Whenever someone who’s not an unknown individual tries to crowd-fund a project, it’s always a recipe for a kefufflerous brouhaha. First it was Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas raising $5.7 million for a Veronica Mars movie, and so it is again with Zach Braff, who’s currently using Kickstarter to fund a project called Wish I Was Here. Braff hasn’t made a movie since 2004’s Garden State, and Wish I Was Here would reunite him with his Garden State cinematographer, production designers, and producers. No word on whether it will also pimp The Shins super hard again.
I was about to sign a typical financing deal in order to get the money to make “Wish I Was Here,” my follow up to “Garden State.” It would have involved making a lot of sacrifices I think would have ultimately hurt the film. I’ve been a backer for several projects on Kickstarter and thought the concept was fascinating and revolutionary for artists and innovators of all kinds. But I didn’t imagine it could work on larger-scale projects. I was wrong.
After I saw the incredible way “Veronica Mars” fans rallied around Kristen Bell and her show’s creator Rob Thomas, I couldn’t help but think (like I’m sure so many other independent filmmakers did) maybe there is a new way to finance smaller, personal films that didn’t involve signing away all your artistic control.
“Wish I Was Here” is the story of Aidan Bloom (played by me), a struggling actor, father and husband, who at 35 is still trying to find his identity; a purpose for his life. He and his wife are barely getting by financially and Aidan passes his time by fantasizing about being the great futuristic Space-Knight he’d always dreamed he’d be as a little kid.
When his ailing father can no longer afford to pay for private school for his two kids (ages 5 and 12) and the only available public school is on its last legs, Aidan reluctantly agrees to attempt to home-school them.
The result is some funny chaos, until Aidan decides to scrap the traditional academic curriculum and come up with his own. Through teaching them about life his way, Aidan gradually discovers some of the parts of himself he couldn’t find.
That’s the Zach Braff side of the story. The other side is all the people complaining that an artist who doesn’t need crowd-funding to fund his projects is co-opting the system and taking attention away from people who actually need it. Others point out that when Braff sells the distribution rights, he’ll be able to pocket the money as pure profit. If you ask me, none of this is infringing on anyone’s right to self-determination, so either donate or f*cking don’t, the choice is yours. Your opinion of how crowd-funding is used is always going to depend heavily on whether you think the project in question is worthy. Am I going to donate to a Zach Braff movie or Veronica Mars? Not a chance. And yes, there are far more worthy causes out there. But it used to be that studios and financiers with deep pockets were a go-between trying to decide what an audience was going to like. Now, if only in a limited way, that audience can vote ahead of time instead of waiting for what the go-between gives us and getting only the opportunity to say yes or no. That’s pretty cool. Fewer middle men is always a good thing. Will the mob be any better at picking winners than a handful of studio execs and rich guys? Hard to say. No one group has a monopoly on stupidity and crappy taste. If the internet is any guide, instead of Bruckheimer movies for kids, we’ll get Star Wars parodies and bacon and a series of obnoxious dance crazes that last for six days.
The real question here is, how many dudes were there named “Aidan” pre-Sex and the City? Had to be like three, four tops.