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Hey, Geeks! Get Your Hands Off Kickstarter!

Hey, Geeks! Get Your Hands Off Kickstarter!

At indie pre-production meetings around the world, one question is becoming impossible to avoid:  “When do we launch our Kickstarter campaign?”

As regular readers of our Filmmaker Toolkit know, different filmmakers find different times in their film’s life to launch a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter, IndieGoGo or any of their other crowdfunding competitors. Need money to buy cameras? Launch a Kickstarter in pre-production. Need money to hire an editor? Launch a Kickstarter in post-production. Need to find the money to self-distribute your film or to recoup costs? Launch a Kickstarter once its debuted at a festival.

Kickstarter has been around since 2008, and throughout, it’s had its critics.  

Today, Gizmodo published a wildly popular rant against the site, “We’re Done With Kickstarter.” In it, Joe Brown focuses on the plethora of gadgets that he and other geeks are convinced to donate to (after all, Gizmodo is a tech site). After reminding the reader of the blood, sweat, tears and venture capital pitch sessions used to go into launching a successful startup in San Francisco (“startup city USA”), he compares this model to Kickstarter’s new model: “That is not happening on Kickstarter. The only people you have to convince that your idea is worth turning into a reality is a mob of drooling optimistic simpletons like me.”   

He laments all of the stupid decisions he made and he ends by noting that from here on, the only time Kickstarter will be mentioned on Gizmodo will be to make fun of a project. Now that the elite tastemakers have been taken out of the equation, Gizmodo cries foul. Do they not trust themselves to self-regulate their excitement for the next big thing?

In other words, he chooses not to blame himself for all of the investments he has made, and instead blames the platform.

Dude, if you don’t want to be pissed at yourself for donating to the Robocop statue campaign that didn’t materialize the way you wanted, you have two choices:  

1) Realize that you’re an easily excited hyperconsumerist early adopter geek and get help. 

2) Help this directionless Robocop campaign organizer or start your own damn campaign to erect statues of “RoboCop” and all of your other favorite characters from Paul Verhoeven films. (What would a “Showgirls” statue look like, and where would it be installed?… but I digress).

Brown cites and begrudgingly comes to realize the value the argument of his Gawker Media colleague Ryan Tate, who wrote “End Online Panhandling Forever!” last year. Brown and Tate apparently don’t realize they can say no. Kickstarter for film funding is very different than the tech element. Kickstarter is, more often than not, a marketplace for new gadgets; the most popular projects far outdo their goals, because people are actually buying the products.

The claim that Kickstarter is taking over these men’s lives is telling not of the omnipresence of Kickstarter; it’s a testament to the power of Kickstarter as a social networking site. Kickstarter doesn’t push itself too much; it’s your own damn fault if you’re suckered in for some geeky window shopping.

Though it has perhaps the most outlandish title, the most valid argument against Kickstarter I’ve read is “Kickstarter website is a scam!” by Robert, a man who calls himself the Windy City Blogger. His argument is basically this: Kickstarter, which takes a fee for its services (with credit card fees, one can expect to receive about 90% of their total money raised), requires you to have a social network of interested people already in order to be successful. The complaint, then, should be about how much they’re charging, not that they’re charging. I’ll let others decide if the rate is appropriate.

This article, written a year after the company’s launch, though, comes before the site’s meteoric rise. With that rise, the company has taken it upon itself to use their money to promote projects they stand behind, to design an aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly interface, and to develop a brand people trust.

For filmmakers (and other creative workers) who want a clean, attractive, trusted platform to not only raise money but develop and foster a fan base and a community of people who have invested and feel invested in a project, Kickstarter works.

For filmmakers and those who fund their projects, everyone knows what they’re getting themselves into. As government arts funding becomes more bourgeois and certain private funders spend less on the arts, guarding their coffers, Kickstarter has let us (for once) feel like we can choose what gets produced.

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