for us! More eyes on our movie

--- snip ---

Nobody was bait, nobody is getting a refund. You've gotten completely the wrong end if the stick.

Anonymous said...

For people who don't get why Zack's kickstarter upsets people on a gut level, let me frame it this way. It's like Mitt Romney going to a soup kitchen to eat because, hey it's free food and he pays taxes and it's his right, but then he gets to go to the front of the line and get triple helpings just because he's Mitt Romney. It gets right at the heart of people's notions of fairness, and if enough filmmakers feel Kickstarter isn't a fair system they will stop participating.

david golbitz said...

When Zach Braff first put up his Kickstarter, I was fine with it. I backed it to the tune of, I think, $35. Not a lot of money, but not pocket change, either. Not to me, anyway. I admit to being underwhelmed by the "rewards," such as they were (no reward tier that includes a DVD copy of the movie? Really?), but I let it slide because it sounded like a movie I'd want to see, and I liked Garden State, so I wanted to see what Braff was going to make next.

But once I read that he had secured funding for the movie, the Kickstarter campaign sort of became irrelevant, didn't it? He didn't need our money anymore. So I canceled my pledge.

I'll still check out this movie when it's released. I don't begrudge Braff his Kickstarter, whether it was disingenuous or not. Movies cost a lot of money to make. I get that. We all get that. And if my $35 was going to help a project be made, that was an investment I was willing to make. But with real investors involved now, I can use that money on a different project that I want to see made, one that maybe has less of a chance.

(For the record, I also gave $100 to the Veronica Mars movie, because I REALLY wanted to see it made, and they're gonna give me a Blu-ray copy. Plus, there was zero chance of a Mars movie being made without Kickstarter; maybe the same was true for Braff at first, but that's certainly not the case now.)

Anonymous said...

Just because someone has access to Industry Pros, it doesn't necessarily mean the Industry Pros will say yes to a project the way the filmmaker wants to make it.

In the event the film won't be made by studios, there is nothing wrong with seeking other funding sources such as Kickstarter.

There is no such thing as a guaranteed 'yes', especially in Hollywood.

Anonymous said...

You're ridin' the viral serpent, man. kick it.

Johnny Walker said...

David, he hasn't secured funding for the movie. The press just repeated a completely incorrect article in Hollywood Reporter that has since been retracted. Journalism today. *sigh*

Here's the original article that has since been completely stripped back (despite its headline):

Here's Variety reporting the correct information:

I'm surprised Ken hasn't corrected his post.

Johnny Walker said...

Anonymous, the problem with your "soup kitchen" analogy is that it views Kickstarter as a charity. The people who put money into it aren't donating for sheer goodwill, they're doing it for selfish reasons: They want a given project to become a reality, because they want that project for themselves.

I don't have a percentage of my monthly budget going towards random Kickstarters -- I find the money to support the projects I feel strongly about.

A much more accurate analogy would be to view Kickstarter as a shop (which it isn't, but it's more analogous): I browse the shelves, looking for something I want to buy. When I see something I must own, I'll take my purchase to the till.

Does that mean that if I buy Zach Braff's latest DVD that Kevin Smith's latest film will get less sales? Possibly. But I know that if I really want to watch both that I'll find a way to see them. Either way, it's my money going towards items I wish to own -- not money I'm donating out of goodwill.

Sometimes gut feelings are wrong, and I don't mean any offense by this, but you sound like someone who's never actually used Kickstarter.

Barry Traylor said...

As I think I stated in my first post on this subject I did not know who the hell Zach Braff was and I still don't care.

Jason Roberts said...

check this out. It's from Josh Malina an actor that is currently on Scandal and got his start acting in almost everything that Aaron Sorkin produces.

I think you will appreciate the this:


Terry said...

Ken, you're right. You and Kevin Smith and several commentors here are right. This is no question that the pledged money is being used as leverage--whether that was the original intent of Braff or not. Some big rich folks saw enough interest for them to invest and expect to see a profit. Rationalize it all you want, donate if you like, but don't be fooled into thinking this thing is anything other than what it is: wealthy people finding a way to get richer.

Anonymous said...

I don't buy this zero sum argument of Braff's project detracting from other Kickstarter projects. I'd be willing to bet the vast majority of money raised on Kickstarter comes from people finding out about the project outside of the actual Kickstarter site and someone deciding they want to back it as opposed to discovering it through the site itself (yes this makes all the difference). As you say Kickstarter itself is the big winner in all of this publicity.

I think what really irks people is that he is basically getting free money (less the expense of the rewards). But it's hard to make this argument because its not based on anything other than emotion of not wanting someone else to have something good you've decided they don't deserve.

chuckcd said...

I think Johnny Walker and Thomas have it right. I have backed Zach Braff's project, because I want to see it, and I like feeling a part of the process.

I like the rewards that are being offered.

I like Zach Braff and I want to see his project get made his way.

If the "little guy" in Madison Wisconsin has a project I think is cool, and if I want to be part of that, then I will back him as well.

Anonymous said...

Braff's story has made the big time. ;-)

pam aka sisterzip

Johnny Walker said...

Re: NBCNews

What an insane article. It's the first time I've ever heard someone running a Kickstarter project labelled as "greedy". How dare Braff taking money out of the pockets of poor, starving studios!

When did it become a crime for an artist to take money from those who appreciate their work, instead of a middle-man taking a slice?

It's incredibly upsetting to me that one of the greatest inventions of our time. Something which finally returns artists to having a direct relationship with their fans, and helps kill off the Rupert Murdochs and Simon Cowells (those who buy and control other people's work, profit by it, while not producing anything themselves) is being vilified by those who don't (or refuse to) appreciate how important it is.

Sorry to rant. I'm just quite passionate about this subject.

Anonymous said...

Just saying.

Craig Foster said...


Would you give a dime to 2 completely unknown filmmakers trying to raise $2 million? :)

I'm running an experiment to see if enormous success on crowd funding is only achievable by celebrity filmmakers. Our target is also $2 million and, in addition to making our own short film, we plan to fund as many short films as we can for other short filmmakers around the world.

For more details check out:

Thought you might be interested.