Remember when tiny initiatives got funded by Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website aimed at allowing people to gain funding for products that might otherwise have a hard time gaining traction?
Me too. But now, with the popularity of Veronica Mars and Zach Braff’s Kickstarter efforts, bigwigs are taking the tiny platform to new heights – and ruining it for the people who really need it.
Now you can’t blame these actors and directors for seeing the explosion of crowdfunding as a good way to get a jump start (and show public support) for their next project. Crowdfunding successfully raised around $2.7 billion last year – a number that is slated to explode to $5.1 billion this year, according to the The Crowdfunding Industry Report by Massolution. That’s more than one million individual projects raking in dough by making pitches online and hoping people bite. These projects range from the bigger-name crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, to several other venues all with their own flavor: Indiegogo, Crowdfunder, RocketHub, Fundable, and so many others all attract different types of projects and different types of investors.
But now bigtime director Spike Lee has taken to the site, arguably a much bigger name than the Kristen Bells and Zach Braffs of the world, whose movie credits range from Do The Right Thing to Inside Man and who has gained both critical and commercial success throughout his long history in the industry.
But Lee is convinced he’s just another independent filmmaker.
“With the current climate in The Hollywood Studio System it's not an encouraging look for Independent Filmmakers. I'm not hating, just stating the facts. Super Heroes, Comic Books, 3D Special EFX, Blowing up the Planet Nine Times and Fly through the Air while Transforming is not my Thang,” Lee wrote in a letter on his Kickstarter’s page. “I have a different vision of what Cinema can be, a different vision of what some under-served Audiences might want to see. That is why I am here on KICKSTARTER, to raise the Funds for The New Spike Lee Joint, to get this BAD BOY financed … I’m an Indie Filmmaker and I will always be an Indie Filmmaker. Indie Filmmakers are always in search of financing because their work, their vision sometimes does not coincide with Studio Pictures. But I do put my own money in my films. I self-financed RED HOOK SUMMER. My fee for MALCOLM X was put back into the budget. The truth is I’ve been doing KICKSTARTER before there was KICKSTARTER, there was no Internet. Social Media was writing letters, making phone calls, beating the bushes. I’m now using TECHNOLOGY with what I’ve been doing. ”
The problem isn’t that he’s looking for nontraditional funding methods – because it is true that the kind of movies that Spike Lee tends toward aren’t necessarily the kind that will convince studio heads looking at Fast and Furious 26 or the next comic book movie that it’s worth getting made. The problem is that he’s confusing the spirit of an independent film with the budgetary and opportunity challenges and outsider situation of an independent film.
As much as Lee wants to claim to be an outsider in the industry, he can still get a ticket into levels of Hollywood that an indie filmmaker without a name like Spike Lee couldn’t dream of getting into. And his Kickstarter will get funds from people less because they discover his out of a pile of a million and believe, and more because of his name and his bankable star power as a master director. That’s not indie.
Jon Lajoie, famous for asking people to show him their genitals and for playing a character named Taco on an FX show about friends and fantasy football called The League, has a hilarious take on the Hollywood elites dipping into the Kickstarter honeypot: