The Celebrity Kickstarter Has Officially and Completely Jumped the Shark
First, there was the Veronica Mars movie Kickstarter, which we all thought was awesome, because it meant getting a movie many of us have long wanted made. The $2 million they asked for was, yes!, to make the movie, but there was also another component to that: The millions raised demonstrated to the studio that there was enough enthusiasm behind the film to warrant its distribution. Zach Braff, who wipes his ass with “Scrubs” money, was soon to follow, which is when the complaints began: Why should the fans essentially provide free money to wealthy filmmakers, and then pay again to see the movie (a better model, I think, for a film like Zach Braff’s is to pre-sale tickets: If you can sell $4 million in tickets, the movie gets made, and everyone who donated can see the movie for free). But no matter: Braff met his goal and then some, and now we’ll all get to see the spiritual successor to Garden State.
Then Spike Lee got involved, and again, here’s a very wealthy filmmaker with all the connections in the world asking for $1 million, when all he had to do was write himself a check, or go to one of his many friends, or hold a hat out to the Weinsteins and say, “Hey! Can you spare a $1 million.” The fact that so many of Lee’s Kickstarter donations came from the likes of Kerry Washington, Steven Soderbergh, and other wealthy people demonstrated the problem with celebrity Kickstarters: It felt kind of like the Hollywood elite were exchanging money, instead of what Kickstarter was seemingly created to do: Support financially strapped folks with big ideas and small pocketbooks.
But now? It’s gone completely off the rails. Writer/director John Herzfeld (2 Days in the Valley) has made a movie called Reach Me, a drama centered on a group of people who all have a connection to a self-help book authored by a reclusive former football coach. That group of people includes Sylvester Stallone, Lauren Cohan, Kelsey Grammer, Kyra Sedgwick, Nelly, Kevin Connolly, Ryan Kwanten, Thomas Jane, Tom Sizemore, Elizabeth Henstridge, Terry Crews and Danny Trejo.
The movie is actually pretty much finished, but one of the film’s financial backers abandoned he project, leaving a $250,000 hole. How do they fill it? Last week, Sylvester Stallone complained that Bruce Willis wanted $4 million for 4 days of work instead of $3 million, so you can imagine how much Stallone makes on The Expendables, not to mention the hundreds of millions he’s probably got in the bank (the Internet says he’s worth $275 million). Kelsey Grammer dusts “Frasier” money over his coat sleeves before he leaves the house. Kyra Sedgwick made $350,000 per episode of “The Closer.” Stallone has probably spent $100,000 on dinner with friends before. But how do they plan to fill the gap?
Kickstarter. Why doesn’t Herzfeld just ask those guys from some pocket change? Because they’ve already done him enough favors, apparently. Why doesn’t he find another backer? Probably because no one has faith enough in the film to back it. My guess is that Reach Me is a giant turkey in the making (which is probably why it lost its backer), and rather than raise the money the old fashioned way, knowing that the investor will probably never see a return on that investment, Herzfeld and company are going to the fans and sinking their money into a lost cause.
It’s a truly pathetic use of Kickstarter, and while no one has to donate if they don’t want to (the $3,667 raised so far suggests that there’s not a lot of passion behind the project), it really does expose the flaws with celebrity Kickstarters when a group of multi-multi-millionaires are panhandling for a quarter of a million dollars.