Scrubs star Zach Braff has raised around $2.5 million on Kickstarter to finance his new movie — and caused a major ruckus while doing so: Cheers and Frasier writer and veteran director and producer Ken Levine argued on his blog Tuesday that Braff’s project shouldn’t be supported by Kickstarter users.
“It defeats the whole purpose of Kickstarter,” he said, arguing that Kickstarter should instead be for indie filmmakers who don’t have access to the studio system.
He went on to say:
“The next Kevin Smith is out there… somewhere. He (or she) just needs a break, which is what Kickstarter is supposed to provide. Zach Braff can find his money elsewhere.”
Levine’s post struck a chord and went viral, leading him to follow up with another piece Wednesday. In it, Levine shares his thoughts about another major Hollywood Kickstarter success story: the Veronica Mars movie starring Kristen Bell. Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas took to Kickstarter in March to fund a movie reunion of the show’s cast, and hit his goal of $2 million in 10 hours.
The Veronica Mars Kickstarter was unique because it came with the blessing of Warner Bros., which is going to produce the movie. Thomas had tried for years to get Warner to front the money, but only got the project greenlit after Kickstarter users opened their wallets. “Kickstarter was a luxury for Braff, a necessity for Thomas,” acknowledged Levine Wednesday. But he added that the real winner may have been Warner:
“They get a possible hit movie, they didn’t have to lay out a cent for production, and they don’t have to share the profits with the investors. They give them T-shirts and souvenirs and they’re off the hook. How sweet a deal is that? On a project they didn’t even believe in. What a win/win. ”
Of course, there’s a flip side to this, as our own Liz Miller argued earlier this year: At this point in time, Kickstarter is still growing — and big projects with big names attached can help to bring new audiences to the crowdfunding site.
But the controversy also points towards a bigger issue for Kickstarter and the types of projects it accepts. If patrons feel as if they’re being asked to pay for projects that have no trouble getting funding elsewhere, then they might start to question the entire idea behind crowdfunding.