If you want to make a movie or an album or a talking robot dog, just create a Kickstarter project. If you market yourself right, you could be sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars by the end of it.
The grand christening of Kickstarter as the go-to crowd-funding service was at the beginning of 2013 -- when two high-profile projects broke ground on the website. The first was Veronica Mars. The cult classic TV show raised over 2 million dollars to produce a movie"“ which is in theaters now.
The second was another movie project "“ writer/director/actor Zach Braff's sophomore effort, Wish I Was Here.
In his Kickstarter project video, Braff appealed to fans to pledge money for his project so that he could make the kind of movie he wanted to make. He wanted complete control without any involvement from a big studio. The video was fun and informative, and in the end Braff got what he wanted. The movie raised over 3 million dollars.
However, a lot of people weren't happy about Braff's crowd-funding endeavors. Many believed that a rich, big-name celebrity making a movie was a tragic misuse of Kickstarter "“ a service they believed is meant for people who otherwise have no means of financing their ideas.
Braff explained himself, and even the people over at Kickstarter stated that his project was well within the parameters of their intent for the website, but it didn't matter. The filmmaker was maligned in the media. Article after article after parody video after angry blog rant was posted mocking the filmmaker's moneymaking tactic. The big question being asked across the Internet was: why can't he just pay for the movie himself with that sweet sweet Scrubs money he's sitting on?
The situation only got worse when it was revealed that "“ in addition to the 3 million he was accepting from fans "“ Braff was also receiving financing from a few rich investors. Not only was he taking money from us fans when he could probably pay for the movie out of his own pocket, but he was defeating the purpose of the whole "keep big financing out of the equation so I can have complete creative control" thing by still taking money from investors.
Well, the vitriol died down and everyone forgot about Braff's movie. Now, the trailer is out. And it looks pretty terrible.
From the overly-saccharine dialogue, to the eye-rolling usage of Shins music, to the puke-inducingly sentimental story that the trailer hints at, Wish I Was Here looks like it's going to be a cliché, mind-numbing piece of crap. What can you expect from the writer and director of Garden State?
So Kickstarter has failed, right? The system seemed promising, but if it's just ANOTHER avenue for horrible movies to get made, it's no better than the Hollywood machine, yes? Is Braff's movie a nail in the coffin "“ proof that, over time, even the coolest, hippest, most useful things get over-saturated and taken hostage by jerks with bad ideas?
No. Wish I Was Here is great for Kickstarter. It's the best thing that could happen to a fledgling platform that is edging so dangerously close to the sun.
What happens to everything on the Internet? Whether it's Myspace, Livejournal, Digg, Facebook, 4Chan, Reddit, or Chatroulette, it starts off small and cool, and then it gets filled to capacity with useless features, stupid people, and bad content. And then it becomes boring.
Kickstarter, as amazing a concept as it is, is always treading very near that territory. If everyone and their grandma is creating a project for whatever inane idea briefly flutters through their mush-brain, and people are throwing their pledges left and right at all these terrible ideas, the website will eventually get overrun by mediocrity. The good projects will get swallowed up by the thousands of bad ones, it'll start becoming harder and harder to find something worth pledging to, and eventually everyone will stop caring. Before it gained mass exposure, pretty much any project you could find on the website was probably worth kicking at least five bucks towards. Now, crappy Kickstarter projects are becoming a bit of a joke. Kickstarter will die. It'll absolutely happen down the road on this path.
The best thing that can happen to Kickstarter, while it's still awesome and everyone still cares, is a really high-profile failure. It needs to find a glass ceiling of quality that everyone will become scared to break through. Wish I Was Here needs to come out, and it needs to REALLY suck. It needs to be ridiculed, win a Razzie, and go down in history as one of the biggest flops that Kickstarter has ever had. It'll drill it into our stupid brains that we shouldn't throw money at every single thing that comes into our paths. Just because the project featured big name celebrities, and the video was funny, doesn't mean it deserved 3 million dollars from us. But we gave it 3 million dollars because we like shiny things, and everyone else was doing it.
If this movie "“ one of the largest projects that Kickstarter has ever hosted "“ is bad enough to make all the funders feel buyer's remorse, and all the detractors collectively scream, `I told you so!" then maybe, just maybe, we can learn to use Kickstarter correctly. Maybe it won't eventually become an over-saturated cesspool of bad ideas.
Until then, try and remember that just because someone is asking you for money, and they are good at peddling their wares, doesn't mean you should open your wallet. Do your research, make sure the project is worth investing in, and keep crowd sourcing clean for all the rest of us. Kickstart responsibly.