I'm in something of a pickle. I have encountered a terribly exploitative Kickstarter campaign for a film celebrating the life of one of our nation's biggest proponents of free market, laissez-faire capitalism. And yet giving the project this kind of attention is exactly what they want. They say so on their Kickstarter page.
Ayn Rand has been a terribly problematic figure for our nation's far right fringe. Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan went from gushing about his love for Rand to a much more tempered view of her as a writer and thinker. Her most popular book "Atlas Shrugged" has been adapted by a group calling themselves Atlas Productions, LLC. So far, there have been two films, and despite large amounts of money going into the productions, box office receipts have been disappointing to say the least. "Atlas Shrugged: Part I," grossed $4.6 million; "Atlas Shrugged: Part II" grossed $3.3 million. The budgets for those films were several times those numbers.
The third part of this series, which probably does okay on home video, what with its dispersed and older audience base, has decided that they need to do something different. And they've come up with what they think is an ingenious plan.
They've launched a Kickstarter to raise $250,000 to start shooting the film this fall. In what seems to be a plan cooked up by the page's admin, Atlas Productions' VP of Communications and the films' Associate Producer Scott DeSapio (though I have no definitive evidence it is all DeSapio's doing), the Kickstarter campaign serves solely to provide publicity for the film, and to raise some more funds for this film, which is already fully funded.
You see, the people at Atlas Productions, LLC, are sure they've got something valuable on their hands, and they want to try really hard to convince you of this the third time round. Let's just put aside that the second film needed to be completely recast after the failure of the first. Watching the Kickstarter video, one would be surprised to find out that the team had ever tried to bring Rand's epic story to the big screen. We're told time and time again that this is one of the most influential stories ever and that this is a story that needs to be told. But then we're also reminded that this is the third film in a series we don't care about.
You're probably thinking that I'm exaggerating when I say they don't need the money and that they want me to hate this film so that they can manufacture support for the film.
This is really too good to be true. Posing the question "Why Kickstarter? Why do you need the money?" to themselves, the Atlas team answers:
The movie is actually already fully funded. The Atlas Shrugged Movie Kickstarter campaign is not so much about money as it is about marketing.
There are two facets to that:
1. We know that fans of the book are going to LOVE getting involved in the production at this level - with rewards ranging from having your name forever etched on a "Producers Wall" at the Atlas Shrugged Movie web site, to actually being in the movie, we know they're going to have a fantastic time. Being part of Atlas Shrugged history is something we're all extremely proud of and having the opportunity to open the doors and let other Atlas fans in to be a part of that same history is really very special for us.
2. We're very aware that we have a built-in "anti-Atlas" audience as well. We know from our experience with the first two films that there is an incredible amount of vitriol out there and, we have every intention of capitalizing on it this time around. As we launch the Kickstarter campaign, those haters are going to come ALIVE. They're going to come after us in droves attacking us everywhere online. To them, we say thank you. Thank you for helping us spread the word. We're looking forward to the onslaught of all those negative blogs, facebook posts, and tweets.
The next question "Isn't asking for charity antithetical to Ayn Rand's philosophy?" is answered astutely, it must be said. This is definitely not charity. This is a cause, maybe worth fighting for and maybe not.
In true capitalist hyper-exploitation, backers get a copy of the DVD only after donating $100 to the fully-funded "cause."
If you want to see more of the project page, Google it. But trust me, it's not that fun to gawk at. I put all the good parts here.
Fine. Reluctant but ethical attribution to Kickstarter here. The film seeks to shoot this fall and open summer 2014.