New Rule: If You Have $10 Million in the Bank, You Cannot Ask Me to Fund Your Movie, Zach Braff

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New Rule: If You Have $10 Million in the Bank, You Cannot Ask Me to Fund Your Movie, Zach Braff

By Dustin Rowles | Trade News | April 24, 2013 | Comments ()


I don't know how much Zach Braff is worth, but according to some website that calculates such things, he's worth $22 million. That sounds about right based on the syndication money he sees from "Scrubs," which has been one of the more successul syndicated series in recent years. Now, if you've got $22 million sitting around in the bank, it feels a little ... weird to ask fans to raise $2 million -- no strings attached -- to finance your movie.

Now, I know this was a quibble some had with the Veronica Mars movie, but that to me was different: It was cult show tapping a rabid fan base for something they desperately wanted, and I doubt that Rob Thomas has $22 million in the bank, "Veronica Mars" and "Party Down" royalties notwithstanding.

What Braff wants to do is, again, raise $2 million, but here he wants to finance a movie he wrote and directed, which is a sequel "in tone" to Garden State. It will also star Jim Parson, and Donald Faison will have a cameo, and Chris Hardwick will pimp it at Comic-Con. That actually sounds like a movie I'd very much like to see, and I hope that Zach Braff makes it. Furthermore, Zach Braff presents a lot of good arguments for raising money on Kickstarter instead of seeking outside financing.

But, if Zach Braff has that much faith in his film, why doesn't he finance it himself? Why won't he accept the risk? It's not a huge risk: A Zach Braff movie that shares Garden State's tone, which stars Jim Parsons, and features a Donald Faison cameo? How many "Scrubs" and Garden State fans will see that? ALL OF THEM. How does that movie not make it's budget back? Isn't this what "f**k you" money is for, Mr. Braff?

What he's asking for is FREE MONEY, and while I think that's savvy from a business stand-point (you mean, all I have to do is make this video and people will give me money?!) and that it will almost certainly work, it also feels a little dishonest to accept all the rewards and face none of the risk. That said, it sure is a winsome, charming plea, complete with Braff, Faison, Parsons, and Hardwick being very funny. In fact, I nearly pulled out my credit card and donated, but then I remembered that a a lot of good people are trying to raise money for a fellow movie critic recently diagnosed with cancer, who is trying to pay for his hospital bills because he is uninsured because America's health care system is broken. I think I'd rather contribute to him, but I will most certainly pay $10 to see Braff's new movie.

And I really did enjoy this video, Mr. Braff. So, thanks for that.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • chiangui24

    Yes celebrities have financed their own films. Orson Welles made his Othello film as a passion project, and took acting jobs to finance it. It took him over 3 years, but he got it made. George Lucas has made all of the Star Wars Films after Episode IV on his own. Of course Zach Braff is no Lucas, and definitely no Orson Welles!

    Please feel free to check out my Kickstarter project. Trust me, I really do need the help!

  • MC

    hey Mr Millionaire- finance your own movie. My extra money is going to help a friends sister pay for experimental treatment so she doesnt DIE from a rare form of cancer that is advanced and chemo hasn't worked on. oh did i mention she is a 34 year old single mother to a 10 year old son and that her parents have terminal cancer as well?

  • Jezzer

    That's a shame and all, but now everyone is either uncomfortable from your overshare or wondering when this turned into a "Zach Braff or CANCER" either/or situation.

  • Ben

    I have no problem with him funding the movie through kickstarter, if people want to pay him then wahtevs.

    But why in the shitting fuck do you not get a copy of the dvd as any of the rewards? What the dicking shit is up with that?

  • ronniedobbs

    Probably will not donate to this because I already saw "Garden State" and I don't need to see it again. I would, however, consider backing another show with JD, Turkleton, Dr. Cox and Kelso, though. Let's do a Kickstarter for that instead. ro

  • Arran

    No risk, no reward! ~ Steve Guttenberg

  • cgthegeek

    Where I gotta donate to make sure this DOESN'T happen? Is there an anti-kickstarter?

  • Mr_Zito

    That would be something!

