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by Bryce J. Renninger
April 24, 2013 11:34 AM
22 Comments
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With $2 Million Kickstarter Campaign, Zach Braff Modifies Both Old and New Distribution Models

Zach Braff's "Wish I Was Here."

Following the recent success of the "Veronica Mars" Kickstarter campaign, Zach Braff has launched a Kickstarter campaign of his own for his follow-up to 2004's "Garden State," "Wish I Was Here."

The film centers on Adrian Bloom (played by guess who...), "a struggling actor, father, and husband," who spends his days fantasizing about being his childhood hero Space-Knight. Bloom's father gets sick and can no longer to pay for the private schooling of Bloom's two kids, and with the public school on its last legs, Bloom decides to home-school his children.  Awkward, bumbling encounters seem to be what comes of this set-up. Braff wrote the script with his brother Adam.

Braff's campaign is an interesting one for Kickstarter. While the "Veronica Mars" campaign was launched because Warner Bros. wanted to build an audience to ensure one was there before investing money on a property it owned that had been accumulating dust for some time, Braff had offers to make his film, but the studios were asking for the rights to control his creativity.  

READ MORE: Before You Beg Us: Here Are Four Easy Rules For Every Celebrity on Kickstarter

Typically, with a production narrative like this ("The studio wanted first look, casting choice  and location choices, so I decided I'd make it myself!"), people come to Kickstarter and sell advance copies of the film. Not so with Braff. He wants to limit the number of copies of the film from circulating because he wants to keep bigger distribution deals on the table. Nevermind the fact that he can promise copies of the film after the film is out. Here's what he has to say on the page's FAQ section:

I wish I could give you all everything you want. Unfortunately, giving away the movie could scare off the good distributors for movies like this, because the theater chains insist on having the “first run” of movies before they are available on DVD or digitally. I want all my fans to be able to see this movie in their hometown theaters on the big screen if they want to. I hope you like the rewards I am offering, and if there’s something you don’t see on the page, please comment and let me know.

The campaign does offer physical rewards for some lower donation levels; it offers access or tickets to screenings online and in select cities for a premium price. But its reluctance to give people physical or digital copies says something about Braff's outlook on his audience. Either he thinks they don't need a copy of the film (his is the streaming audience), that they're rampant pirates that won't capture the video when it premieres on his secret online streaming platform, or that they will buy a copy of the film even after donating.

Braff's model is novel and, on the face of it, bizarre. "Veronica Mars" made its goal in one day; let's see how Braff does.

22 Comments

  • Shawn | May 16, 2013 11:10 AMReply

    Yall be crazy!
    Most wealthy people and big name companies don't use their own money to launch new products, new businesses, etc. for many reasons. Here are the most popular.

    - Sharing risk will validate the idea. If other's won't invest in you or the new business, it's a good sign not to move forward.
    - Sharing risk means sharing ideas and feedback. Having a second pair of eyes on everything you do is the best way to ensure no mistakes. Having a bunch of eyes and minds on your work is big leverage for feedback throughout the process. Going at something alone is the bigger sign of greed and/or self-indulgence. Don't go at it alone!
    - Leverage your money. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. See, this is how you continue building wealth... You succeed at one, then take SOME of that money and start another. Don't spend most of your net worth trying to do something yourself so you can have "control". There will be many other things to invest in and diversify your portfolio.

    The point is, it's not smart to go at it alone. Spreading the risk thin is the smarter thing to do, and you should do the same.

    One person losing $20 has the same impact as 100,000 people losing $20. It doesn't really effect them in a quantitative way. But one person losing $2 million will have just stripped that person of 10% of their entire net worth! 9 more of those decisions equals BROKE AND HOMELESS. Whereas, 9 more $20 decisions just means $180 in the toilet.

    Stay curious my friends!

  • Miles Howard | May 8, 2013 1:39 PMReply

    I say this with absolute sincerity:

    Fuck Zach Braff.

    Really? He couldn't just cut a check for $2 million from your vast estate? He had to go and kick struggling, up-and-coming artists where it hurts by steamrollering the premiere crowdfunding platform they have at their disposal?

    Please, people. Don't give this asshole a cent. Even if you liked "Garden State."

  • Ekim Namwen | April 28, 2013 11:13 AMReply

    Zach Braff is a piece of crap. If he was honest, then there would be no problem, but there is nothing genuine about his story. Fuck him and the rest of the Hollywood elitist asshole country club.

