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by Paula Bernstein
January 22, 2014 6:24 PM
22 Comments
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Zach Braff's 'Wish I Was Here' Sold Big at Sundance, But What Do His Backers Get?

It was big news for Zach Braff when his second film, the largely Kickstarter-funded "Wish I Was Here" sold to Focus Features for a reported $2.75 million at Sundance 2014.

Since Braff turned to Kickstarter last spring to raise funds for the project, it has spurred controversy about whether celebrities are ruining crowdfunding for the true independents who can't simply turn to their famous friends (or their bank accounts) for backing (Kickstarter responded with its own post on the topic).

Though critics scoffed, Braff had no trouble raising the funds for "Wish I Was Here," easily topping his goal of $2 million and eventually raising more than $3 million.

Now that it's clear that Braff is going to make money off the film, backers are wondering if they get any special benefits. A new post on the film's Kickstarter page clarifies the legal position regarding crowdfunding, "Current SEC laws prevent Kickstarter from offering equity or financial returns. As Kickstarter explains in Kickstarter Basics: Project creators keep 100% ownership of their work. Kickstarter cannot be used to offer financial returns or equity, or solicit loans. Some projects that are funded on Kickstarter may go on to make money, but backers are supporting projects to help them come to life, not financially profit."

Bummer, right? But those are the rules of the Kickstarter game.

To clarify the position, producer Stacey Sher, told BuzzFeed that the film's Kickstarter backers will not benefit financially from the film sale. "That’s not the way Kickstarter works. That's not what we promised anybody."

Meanwhile, Variety reports that a block of seats at the film's Sundance premiere were reserved for high-rolling Kickstarter backers, there were many more who funded the project who couldn't get tickets. To make matters worse, Braff didn't think to thank his Kickstarter supporters when he introduced the film.

There are a lot of disgruntled Kickstarter backers out there who are still waiting for their rewards. “What about all the backers?” investor Matt Haughey, founder of Metafilter.com, griped to NBC News. "In those last updates from him, he was all 'I’m in Sundance!' and then ‘Focus picked us up!’ There was nothing about the backers. It was all about Zach Braff. Well, that’s awesome for you!"

The issues raised by celebrity crowdfunding will continue to arise -- especially when Spike Lee's controversial Kickstarter-funded "Da Blood of Jesus" is released.

At least Sher acknowledged that fulfilling rewards is the project’s first financial obligation. So keep checking the mail box for that "Wish I Was Here" T-shirt.

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22 Comments

  • pino creesheo | January 24, 2014 9:30 AMReply

    (yawn) another tv movie made by a tv actor... sorry all of the fans fell for his "pls support me" bs...

  • Jon H. | January 23, 2014 1:10 PMReply

    FFS what if he just was overwhelmed and forgot to mention kickstarter? OH HEAVENS NO.

  • Jon | January 23, 2014 12:53 PMReply

    It's the thought that counts

  • Mike | January 23, 2014 12:18 PMReply

    The film took on additional outside investment above the kickstarter funds.

  • Derek | January 23, 2014 11:29 AMReply

    When u idiots pledged your money, did it say "u get this back". No. Aha, stupid people.

  • Paula Bernstein | January 23, 2014 8:25 AMReply

    Of course we know how Kickstarter works. We didn't suggest that Zach Braff's backers should receive financial payment now that he sold the film. We're reporting on the fact that some of his backers are frustrated by the fact that he doesn't seem appreciative of his Kickstarter supporters -- and they feel entitled to something (at least the rewards they were promised, which some folks haven't yet received). Also, we raise issues that will continue to arise with "celebrity" crowd funding campaigns. People will complain about how much money Braff is making even if they aren't actually owed anything.

  • Sarah | January 28, 2014 5:01 PM

    When we backed the project, the estimated delivery date was September 2014, so I am not sure who these people are that are giving out about rewards they haven't received yet. Also, he's been keeping us updated by e-mail all along the way. Also, I am delighted he was able to sell the movie at Sundance and I never expected to get a cut of that. I just wanted to support a project I was interested in. If a person does it for any other reason, they don't understand the purpose of kickstarter.

  • Dominic | January 23, 2014 12:51 AMReply

    How does Indiewire not know how Kickstarter works? Paula Bernstein and her editors should be embarrassed.

  • Jon | January 23, 2014 1:01 PM

    Slow new day. Had to come up with something. There's always someone frustrated with something. That's the news.

  • UGH | January 23, 2014 12:41 AMReply

    Does no one know how Kickstarter works? "I Wish I Was Here" could come out, break box office records & go on to earn over a billion domestic & NOTHING is owed to the backers.

  • Alo | January 22, 2014 9:47 PMReply

    I dont get the fuss either. I'm a backer, and I'm getting what I was promised with my 20 or so dollars (I can't even remember how much I gave). I did it because I enjoyed his first film and wanted to be a part of the second. I have really enjoyed all the videos and updates, and personally think he has done a MUCH better job than the Veronica Mars crowd, where all the updates seem to say "stop complaining about stuff" to backers, even though I've never contacted them.

  • Sean | January 22, 2014 8:11 PMReply

    If he didn't thank his Kickstarter Backers at the Sundance screening...that would be his first misstep. The guy put crowd funding on the mainstream map and has pretty much done it flawlessly. Its capitalism..pay something get something. If you don't like it don't buy it again.

  • David | January 29, 2014 5:59 AM

    I've been defending him since day 1... but lacking to simply THANK the backers on Kickstarter before the film screening is bonkers... hope they all liked the crumbs he fed with his BACKERS ONLY UPDATES but I'm done backing his intentions anymore. Let's hope Spike Lee knows how to show respect.

  • AK | January 22, 2014 7:58 PMReply

    The Kickstarter page clearly states that the backer rewards are estimated to be delivered in September 2014. Why the fuss?

  • Smith | January 22, 2014 8:06 PM

    Yeah, I'll be waiting by the mailbox. If I'd contributed.

  • ZK | January 22, 2014 7:41 PMReply

    Making film for 3 million and selling it for 2.7 million is selling big?

  • Jon | January 23, 2014 12:58 PM

    The film cost $10M. Can you do math?

  • Gc | January 22, 2014 8:08 PM

    Well when the $3m it cost didn't come from an investment you have to pay back or your own pocket then the $2.7m is pretty much pure profit for Braff.

  • Teron | January 22, 2014 7:40 PMReply

    thank god he makes good films because he is the ugliest male human being I've ever seen in my life. he inspires revulsion physically, so it's good he found a non-physical talent (he's not really a good actor outside Scrubs).

  • IndieWire | January 22, 2014 7:03 PMReply

    I can't believe we still pump out this link-bait bullshit. Isn't it weird we bully filmmakers as much as we attempt to promote them? We are the US Weekly of indie film, common sense often trumped by clickable articles.

  • Chad | January 22, 2014 6:45 PMReply

    The Kickstarter backers are getting exactly what they were promised. There isn't any surprises here. If games and hard products can profit on Kickstarter, so can films. Not sure why there is such a fuss here.

  • MP | January 22, 2014 6:58 PM

    There's a fuss because they're morons, you'd have to be to give that d-bag money to make this P.O.S.