Kickstarter: What crowdsourcing film production costs could do to the industry

I know, I'm a backer and a hypocrite. But this is my favorite TV show and I wanted a T-shirt!

I know, I’m a backer and a hypocrite. But this is my favorite TV show and I wanted a T-shirt!

It was huge news last month when the producers behind Veronica Mars decided to launch a kickstarter campaign to get their film project of the ground. Not only did they meet their goal of 2 million dollars, they surpassed it and then some. They reached their goal (and have since far surpassed it) in only 10 hours.

This marks the first time a studio-supported film has ever had a kickstarter campaign, but after its stunning success, I guarantee it won’t be the last.

But what does this impending trend mean for the film industry? On the plus side, studios will start paying attention to the audience again. Rather than feebly attempting to guess what viewers want to see (and in the process making 50 comic book movies because one of them was a box office success five years ago), studios will have a direct pipeline to audience desires. And not just audiences saying “eh, I guess I’d watch that.” These audiences are PAYING to get the chance to see something. That’s right they’re paying to get it made and THEN paying to watch it in theaters.

No one knew people would pay for pre-production like this! It adds a whole other level to the funding structure and financial success of a film- now you’ve got pre-production funds, theater revenue, and home sales. That’s a lot of money fans will invest in something they’re passionate about. This sounds like a fruitful return for the film industry, which I’m definitely in favor of.

Yes, give me your money!

But let’s consider the darker side. If studios realize this potential (which they no doubt have), what will happen to the little indies that could if they DON’T sell big on Kickstarter-like platforms? Will studios refuse to make films that can’t drum up early income or audience awareness? And what can we say for the quality of film produced this way? In a kickstarter campaign, each donation earns the donor a gift that gets progressively more exciting as the donation increases. Will studios bribe their films into being with flashy prizes? Another concern is that the creation and distribution of these prizes will take focus away from the creation and distribution of the film itself, which really messes with artistic priorities.

So what do you think? Should a film’s quality be preserved and the choice of its creation left up to the creative minds that have been making these calls for years? Or is it time for viewers to have some say, even if it requires money to get their voices heard?

Me, I’m tentatively excited, but only if this system can continue to operate outside of the studios. Let’s fund the little guys out there and give some burgeoning filmmakers a chance.  The prizes might not be so glamorous and the stories might not be so well developed, but this was a system made for charity and kindness, and there’s nothing charitable about handing more money over to the big wigs of the studio system. If I were you, I’d find a smaller, more exciting project to support. Trust me, your 10 bucks will go much further that way.

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