Kickstarter is Eating Itself

Kickstarter

Good grief everyone. Good grief.

Debate Kickstarter all you like but at the end of the day it is a decent tool to get money to a creative type from those who want to help them create their art, craft, or food. We can debate all day whether Zach Braff was a little cheeky asking for fans to fund his latest film but this pales in comparison to the gluttony of spam that is currently clogging the arteries of the crowdfunding site.

On 3rd July 2014 a Ohioan going by the name Zack Danger Brown started a Kickstarter project to make himself a potato salad. Yes, you read that correctly; a potato salad. Zack was only looking for $10 and his humourous project somehow caught the imagination of thousands of backers who have given him well above his most target. The widget below shows you just how bizarre things have gotten and unsurprisingly other people are keen to cash in on this hopefully short-lived phenomenon.

I daren’t even look at the American side of the equation but at the time of writing there are dozens of UK imitators hoping to make it rich by boiling an egg or making a cup of tea. The full list of current UK rip-offs is as follows; lemonade, more potato salad, egg salad, frying a frozen egg, boiling an eggcookies, chocolate chip cookies, curry, a mega pizza, a regular pizza, another regular pizza, yet more pizza, random pizza(!)an oreo milkshake, evil cream pie, couscous, cake, another cake, the ultimate cake, a really nice cakepie, potato brownies, “a dinner”, peanut dessert, hotdogs, pimped out pasta, crumpets, punk burgers, porridge fingers, steak, coleslaw, cheese on toast, a sandwich, secret fudge, and a £100 cup of tea.

Phew.

To clarify none of these are people setting up a business, creating art, pursuing a dream, or doing anything other than trying to get money for a making some food for themselves. What is most annoying is that they have simply seen someone make a joke and are now producing poor imitations in the hope of getting reflected glory. I realise that this is what the internet is largely made up of but… it really annoys me.

Anyone with a genuine food based project is currently lost in an avalanche of secondhand jokes and stock photos of food. I don’t know why Kickstarter has become such an issue with me, perhaps it is because I am fond of the site and have happily backed over a dozen projects including comics, films, and podcasts and even helped a man his own pasta stall in exchange from some delicious samples of his produce. On the other hand it might just be that I hate seeing people being so lazy as to simply repeat the same joke they have seen and not come out with their own way to be ironic online.

And if I need to get particularly righteous here is the first of Kickstarter’s three rules:

Kickstarter Rule Number 1

Let’s just wait and see how easy it is to share out a pizza funded by thousands.

Long live Kickstarter! And may the “hilarious” faux projects be short-lived.

The Knife That Killed Me – Film Review

The Knife That Killed Me

A decade ago the idea of making a film entirely on green screen with computer generated sets was making headlines with the release of the wobbly Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and the audience-pleasing Sin City. The green screen technique was being used to create a world that was stylised to such a degree that conventional filming techniques would be too costly and insufficient. And so it is with The Knife That Killed Me, an upcoming film in which a teenager reflects on the tragic events that lead to the end of his life as adapted from the novel of the same name by Anthony McGowan. The fantastical world the green screen was needed to create?

Yorkshire!

Or at least a variation of the Yorkshire we know and love. As I mentioned The Knife That Killed Me is all about one teenager reflecting and what we see in the film is not the events as they happened but rather the events as he remembers them happening. His memories are focussed on the important events so rooms are stripped of extraneous details (and often all features) and instead are littered with handwritten notes, doodles, or images; all scraps of memories, emotions, and thoughts blown up and threaded through the narrative as Paul pieces together the moments that culminate with him lying lifeless and covered in blood.

Paul (Jack McMullen) is a teenager starting at a new school in the town where his dad (Reece Dinsdale) grew up. Following the loss of his mother the pair are looking for a fresh start and Paul struggles to find his place amongst the various social groups at school. Should he hang out with the “Freaks”, as lead by the enigmatic Shane (Oliver Lee) and featuring the enchanting Maddie (Rosie Goddard) or give in to the pull of the school bully, and pointedly named, Roth (Jamie Shelton)? In trying to keep everybody happy Paul’s life rapidly get’s out of control and he finds himself deeply out of his depth.

