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The Celebrity Kickstarter Has Officially and Completely Jumped the Shark

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | August 22, 2013 | Comments ()


Arnold-Stallone-Willis.jpg

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.

(Source: Deadline & Kickstarter)







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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • PRESIDENT MAO

    Harry Knowles has started a Kickstarter campaign to pay his debts with the IRS. THAT is jumping the shark.

  • Arran

    What's this now? I saw he has one to pay for a season of his web show (no thanks!), is that what you're talking about?

  • TCH

    Isn't that against policy? I remember one of the rules is there is to be no "fund my lifestyle" kickstarters.

  • TCH

    Fucking hell! This is getting out of hand. Kickstarter was never meant to be used in this fashion. Also the bitter script reader has an article that analysed Spike Lee's Kickstarter numbers and it is looking like his wealthy friends pretty much bank rolled a large chunk of Lee's Kickstarter.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    You mean they bankrolled Kickstarter. They could've just handed checks to him directly. That is what doesn't make sense (or demonstrates that it's more about PR. I wonder if Kickstarter cuts its commission rate on celebrities, since their pitches drive traffic to Kickstarter itself)

  • TCH

    They should have and celebrities might, but in the long run it seems like a bad idea. Jeez it is getting weird. I just hope Kickstarters done by celebrities don't overshadow kickstarters for books, games, and devices.

  • Evan

    The problem with all of you seeing these kickstarter campaigns as OK, I have one thing I would like you to consider:

    Art is NOT a Public Charity. True art is a business.

    Sure, there are nonprofit institutions doing artistic things that ARE considered charity, but these particular projects (especially from high-end wealthy names) are NOT being done for charity! They are being done for-profit!

    Sure, they'll let you see the movie for free if you donated, or even give you a free t-shirt if you're REALLY lucky! Yay! But if you've donated some money to their $4 million dollar goal (or whatever it is), they may call you a "producer" on this project...of which, you are NOT. Because a "producer" will get his ROI (Return On Investment...in other words, his money back) if the movie was profitable. And if the movie WASN'T profitable, then then producer would STILL get money back...in fact, he would STILL collect all remaining profits from the movie until his investment has been recouped fully...which in some cases, never happens

    And you? Being the Kickstarter producer? You get NOTHING in terms of an investment back. Which is why you are not a REAL producer to begin with on these projects!

    So what does this mean when big and rich names turn to Kickstarter for funding their next project? It means that they couldn't (or didn't even try to) seek funding by the studios and independent financiers, but that they can turn to YOU, the fans, to fund their next project!! YOU get to foot their bill, and it absolves them from ever having to pay you back if they ever made money on this project!! It means that they get to keep all the profits themselves from this project without ever having to pay you back!

    One more time here...YOU PUT IN all the money on this project and THEY COLLECT all the money that was made if it profited.

    How cool is that, right? But hey! Don't worry! They HAVEN'T forgotten about you either! Because when the movie is done, you get to see it for free!! Or maybe even get a free t-shirt!! Sweet deal, right? And if the film turned out to be a big flop? Well then...at least it was YOUR money that they wasted and not some big studio's money. At least they never have to pay YOU back like they would've with a major studio.

    What this columnist is saying is totally correct...if Hollywood or any true independent financiers are unwilling to step in and fund this movie, then it shouldn't be made. Guys, this ISN'T charity...it's a business. These people who have a BOATLOAD of money have now found a loophole from where it absolves them from all financial responsibility to their own work. DON'T INDULGE THEM.

  • TCH

    There needs to be separate site for kickstarter film projects. One in which investors get a return on their funds. I say investors because, with kickstarters that concern games, devices, and or books one is buying a product. With funding films things change.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    That actually is a pretty good business model. You should start a Kickstarter campaign to build a rival, producer-centric crowd-sourcing website.

  • TCH

    I will and I will start by asking for 250,000. While I am at it I will start another Kickstarter to create a service that prevents Kickstarter abuse.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I'll start a Kickstarter campaign to create another website, Patronage.com - for artists who only want a large amount money from one obscenely wealthy person.

  • TCH

    I like the idea. But their layout needs work.

  • dizzylucy

    I don't think anyone should expect the actors to fund it, but they could certainly offer a producer credit and little percentage of the profits if any of them care to do so.

    Or ask one of the other investors if they want to chip in a little more. A kickstarter for this is ridiculous, IMO.

  • Heather

    I've donated to a few different causes on Kickstarter; one time, my donation got me a t-shirt; another time, an album download; the first time, it merely got my name in movie credits, but it was for a friend, so I didn't mind. In a way, it's like purchasing something you like, while also supporting a cause you feel strongly about. Many times, the donation gets you a free copy of the movie once it is released on video. Sure, it costs a little more than if you were to just buy it, but if it's something you want to support, what's the big deal? I have no problem whatsoever with anyone using kickstarter; if you don't want to donate, you don't have to! And I never believe it's acceptable to ask the actors to pay for the movie, unless they wanted to in the first place. It is their job; regardless that they make a ridiculous amount of money, the producers agreed to pay them that when they signed them. If they were so closely budgeted that a quarter million dollars made the movie impossible, they should have offered the stars less in the first place.

  • pissant

    I agree with your statement that actors shouldn't be expected to fund the films in which they act. However, when dealing with someone who has a net worth like Stallone does, you do need to compare numbers. If he actually has a net worth of $275,000,000...