  • Well, we created the 1% by enabling and allowing them to socialize the risk and privatize the returns, and so this is what we get. Most people don't even recognize what is happening in the transactional moment, that's how far we've strayed from a legitimate, honest form of market capitalism. Let me finish with the necessary 'f*ck'you's' to: Reagan, Goldwater, the Bush Dynasty, Martin Friedman, Frederick Hayek, David Ricardo. [And a gentle 'get off your ass' to Obama, who has so far refused to engage in the class war our republic so richly needs, and wanted as evidence in both the 2008 and 2013 elections.]

  • junierizzle

    Never use your own money. Trust me, I spent $50000 on my "passion project" short film and have nothing to show for it.

  • Arran

    My guess is you're not a star with an established fanbase, though. And does ANYONE make money out of a short film? Outside of the possibility of getting HBO to screen it or something.

  • junierizzle

    Oh, I knew I wouldn't make any money on it but I figured it would get into a couple of festivals but no dice.

  • junierizzle


  • Sara_Tonin00

    *phew* for the decimal correction, but do you not even have the short film to show for it?

  • junierizzle

    Yes, I do have the film itself, you're correct. And the experience of making it I guess.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I don't want to get too preachy or rah-rah about this, but if it was your passion project, then hopefully the existence of the film is worth that $5K. It's not going away - you'll always have it to show, to share, to try to sell in other ways. It was your passion, and you didn't think it would make money, but it shows you can take something from start to finish.

  • junierizzle

    Yes, very true. One of the things I was proud of was how well we were prepared and how smoothly the production went. Thank you for the kind words. It is much appreciated.

  • toblerone

    So its okay for someone / something you like to ask for free money (Veronica Mars) but not someone / something you don't like because they have their own money?

    Rob Thomas - Net worth $18 Million / KBell - Net worth $8 Million

  • Arran

    I think you're looking at the wrong Rob Thomas. If Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas is anywhere near that rich (and don't get me wrong, I'm sure he's pretty comfortable), I'll eat my hat.

  • Tinkerville

    I don't know if the 18mil is accurate or not, but you'd be amazed how much creators of properties can make if they negotiate the residuals right. Since Rob Thomas created both Veronica Mars and Party Down, which probably have high DVD sales, he's probably better off than you think he is.

  • Arran

    Like I said, I'm sure he's pretty comfortable. But he doesn't actually seem to have an entry on that site. Only the OTHER Rob Thomas.

  • Jezzer

    He specifically said he likes Zach Braff and everyone involved, but I agree. If one person can do it, they should all be able to do it. It'll either succeed or not based on the fans' interests. At the end of the day, Kickstarter isn't founded on who is "deserving" of donations, but on what people are interested in helping to fund.

  • kilmo

    Donald Faison is a delight. However, his new teeth freak me out. Why do people keep getting veeners? They completely change your face and it never works out the first go around.

  • dizzylucy

    Given his success with Garden State and the buzz a "sequel" could get, along with the cast lined up, I feel like some studio or company would be willing to finance it.

    The difference for me with VM, and why I contributed, was that it was flat out not going to happen without the kickstarter campaign, and they had a deal in place for distribution should it raise the money.

  • fribbley

    I backed it.

    I'm a fan of Zach and the work he's done, so I'm happy to have a hand in this new venture.

    The second thing that's already happened since I backed I it about ten minutes ago is that now I'm super interested in following along on the process from start to finish, up to the point where I get to see the movie in Chicago with a Q&A with Zach after the fact. I've never had the opportunity to do anything like that before, so I'm interested in it just for that alone.

    I know this makes me super uncool, and I'm okay with that.

  • Given that Zach Braff was the worst thing about every Scrubs episode, and that Garden State made me want to stab everyone involved in the eye, I'm much more likely to pay him to not make movies than I am otherwise.

  • Strand

    It just takes one trailblazer for all the copycats to follow. After the Kickstarter Double Fine thing, every game developer, including Peter Molyneaux flooded that site. I'm pretty damn sure he has enough money, cloud and industry contacts to guarantee whatever project he wants made.

    Now Zach Braff is riding the coattails of the Veronica Mars thing. In my opinion, this isn't in the spirit of crowd-funding; allowing people to directly contribute to projects that would not otherwise not be possible in conventional channels.

  • Robert

    Because every actor who wants to make a film and has money finances the whole project themselves, right? Even under the old funding model?

    That's not how the film industry works. It's never been how the film industry works. It never will be how the film industry works. $2million to make a film doesn't account for all the other costs in actually bringing that film to market. It's a high risk game and no one does it all with the money out of their own pocket.