The visual style is initially jarring but once you acclimatise becomes the perfect canvas to tell this story. A story more commonly found in gritty british dramas and a filming technique suited to a fantasy adventure combine to make a unique visual style offering something unique and new. The lack of a traditional set quickly moves from a burden to a boon and there is only one moment where an actor looks like they are walking on the spot rather than across a room.

For something completely different and to support a pioneering piece of British filmmaking then The Knife That Killed Me is worth checking out. Directors (and co-writers) Kit Monkman and Marcus Romer have made a carefully crafted film with a fresh approach. It might take you as little while to get settled in but your effort will be rewarded.

The Knife That Killed Me is not getting a cinema release but will be available on DVD and VOD later this year. In the meantime the team plan to have a free multi platform premiere but need a little extra money to get it off the ground over on their Kickstarter page. There’s less than a day to go so if you are intrigued give it a look today.

How to Succeed at Kickstarter: A Statistically Unsound Guide

Funded

Yesterday one of the Kickstarter stories we were following came to a surprisingly abrupt end as Melissa Joan Hart closed the campaign for Darci’s Walk of Shame two weeks early and with a mere fraction of the target raised. Clearly Hart and chums were hoping to have the same success as Rob Thomas with his Veronica Mars project and Zach Braff with his ongoing Wish I Was Here endeavours but Hart could see she wasn’t going to pass the $2-million mark she needed and pulled the plug.

So why didn’t Darci experience the same success as her contemporaries? Is it as simple as the fact that Sabrina Goes to Rome was a long time ago, was awful and that Hart has a much smaller fan base than Braff and Veronica Mars? Is there a convoluted and inaccurate mathematical analysis I can perform? I bloody well hope so.

To begin my numbers-based investigation I gathered together some statistics for each project. I looked at their Kickstarter success, or lack thereof and the three lead actors Twitter accounts to get an idea of fan base size. I also looked at the three existing titles which the respective Kickstarter projects relate to (Veronica Mars, Garden State, and Sabrina Goes to Rome) and noted their IMDb user rating and the number of years since their release. Here’s what I gathered:

Kickstarter Stats

The first thing to note is that Mars and Braff are pretty similar when it comes to their average pledges and Twitter followers yet differ greatly in the amount of money they have raised. Melissa Joan Hart has much less money and followers but gets far more money per pledge. No proper trend here so I will be ignoring the number of Twitter followers a lead actor has.

At a quick glance however it does seem that a higher IMDb rating for the previous release and a more recent release make for a larger amount of money raised. The bubble chart below makes this clear:

Kickstarter Chart 1

The size of the bubbles is the amount of money raised on Kickstarter and the largest is for the highest rated film/show which was released the most recently. From here I continued on my pointless journey and created a new metric of IMDb score divided by the number of years since release (a sort of combined recency and quality score) and plotted it against the amount raised:

Kickstarter Chart 2

And there we have it! A direct relationship between how much you can raise on Kickstarter for your film based upon the recency and quality of your previous work.

Kickstarter Formula

Amazing! Inaccurate! Time-wasting! Superb!

An endlessly useful formula I think you’ll agree. What this means is that we can calculate the ideal value of IMDb Rating/Years Since Release that will get you to the $2-million mark. That value is 0.705 and is also endlessly useful because we can use it to make the table below:

Years to Succeed

This tells us how many years you can wait until you try to make a follow-up film on Kickstarter based on your TV show or film’s rating on IMDb. For example Buffy the Vampire Slayer has an IMDb rating of 8 and has been off-air for 10 years so still has another 1.35 years until it will no longer raise sufficient funds on Kickstarter. On the other hand Freaks and Geeks has an IMDb rating of 8.9 but has been gone for 13 years now so is just too late.

So if you own the rights to an existing franchise and fancy raising money on Kickstarter use my handy formula to see how much you will be able to raise. You are welcome.

DISCLAIMER: This is in no way accurate, does not take enough projects into account, and ignores far too many other factors to be of any use.

Darci’s Walk of Shame April 2013 – May 2013

Darci's Walk of Shame

11th April 2013 – 13th May 2013

“Darci soon realizes it’s not going to be quite as easy as she hoped. To make it back in time, she faces an obstacle course of hurdles that would make a hardcore Marine fall to his knees and sob like a baby. But like the Marines, Darci has her reputation to uphold, and nothing is going to stop her from trying to erase what she considers to be the biggest mistake of her life.”