    While a quarter of a million dollars sounds like a lot to most people, $250,000 is approximately .01% of $275,000,000. To put that in perspective, if your net worth were $50,000, asking for .01% of your net worth would be asking you for $50. I mean, my net worth is nowhere near $50,000 right now. But if you asked me for $50 to fund a film (or finish funding a film), there is a decent chance that I'd give it to you.

    I have no problem whatsoever with anyone using kickstarter; if you don't want to donate, you don't have to!

    That's true, too. The argument can be made that if everyone is running around giving their money to projects being made by people who could find funding via more traditional channels then that means less money for the little guys. But I suspect most people don't keep a strict KS budget for every month. I don't think it is impacting the little guys very much. I think it just leaves a bad taste in people's mouth to see someone passing around their shiny, new top hat looking for donations.

  • Andrew J

    Yeah but that's under the assumption that Stallone cares about the film. He may have just done it for the paycheck. It's silly to think that every actor involved with this was doing it for the passion of the film.

    Well maybe he asked him and Stallone said hell no. Who knows

  • foolsage

    You've got a decimal error there in your percentages. 1/1000 is 0.1%, not 0.01%.

    I absolutely agree with your sentiment though; it's about the marginal value of the money in question. The guys asking for my money shouldn't have vastly more money than I do, else I have little reason to help them out.

  • Fredo

    I want to start a Kickstarter to end Kickstarter abuse.

    I figure it'll take $5 million dollars.

  • Allijo

    PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF DOING GOOD IN THE WORLD go to Kiva.org and throw down some money there instead of giving it to people who already have more than if we put a dollar in a jar everytime TK uses the word f*ck on this site.

  • Berry

    The Weinsteins can't spare $1 million. They need that money to bribe people into wearing Georgina Chapman's "designs".

  • Mrs. Julien

    STANDING O

  • Uriah_Creep

    Also, those Oscars don't pay for themselves, you know.

  • janellest

    The celebrity Kickstarter trend is not about raising money, it's about raising awareness. They want publicity, plain and simple.

  • Andrew J

    There were plenty of complaints with the Veronica mars thing.

    I don't know, the whole idea of kickstarter is dumb to me. Even before it was popular among Hollywood, I really only saw it as someone asking his friends and family without any of the real work involved of raising money.

    Even before the only ones that made a lot of money had some kind of celebrity endorsement. So basically it's par for the course

  • e jerry powell

    I prefer the peer-to-peer loan model, myself. I support a project, but I expect a return on my investment, however slight (not unlike a traditional bank loan, really), or at least a return on principal.

  • pissant

    Even before the only ones that made a lot of money had some kind of celebrity endorsement. So basically it's par for the course

    I'm sure you're being hyperbolic, but the first Kickstarter campaign to reach $1,000,000 (I believe on the same day as Double Fine did with their point-and-click video game) was a dude who wanted I believe $50,000 to make an iPhone dock (yeah, I'm surprised he raised that much, too).

    As far as Kickstarter being "dumb", I don't see how it's all that difficult to understand how it is useful. It allows people to get funding who probably couldn't get funding (in a timely manner, anyway) before a website like KS (and the internet itself) existed. If you're a musician who is barely making ends meet the bank is not likely to loan you $20,000 to release your new album. However, a decent portion of your approximately 5000 fans across the country might be willing to donate $20 or so.

  • Andrew J

    You know what you are right. I was thinking more of how I've seen many guys do it for films. But only films. I haven't really looked outside of it but I did hear stuff like video games getting funded well out and such.

    So instead ill say the idea of kickstarter is good and when executed can work well but long before Hollywood did it, too many people where using it as shortcut instead of actually working for their funds.

  • pissant

    So instead ill say the idea of kickstarter is good and when executed can work well but long before Hollywood did it, too many people where using it as shortcut instead of actually working for their funds.

    Oh, I definitely saw some of that. I saw this band from a small town asking for $5000 so they could record and I believe also tour. There were 5 guys in the band. You tellin' me that you guys can't come up with $1000/each if given 2 months? I'm just sayin', if you expect to make it as a band you probably need to be a little more resourceful than that.

  • DeaconG

    As the article said, the concept of Kickstarter has gone off the rails. Kickstarter is supposed to be for those folks who are trying to do something that wouldn't-or couldn't-be allowed with conventional financing, considering how the banks have been rather pissy about lending to anyone other than themselves in the last few years (in increasingly, not even to each other).

    If you look at gaming, Kickstarter works and works well; the games that people think should be produced get the money they need, the ones that don't work fall short. This is just one example.

    But for celebrities? No...no...you guys got ducats. Maybe you should spread them amongst yourselves a bit before you go poking at the hoi polloi? Don't we give you enough?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I disagree with the premise that a director/producer should go to the actors involved to ask for money - even at the Hollywood level, that seems tacky to me. Afford performers the opportunity to be producers on the film, sure, but it's just not right to say, "hey guys, we're in desperate straits with this totally for-profit project, and unless you pony up it won't see the light of day."

    but then again, I'm naive, a recovering idealist, and not a Hollywood player.

    On the whole, though, if you are a director/producer, and you've got that very strong cast, and you CAN'T find a $250K backer to complete the project - yes, you've done something wrong.

  • e jerry powell

    And the thing about giving actors production credit for a film that's already in the can (or near to it) is that they've already (presumably) been paid. As I understand it, actors who sign on as producers generally forgo their salaries because they technically own part of the film once it's done. It's how Kasi Lemmons got Eve's Bayou made, because the budget for the entire film was equivalent to just Samuel L. Jackson's salary, but since he signed on as a producer, that money was freed up.

    But yeah, if a producer drops out mid-project, cutting one's losses and abandoning the project might be the thing to do.

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