    The only exception is microbudget indies that get made over the course of years, ala Open Water, to be anywhere near good enough to get a wide theatrical release. Even then, the more polished ones always have local investors involved and tons of unpaid volunteer labor/equipment rentals.

    I have no problem with anyone going on Kickstarter and asking for money to fund a project. You don't have to give them money if you don't want to. You can donate to your friend's medical fundraiser, or that bombing victim's fundraiser, or a wild new invention that turns a pen into a 3D printer. The choice is yours. No one is forcing you to give to a big movie project if you don't want to in the same way that no one is forcing you to donate to an online fundraiser for a charity event. That's the beauty of the system.

    Personally, I'm not sold on Braff's pitch so I won't be donating. Not crazy about the last legs language regarding a public school and the attitude toward education. I did donate to the Veronica Mars project because I'm a fan of the show and their Kickstarter plan was solid. I donated to other projects, like Amanda Palmer's album and the Penny Arcade ad-free Kickstarter, because they had solid pitches and were willing to answer questions.

    I didn't donate to the new Double Fine adventure game because their pitch had no content other than "trust us." I didn't donate to John Kricfalusi's Kickstarter to fund one short for a couple hundred grand because I didn't see how he would actually use the money.

    I've donated to artists, inventors, home haunters, and students looking for a couple hundred or thousand dollars to expand their business because the pitches were good and they sold me on the project.

    What's the worst that can happen for a $5-$25 investment? They don't finish the project? Oh well. I'm out a trip to the movie theater with snacks and a drink. Big deal. If it succeeds? Great. I get my signed card or t-shirt or print or the good feels of someone getting the help they need in a crisis situation.

  • Jezzer

    I would probably donate money to a Kickstarter to make Amanda Palmer and her ten tons of entitled bullshit shut the fuck up and go away.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    holy crap. She beats the Vogons.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    This is very well put. On the whole, I'm not a fan of those who are wealthy, established and/or connected using KickStarter or IndieGogo - but as you point out, I have the option to not contribute (which is the option I choose.) But they have the right to ask, and it makes business sense to do so. I'm just one of those people who asks people for help as a very, very last resort and stubbornly funds my projects myself.

  • Some Guy

    I don't think it's fair to say that someone who has 22 million "in the bank" automatically means that they have millions in cash or in an account doing nothing, waiting to be invested.

    Odds are he has 20 million, but it's invested in the market, in real-estate, his domicile, and other investible things that amount to twenty some odd million, but his liquidity isn't very high, and he doesn't have the means or the ability to just pull 2 million out of something to finance a film.

    One could say that every actor worth his or her salt should just finance their own films and forget about producers and investors who make the movie possible and pay their salary.

    Could they? Probably. Is it sound financial planning? Probably not.

  • WestCoastPat

    I'm all for the idea of crowd-sourced funding for film projects that lack studio support, but shouldn't all those people take part in the windfall if this becomes a hit? Hell, shouldn't they at least get they money back?

    I will admit that I continue to have problems understanding the use of kickstarter in for-profit situations.

  • Robert

    You're basically signing up as an early adopter. With a game, you get a copy of the game and perks when it's released. Same with an album, a book, a comic, an art project, etc. Those are all commercial products that you buy well in advance of their release.

    With this project, you get a copy of the script and exclusive behind the scenes footage of the making of the project. Pay a little more and you get an invitation to a pre-release screening of the film. You help back the film, you get to see it before everyone else and you get the screenplay to read through.

    Almost every Kickstarter project is for profit. This is no exception. The exceptions are non-profit educational dance companies and the like who still have to give away material goods to participate in Kickstarter.

  • WestCoastPat

    "Those are all commercial products that you buy well in advance of their release."

    In this case, you aren't buying a product in advance of its release. You are donating money to the production of the product, which will then charge you to consume the product, regardless of how well the product does in the market.

    For the record, I use the word "donate" above because, in those kickstarters I have looked at closely, the goods received do not tend to come close to the value of the money given (even if you assign a rather high value to certain intangible items).

  • Colin

    I'm guessing that you don't like when people who make $100,000 a year and ask people to donate to a fundraiser where they're raising $10,000?