Braff Promises an “Ass-ton” of Funding for Kickstarter Film

Zach Braff

In a bid to remain unbiased and balanced (HA!) I figured I should share with you Zach Braff’s message from last week. I’d have done it sooner but it was sunny outside and I got distracted. For a background on Braff’s Kickstarter project click here and read me rant.

Last week Braff posted a public update to the Wish I Were Here Kickstarter page. The fact that it was public makes me think that it was less a message to his backers and more a response to those of us who remain sceptical about giving him our money.

In the update Braff raises the issue of “stretch goals”, a funding goal way beyond someone’s initial Kickstarter target funding which will enable a specific extra something to be created, then sort of meanders away from the topic and never really sets one. What he does do is make it clear that Kickstarter alone will not be funding the film:

The budget will be comprised of 3 elements:

  • The money raised here on Kickstarter. (That’s you. You rule. I love you.)
  • My own money. (Don’t worry. A LOT! An ass-ton.)
  • Pre-selling select foreign distribution rights to a few countries.

This at least reduces my concern that he is using Kickstarter as a way to fund his film without any financial risk of his own. I don’t know how much an ass-ton is (With a total budget target of “somewhere between 4 and 6 million dollars” it depends on how much he can get from selling distribution rights. So somewhere between nothing and $4-million? I suppose this is why we don’t use ass-tons as standard units.) but it is always reassuring when someone asking for my money has something at stake too.

Braff goes on to list the expensive parts of his production which include “fantasy sequences with special effects” and “a computer generated flying droid”. If he manages that on such a small budget I will be incredibly impressed. Maybe he should give Gareth Edwards from Monsters a call?

I have yet to give any money but know plenty of people who have, and plenty more who look at me like I’m insane when I mention the mere idea of paying to get a film made. And if Zach Braff wants to be interviewed by the UK’s 18th most influential film blog, just send us an email.

Veronica Mars What Have You Kickstarted?

Darci's Walk of Shame

Me and Kickstarter have been on an emotional rollercoaster of late and my poor friends have been subjected to a rant or two. Let’s see if I can get all of the rant out of me now so I can move on with my life and stop fretting.

My emotions started high when Veronica Mars achieved more than double its goal of $2-million. This was a show that I loved which wasn’t going to get a film made any other way. The film was largely being made for the sheer love of it all and us fans were happy to lend a financial hand. I did have some reservations about what this would mean for the future of funding for smaller films but all in all was pleased that Rob Thomas would finally be making a film follow-up to one of my all time favourite shows.

Veronica Mars

Then over a week ago I received an email/tweet/telegram from a friend telling me to have a look at Melissa Joan Hart’s Kickstarter as she was trying to emulate the success of Veronica Mars in a way we found ridiculous. The film Hart is trying to get made is called Darci’s Walk of Shame and is to be written and directed by Tibor Takács. Don’t remember Tibor? He directed the visually uninspired TV film Sabrina Goes to Rome. It’s not exactly the pedigree that inspires this particular Kickstarter user and their rewards were near carbon copies of the Mars project. This seemed less of a passion project and more a half-hearted attempt to get Hart a film to work on.

Darci's Walk of Shame

At this point I was all ready to write a slightly mean piece entitled Melissa Joan Hart, Veronica Mars is Smarter than You which would have been amusing and smug and make me feel like a happy little blogger. Then Zach Braff entered the fray.

Zach Braff is a bit of a special case where I am concerned. His debut, and so far solo, film as writer/director Garden State was the first film that made me realise there were other cinematic options outside the mainstream. The film is far from perfect but it is special to me and I have been waiting for a second feature from the Scrubs star for quite some time now. Braff last week launched his own Kickstarter for a second film, Wish I Was Here, with his eyes set on the now standard target of $2-million. I was elated. How much would I give? How much could I afford to give? This was all very exciting and gave my article a happy ending rather than a simple rant. And then…

And then…

Wish I Was Here

And then I read his Kickstarter in full and had a think. Never a wise proposition. It turned out that Zach Braff had already successfully raised the money for this second film but had turned down the deal when Veronica Mars opened his eyes to an alternative funding route. Braff cites creative freedom as his motivation for taking the Kickstarter route and while this may well be true a large financial incentive should also be taken into account. With his original funding deal Braff would presumably have had to relinquish some of the film’s profit to his investors one it had been released. With the Kickstarter model Braff receives all his money from fan donors, and let’s be clear these are donors and not investors, and so takes on no financial risk for himself or anyone else.

