After his directorial debut with 2004’s Garden State, Scrubs star Zach Braff returns this year with Wish I Was Here, a film which last year was innovatively funded through the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. The online site aims to help get young creative projects off the ground through public donations, and is a hugely useful tool for artists of any kind to make their ideas a reality despite lack of financial backing.
In return for pledging a certain amount, Braff’s fans received rewards ranging from a PDF of the films screenplay ($10) to being an actual credited cast member (at the hefty price of $10,000, which apparently only one donor saw as worth the cost). The project raked in more than $3 million overall. The Kickstarter method has also successfully helped the tv show Veronica Mars, cancelled in 2007, make a comeback on the big screen earlier this year, which was the most funded movie on the site so far. For up-and-coming filmmakers, this can be an extremely valuable way to launch their projects while getting new fans interested and involved in the creative process. Through internet word-of-mouth, projects that previously were unable to find funding through traditional means now stand a chance of being made.
In Braff’s case, however, the problem was not strictly one of money but of the quest for full creative control over his picture without the intrusions of financiers, who frequently have the final say on a films content. In an industry where the pursuit of what will make the next million is all too often prioritised over the actual quality of the movies produced, this move towards filmmakers taking matters into their own hands is an exciting one. Through platforms like Kickstarter we may be seeing many more directors moving away from harsh industry environments while managing to remain faithful to their original ideas.
Perhaps then this crowdfunding gesture of Braff’s is an attempt to stay true to his artistic vision and can be seen as noble, if not particularly humble. He is, after all, a huge star in a sea of struggling beginners desperately hoping for someone to believe in them. This new concept of films being fully backed by the public, however, is undeniably a great step forward for both industry veterans and emerging new talent, putting the open, democratic nature of the internet to good use for consumers and creatives alike.