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Zach Braff and Kickstarter Execs Explain Why Big Players on Kickstarter are a Good Thing

Zach Braff and Kickstarter Execs Explain Why Big Players on Kickstarter are a Good Thing

Earlier this week, we did a round-up of the best arguments for and against celebrities and studio subsidiaries on Kickstarter.  Though the Braff detractors are especially loud, it seems commentators are split on whether this is a good thing.

The defenses of Braff are perhaps not getting enough play, and Braff and Kickstarter executives took to the Internet this week to explain why the likes of Braff and “Veronica Mars” may actually help other creators on Kickstarter.  

The loudest argument against Braff and “Veronica Mars” is that members of the Kickstarter community are being persuaded to donate to these campaigns from more established, successful creators instead of donating to the next unknown genius.

First, let’s remind ourselves of what others have said in defense of Braff and “Veronica Mars”:

Karla Starr on Psychology Today says that this argument from smaller creators is a red herring, that these arguments are motivated by envy and that Braff and “Veronica Mars” do for crowdfunding what Starbucks does to indie coffee shops, it normalizes the practice of donating to projects just as Starbucks normalizes drinking coffee.

Writing on Crooked Timber, John Holbo says that it’s very difficult for creators without social capital to convince people to donate to their projects.  For Holbo, too, the argument against Braff and “Veronica Mars” is a red herring.

Here at Indiewire, we started covering crowdfunding campaigns when they were new, then started to just cover more-established creators.  Eventually, we were overwhelmed and didn’t know how to give attention to all the campaigns that were looking for coverage.  We cover at least four campaigns a week through our Project of the Day column, but we get many more requests for coverage than we can accommodate.  The space is crowded, and it’s increasingly difficult to garner attention for your project no matter who you are.  

Much of the arguments against Braff and “Veronica Mars” rely on an argument about what crowdfunding campaigns are supposed to be for.  But the fact that campaigns can be launched for a variety of reasons doesn’t mean that Kickstarter is doing something wrong regulating its site.  It seems reasonable that the audience should respond to campaigns that are treating their consumers unfairly.  An article on the Toronto Standard, for instance, makes a good argument about the political economy of these two campaigns in particular and how some of the exchanges may be unfair.  We covered an instance of the market responding to unfair rewards for donations in the inevitable failure of the Melissa Joan Hart Kickstarter campaign.  

Yesterday, Kickstarter execs Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler, and Charles Adler responded to the criticism by writing the post “Who is Kickstarter for?,” which explained how many projects by lesser-known artists got funded by people introduced to crowdfunding by Braff.  They also reminded the film and video community that these arguments had been levied before by members of the comics and gaming communities when similar big players set up accounts in those categories  (Here’s a post they wrote about those then).  

From yesterday’s Kickstarter post:

The Veronica Mars and Zach Braff projects have brought tens of thousands of new people to Kickstarter. 63% of those people had never backed a project before. Thousands of them have since gone on to back other projects, with more than $400,000 pledged to 2,200 projects so far. Nearly 40% of that has gone to other film projects.

As part of “Kickstarted,” a film being made about crowdfunding, Braff made a video explaining why his fans added a huge boost to Kickstarter, saying that he brought people who were not savvy about crowdfunding before that point into the fold.  In a suspect move, he also goes into a self-congratulatory long history of interacting with his fans, making the claim that he’s always been on the cutting edge of making fans feel close to him, interacting with fans on blogs and Myspace before that was “a thing.” (This rant also includes a takedown of Morgan Freeman for not really being the voice behind his Reddit Ask Me Anything.) He also repeats his claim that he was active on Kickstarter before launching this campaign (Braff had donated to six campaigns on the account attached to his film “Wish I Was Here” at that project’s launch time, and has since donated to six more.)  It’s this tone of Braff’s that reminds us why he’s the Internet lightning rod he is. Here’s that video:

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Sammy Bronsen

I've had the unpleasant experience of working projects that involved Zach Braff on a couple of occasions. I just work in the industry. I can say that of the many (mostly nice) celebs I've worked around, he was one of the most unpleasant people I've ever met. In fact, on the set of one of these shows the cast and crew of a certain late night sketch comedy show found him unbearable. One of the most uncooperative people around and zero ability to have a good time. If his fans knew what an incredible douche he is, they would think twice about giving him a dime… or being a "fan" for that matter.

Scott Tatman

The bottom line is that it's supposed to be for the unknown filmmaker. Celebs have now taken over yet another venue that was meant for the unknown filmmaker. Just as Sundance no longer open doors for real unknowns, kickstarter is playing the same game. So what if Braff and VM projects brought in new investors? They only showed up for celebs…. It means nothing for everyone else.

The only way to keep it honest is to set a realistic limit on the amount that can be raised. $50 grand isn't enough for someone like Braff to bother but it's a long goal for some unknown.


Ugh, I can't even watch that video. Shelly makes a great point. Why not develop a crowd-funding website for investors – the public can *invest* money into Braff's film and receive a return based on their share?? For other donation-based sites like Kickstarter or Indie-Go-Go, the funding is just that – donations. Typically donations go towards non-profits, charities, and other projects/companies that need help. Zach didn't need help. He just wanted it.


My main issue: there is no pressure to make a good movie now for him. It’s already funded and doesn’t need to be repaid. No fear of loss at all. Nobody to answer too.

Maybe that won’t be the case for Zach, but to a lot of successful people in the industry, it’s really just about another paycheck. Another job. If this film fails, will he still work? Get another film funded? Probably, yes. The true indie wannabe filmmaker has no guarantees other than credit card debt sometimes.

If the celebs were using these funding sites to make true indie films I would have less issues with this. 2 million is a studio indie these days. 10K for a single line walk on that might even get cut! Really??? Isn’t that disgusting? Taking advantage a bit?

Ed Burns is making small movies for 10k. The technology has changed dramatically. That’s real indie.

Maybe it should be a requirement for Zach to post the budget, so the pledgers can see where the money is being allocated. Is Zach deferring his salary? Or is he paying himself hundreds of thousands for the writing and directing? I bet he can pull some favors for crew too?

If it’s really about finding a way to make his vision come to life, I’m sure he could find lots of ways for that to happen. Celebs have tons of contacts and pull that the undiscovered talents, usually, have no access too.

Claim red herring, jealousy or whatever you want, but ask yourself this: How many times will an indie wannabe filmmaker be at a party and have a random rich person come up to them and ask about making something? Probably not as often as a famous accomplished Zach Braff.

jean vigo

Please, can this debate be ended? These "transactions" happen in ALL industries and fields – most notably politics. If you don't have a "name," you're not going to raise whole lot of money for your campaign. It's HUMAN BEHAVIOR people, accept it and move on.

Tomorrow, someone somewhere will save a life and someone somewhere will commit a heinous crime, it's who we are. This is all nonsense.


Funny, though. That's exactly the same thing that Steven Soderbergh said about Hollywood executives, as well as them not even knowing anything about filmmaking.


The biggest argument against it is that Braff has tons of money (how much did Garden State gross again) and that people "investing" in his movie are actually not investors — they won't get a share of the gross, which will stay in Braff's pockets. Something that would be impossible if he had reached out to *real* investors.


Braff is just a complete douche and it's so apparent. Give him money if you want. But let's not pretend he is anything other then a self serving jerk.

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