    And I realize I'm comparing non-profit fundraisers to a film, but your argument is ridiculous.

  • trooper6

    It might not be about the money...I mean, yeah, I'm sure the money is important...but with VMM it didn't seem to be solely about the money either. It seemed to be proving that enough people were interested so that the studio would give them a distribution deal (and I assume pay for marketing). So perhaps this is about proving an audience and getting buzz to get distribution and marketing?

  • Cazadora

    Classic example of how money is used by the wealthy, i.e., "don't touch the principal" and OPM -- Other People's Money.

    I love Kickstarter, but for it to be viable (for me, anyway), it can't be a charity that I give money to, it has to treat me like an investor. I either make or lose money based on the performance of the product in which I'm investing. Buying shares, if you will.

  • Rochelle

    I would contribute to a Turk and JD reunion, or just Turk dancing.

  • TSF

    I still want my money back for Garden State.

  • toblerone

    Portman's adorkableness made it worth it I.M.O. Plus it has Peter Sarsgaard.

  • toblerone

    So much hate for Garden State.

  • Bert_McGurt

    In retrospect, I think I enjoyed the soundtrack more than the actual movie.

  • Captain D

    Is it really possible to finance a movie from start to finish for $2 million? Surely he must have some other backers or be accepting the risk for overruns and such himself, right?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Of course it's possible. There are plenty of movies made for under $2mil, and if it doesn't have special effects or a cast of thousands, it's extremely doable.

  • ashsather

    It could be a really smart way to gauge the level of public interest. "Do you want to see it so badly you'll pay for it to be made, and then pay for a ticket to see it in theaters?" Based on how quickly the goal is met, and how viral the campaign goes it could be a fairly accurate reading for how the film will do.

    OR Z.Bones is a douche.

  • Robert

    Pretty sure it's the former. Getting to $2million will probably bring other investors on board to cover all the marketing, distribution, etc. costs after the film is made. You have to prove there's interest in an unknown property to get it made in Hollywood and Kickstarter might just be where some studios are sending people to prove their property is worth it. It's clearing happening with game developers already.

  • Spidey Super Comments

    I don't think you understand how things work. Someone creates a product and then people buy them. If people are fans of his, they will see his movie and pay for it. He's instead asking to follow the new model- hes asking for people to support his film and pay in advance of making it and becoming a backer.

    This is a great model for future content- movies, music, books, comics- support the artists directly, and let them follow their vision, instead of being beholden to a corporation- which is where he'd mostly likely go to ask for funding to begin with.

    Until people start making bad product with things like Kickstarter (lets say the VMM sucks), then it's a totally viable and honest way to generate press, start buzz among fans, and get people involved in his project, while allowing him to make exactly what he wants to make.

    In other words- stop hating.

  • I'd hardly call Dustin's post 'hating'. While I can agree with your point about content-generating proposals through Kickstarter, it is also fair to point out that it means Braff can take no risk - other than his artistic standing - to make money. If Braff were committed to sharing the profit, it'd be more difficult to criticize his play here.

    A law was passed last year to enable this sort of crowdfunding that allows people to get equity in what they fund, and that will be a more honest model for commercial ventures.

  • ,

    So, everybody who kicks in $10 now gets a voucher to get into the movie free when/if it actually gets made, right? Or do they get to pay again at the theater?

  • Arran

    No, you don't. It says that on the website. The website that is available for you to read before deciding whether to give it any money.

  • PerpetualIntern

    This was my question. Are we ostensibly paying to see a movie we've backed? Since as backers we get no share in the profit (if there is any) we should at least get to see it for free. If not, I think that's asking a lot.

  • zeke_the_pig

    Agree with you in principle as far as the creation of a new, fan-funded, corporate-independent model is a fantastic idea. However, whilst we're in the nascent stages of such a model, why not encourage its development by, say, funding half of it yourself. This'll make the process easier, more likely to succeed, and provide another successful example of the crowd-funded model. Granted this can only work if you have enough cash floating around anyway, but if Dustin's facts above are to be believed, Zach does.

  • Tracer Bullet

    it also feels a little dishonest to accept all the rewards and face none of the risk

    Sir, why do you hate capitalism?

  • zeke_the_pig

    Yyyyyyeah, no - finance it yourself, Braff. This smells a lot like what some people might call a pisstake. And I'm a fan.

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