  • Tim | April 28, 2013 12:13 AMReply

    If money is not, in fact, playing a role as a big fat fetish of Zach et al., and this stunt really is about artistic integrity, then Braff should come out and very publicly say where all the revenues will be going. Well Zach, where? Is there a good cause? All his "reasons" given about crowd-donating this puppy to maintain artistic integrity were only one side of the coin -- what would have been more honest is to say that he didn't want to make the tradeoff between artistic integrity and profits, or for that matter the tradeoff between artistic integrity and risk. He forgot to talk about the other side of that coin -- the risk and the profits. From all we can tell from what he says himself, he's having his cake and eating it too.

    None of this critique has anything to do with whether there was a free exchange here. If people really like "Garden State" and his other work, that's up to them. As an aside, I'd personally say to those people that you probably have been too passive in your consumption of art, because in my opinion there is a lifetime's worth of far more interesting work out there that if you don't know about, it's only for the reason that you haven't looked beyond what's being heavily marketed to you.

    The real question to those people should properly be put, as some have -- why do you believe in an artistic vision if the creator so clearly does not, as evidenced by his actions? Neither Zach, nor his insider Hollywood producers, are taking any real risk here -- and they're able to do that thanks to you.

  • Tim | April 27, 2013 3:20 PMReply

    Everyone does realize, right, that Braff's producers are longtime Hollywood powers, who produced "Pulp Fiction" and "Django Unchained", among many other biggies?

    What we have here in fact is a group of mostly-wealthy celebrities and Hollywood insiders co-opting a community/idea that has a relatively pure spirit. It seems to me that crowdfunding's appeal stems in large part from its democratizing force, how it is used in opposition to pervasive and unfair power structures, often to the benefit of art and other forms of value. What is particularly rankling here is how it's being co-opted to actually re-inforce those power structures.

    These people don't need handouts from anyone, as opposed to every other artist on Kickstarter actually fighting to get a chance. He admits turning down the financing to make this film, and his stated reasons for using Kickstarter are all about artistic integrity. But, another more general idea of integrity applies in the real world: if you have a good idea and a real passion for it, then you (and your producers) should be willing to invest in yourself, at least with real sweat equity and likely with real capital as well. And if you're not, how can you say with integrity why in god's name anybody else should, whether in exchange for profits or for swag and emotion? Considering Braff et al. will own this thing 100%, thanks to all the free money, that burden of proof has got to be even higher. Point being, artistic "integrity" has no legitimacy without real integrity, more generally, on which it necessarily depends.

  • MARK WITHERS | April 25, 2013 4:48 AMReply

    I too am an independent filmmaker desperately trying to raise funds for my 4th feature film ‘Bonobo’ (after a backer pulled out and we go into production on June 5th) so we set up a Kickstarter campaign for which I’ve already shaved my hair off as publicity and agreed to get a Kickstarter tattoo if we hit our goal of $17,000 (this is to re-top up our small budget)….yet it is so slow!
    Unlike Mr Braff I’m not ‘known’ and I certainly don’t have the kind of money he A)earns or B)has access to, yet I’m currently BANK ROLLING THE PRODUCTION MYSELF at huge financial risk (if and until we find another investor) so I feel that if a well known (and financially well-off) individual is as passionate about their film as I am mine they should be prepared to personally ‘put their money where their mouth is!’
    Because just like the Hollywood blockbusters this pushes aside the smaller indies, leaving them lagging behind in their shadow, barely noticed.

  • LILKUNTA | April 24, 2013 10:33 PMReply

    i hope this fails. Zach has millions and has studio offers. Zach if you want to maintain creative control PUT UP YOUR OWN $. Kickstarter is for indie filmmakers and I dont like how rich stars ae co opting it.

    I HOPE THIS FAILS.

  • wyrdy | April 24, 2013 7:22 PMReply

    Well then i see there are a few saying the "Hollywood" types shouldn't use kick-starter because its only for worthy causes ...Jesus don't be so elitist

  • Braff's teeth | April 24, 2013 7:02 PMReply

    Great quote by Joe Swanberg. "If a rich person doesn't believe in his/her film enough to pay for it, neither do I." Get serious Braff.

