[…]Zach Braff has turned to Kickstarter to finance Wish I Was Here, his directorial follow-up to Garden State. As he explains in his video appeal below, Braff just wants to make it okay to feel something again—namely the freedom from financers who demand things like input into casting or final cut or an actual return on their investment, when instead he could just seek out donors who will be happy just knowing he’s happy.
As Braff states in the promotional video on his Kickstarter page, the inspiration for this plan is the highly documented success of the Veronica Mars crowdsourcing campaign, a vanguard for what he considers to be an independent film revolution.
Braff had a major financial and critical success with Garden State, but that was nearly a decade ago, and he has worked minimally after Scrubs went off the air. His diminishing visibility and the failure of his last two attempts at being a leading man are significant red flags for any financier; the compromises Braff was offered seem reasonable, given that this film is not necessarily a safe investment. Granted, the forfeiture of final cut and casting are fairly severe drawbacks for any filmmaker with a vision, but that Braff was offered this money for a highly personal passion project at all is surprising.
My primary issue with Braff’s solicitation is the lack of accountability, though this burden falls less on Braff and more on Kickstarter. I have a hard time believing that someone who starred in a highly profitable sitcom for seven years, making up to $350,000 per episode in its twilight hours, doesn’t have the personal funds he needs to get what seems like a small movie off the ground on his own. Similarly, it is difficult to believe that there isn’t a studio that could have met Braff halfway to produce this movie to his specifications. Braff isn’t beholden to contribute his money to Wish I Was Here – again, he had at least one studio offer – but the video is hardly shy about drawing parallels between the subject matter of the film and Braff’s own life. It’s hard not to look at this as outsourcing a vanity project to the public, soliciting no-questions-asked risk-free funding while retaining total creative control. Braff is partially funding the film, but there’s no way to tell what exactly this donation drive is paying for or what level of pre-established capital our donations are supplementing. Kickstarter’s opacity is fertile ground for manipulation, which is not to suggest that Braff is picking our pockets, but it draws further attention to potential abuse of the site. Your fans make your movie for you, and then drop ten more dollars to buoy its box office when it’s finally released.
Wish I Was Here will be funded. At this time, the project has earned over half of its $2 million goal with 29 days left to go. As with any Kickstarter baby, no promises can be made as to the results; what we end up with could be a classic of mid-30s suburban ennui, or it could be masturbatory detritus in an already overrepresented subgenre. The question remaining is whether or not Kickstarter can maintain its reputation as a trustworthy engine for creative growth. People may talk with their money, but who says Braff or any other beneficiary is going to listen to what they really want?
Drew Byrd-Smith – drewbyrd.blogspot.com