Zach Braff, a man who at one point was earning $350,000 per episode on Scrubs, is asking his fans to pay for his next film. Yes, I realise that is totally at the fans discretion (and I hypocritically have yet to decide if I will join them) and they receive various rewards, but I can’t help but fixate on the fact that the film would have gone ahead with or without Kickstarter. Braff is not even offering a copy of the film as part of any reward tier; you can donate as much as $10,000 but you’ll still have to pay when the film itself comes out.

I like Zach Braff and I don’t think he is being particularly conniving or deceitful in his Kickstarter campaign but this was not his only option. If his Kickstarter had somehow failed to reach its target I imagine we would have still been able to see a relatively unchanged Wish I Was Here in a year’s time. In the meantime there are various projects that genuinely need Kickstarter to get them the funding they need for production. To pick one at random the feature film Bonobo is looking for just £7,500 to fund filming this summer but is struggling with no big names attached and no existing fan base.

Bonobo

When alternative funding sources are available, and have been offered, it seems almost insulting to instead ask for handouts from admittedly willing fans. I don’t think I will be able to afford it if every film I want to see requires a donation from me before it can enter production. When a film’s budget enters into the millions then they are likely to be expecting the profits to reflect this. Hollywood is a lucrative industry built on large investments and larger rewards. Relying on us to fund their projects means they remove the risk but keep the potential profits for themselves.

As I said I am a hypocrite and a fan and can’t promise that I will boycott all future larger Kickstarter project but I hope that anyone willing to give a millionaire $30 to make their next feature will consider throwing a few pounds at a smaller film like Bonobo. I can’t promise that Bonobo will be any good but after All New People I can’t promise that Wish I Was Here will be either.

A Long Time Ago We Used to Be Fans

Veronica Mars The Movie

For anyone with their finger on the pulsating veins of television and films, as grim an image as that may be, should by now have become aware of the Veronica Mars Movie Project Kickstarter campaign. If not all you need to know is that fan favourite TV show Veronica Mars was cancelled after three seasons back in 2007 and is now raising money for a movie on Kickstarter.

One the one hand this is pretty incredible. A show I love is now going to have a follow-up film, the likes of which I haven’t seen since 2005 with the Firefly film follow-up Serenity. Warner Bros told series creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell that if they could raise $2-million Warner Bros would distribute the film, and presumably take a healthy cut of the profits. For the studio this is a no-brainer as they don’t have to gamble nearly as much money as they would if they had to stump up production costs. Instead the film is funded by fans, to the tune of almost $5-million at the time of writing, in return for DVDs, T-shirts, and other fan-baiting fare.

The campaign has broken many records on Kickstarter and only needs a few more backers before it breaks them all (I think). But is this a good thing? I do want a Veronica Mars movie but also have hesitations when it comes to the general public essentially donating money to a large company without getting the opportunity to properly invest with no chance of proportional monetary reward. Let’s face it, Warner Bros could easily fund the film themselves; $2-million is nothing to them but they simply don’t think the film is worth the risk.

Naturally with the success of one franchise getting a movie funded the fanboys and girls start to hope for their own favourite cancelled series getting a big screen reprise. The idea of a sequel to Serenity was quickly bandied around the internet but Joss Whedon himself was quick to put that to bed:

Right now, it’s a complete non-Kickstarter for me.

At the end of the day Kickstarter is a marvellous tool for giving funding to projects that can’t find it elsewhere and this is the only way a movie of Veronica Mars was ever going to be made. Is it ideal for fans to fully fund the film? No, but they/we are happy to do it so who am I to complain? My Kickstarter philosophy is that I will only give money to projects that need it, that I am passionate about, and that give me something I actually want in return (no thanks to anyone offering me a mention on Twitter). Veronica Mars meets my criteria so has received a small amount of money from me; nothing too extravagant though; I already have too many T-shirts I don’t wear.

As for whether this will change the face of film-making is yet to be seen. Kickstarter already helps fund thousands of independent films with no studio link and I believe that it should continue to do so for the most part. The Veronica Mars projects are a rare find; a project which has a franchise attached, active fans, and creative talent that still want to make more and have the time to do so.

You still have until the end of the week to donate, why not throw a few coins into the jar?