  • Joseph Beyer | April 24, 2013 5:21 PMReply

    No one, absolutely no one, is taking advantage of anyone here. If all those critics of Zach Braff want to try and raise $2 million dollars for THEIR projects, the platform is ready and available to them and it works in exactly the same way. It's a very twisted and distorted vision of direct-to-fan financing to assume that those that back this project (myself included) are somehow victims. The dynamic being offered is simple - if you want to help this artist make his next film, go for it. If you want to ignore it completely, go for it. But those of us who make the transactional commitment to backing a project do so with full and free will (and often with pride and joy). I am not a victim of any kind, I'm a fan. Plain and simple.

  • wert | April 24, 2013 10:36 PM

    You're not a victim Joseph, you're just a chump.

  • David West | April 24, 2013 5:34 PM

    Yes, I get that. And like I said, I obviously think people should be allowed to do this, and I even understand why fans would want to feel like they were a part of the process. But it IS a bit disingenuous of Zach Braff to act as if he couldn't make this film without the support of crowd funders. Really Zach? Really?

  • David West | April 24, 2013 4:41 PMReply

    I really don't like this trend of wealthy celebrities begging for money on Kickstarter. As an aspiring filmmaker myself, I'm all about retaining creative control, and if I was worth $22 million like Zach Braff is, I'd just finance the film myself. Why isn't Zach doing that? He'd retain complete creative control that way, and honestly, it wouldn't be that risky an endeavor. Garden State made about $25 million domestically and $10 million internationally on a $2.5 million budget. That's a HUGE success, and Zach would have no problem getting a distribution deal for this film with a success like that under his belt. He could probably even distribute it independently and turn a handsome profit. I don't see him not being able to earn back his several million dollar budget.

    I would start a Kickstarter campaign to make a film because I'm poor and probably couldn't finance it any other way. Literally the only reasons for wealthy celebrities to do things like this is to boost the profile of the project with all the free press it garner and to take any economic risk off of them. Kickstarter really isn't enabling them to do anything that they couldn't already do. They could easily afford to finance these projects themselves, and people take FAR bigger business risks than investing 10% of their net worth into a business endeavor every day.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm a die-hard supporter of the free market, so I respect peoples right to do things like this. I just don't think it's a very classy move on the part of Zach Braff. At least the Veronica Mars movie will give supporters copies of the film at a very reasonable price. This just seems like pure greed here.

  • Ken | April 24, 2013 4:19 PMReply

    Can someone please explain to me why a man who has to be worth way into the 8-figures and probably makes over $1 million a year easy, has to go getting people to donate money to him so he can make his $2 million movie?!! Why not just fund it himself? Are actors such financial cowards that laymen have to give them money?

  • eve | April 24, 2013 4:13 PMReply

    I fucking love Zach Braff, incredible actor, writer and director. Good for him.

  • Geoff | April 24, 2013 3:54 PMReply

    Man does no one think Garden State #$#@ing blew?

  • Daniel | April 24, 2013 3:05 PMReply

    I am also concerned about stars like Zach Braff who have connections in Hollywood taking advantage of people who give these stars their hard earned money. Sometimes I think people are so stupid they are star struck. One has to ask himself or herself, can't a successful actor like Braff find a studio to make his film? I am sure Braff has the connections Kickstarter is supposed to be for people who DO NOT have the connections to get their projects made. It is really annoying to see all these Hollywood stars exploit Kickstarter the public to get their projects made while regular people struggle!

  • Ken | April 24, 2013 4:21 PM

    Bravo!

  • Chris | April 24, 2013 3:04 PMReply

    Respect to Zach. I wonder what would have been if Joss had retained the rights to Firefly? I hope this is a huge success.

  • dsaunders | April 24, 2013 11:51 AMReply

    I hope this flops. I was worried after the Veronica Mars success that more people would try to scam people out of the money, but I didn't think it would happen this quickly. The bad thing is, he has offers to make this movie, he just refuses to give up "creativity" whatever that means. I doubt the kind of studio that would force their vision on a movie would be the kind to offer to make this kind of film in the first place. I sincerely hope it fails to send a message.

  • eeyo | April 24, 2013 5:02 PM

    I'd rather see a million Hangover sequels than another Zach Braff film. At least they're honest about being junk and don't expect their fans to pay to make them. The major studios are more than happy to make shit like Garden State, Braff's just realised he stands to make more money personally if he puts the cost on his fans.

  • PJACK | April 24, 2013 4:00 PM

    And what message would it send if the movie fails? Do you have any idea how the major studios make choices to produce films? It's all sequels and other unoriginal content. If Kickstarter helps bring "anyone's" truly original work to the theater, I'm sure film fans would be happy to contribute. Enjoy Hangover III next month!