(1) The Emergence of Kickstarter Studios
Writer Sarah Myles recently put the Kickstarter and film phenomenon in context:
The last time we saw a revolution in independent film, producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein were leading the charge with Miramax Films taking small, critically acclaimed ‘arthouse’ movies such as The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, and investing in their distribution to wider audiences.
Although their championing of independents from around the world gave us greater access to the work of Almodovar, Tarantino, Soderbergh and Smith, among many others, they eventually came under fire for driving the budgets of independent filmmaking up. Though they had helped to raise the profile of the independent film industry in general, young, self-funded auteurs were still struggling to reach their audience.
The movie-making game is rigged against independent movies. Every aspect of filmmaking, from production financing to distribution, is pre-disposed to favour studio pictures. That being the case, small projects are marginalised at best – and at worst, they are locked out altogether. A new revolution is needed to help creative minds reach their audience. Enter, Kickstarter.
From April 28, 2009 to the start of this year, Kickstarter had:
- Pledged $102.7 million through nearly 900,000 backers; and
- Funded 8567 projects
- 86 projects have been released theatrically with 13 set for 2013 premiers
- Five Kickstarter films have become Oscar nominees
- Kickstarter films have a major presence at indie film festivals such as Sundance, SXSW and Tribeca.
(2) Enter Goliath
This year has been even better for “Kickstarter Studios”, as the movie adaptation of the TV show “Veronica Mars” raised $5.7 million (well over its $2M target) for producer Rob Thomas and Spike Lee has joined the Kickstarter ranks. Lee is asking Kickstarter users to “fight the power” and has raised over $300,000 in his first week (of his target $1.25M), with director Steven Soderbergh giving $10,000 (which has a perk of court side seats with Lee at a New York Knicks game). Mike Tyson and other celebrities also have pledge support.
(3) Davis v. Goliath?
I have followed closely the emergence of Kickstarter and crowdfunding and have featured “Kickstarter Studios'” projects on Cyber Law and Business Report. This includes:
- Sonicsgate – an early KIckstarter entry and an award winning documentary of how the Seattle Supersonics were in essence stolen from the city by an Oklahoma City ownership group.
- The Treatment – a film in preproduction that asked the novel question what would happen if a doctor treated a hypochondriac. The film did not get funded.
Most recently we spoke with Laura Davis, producer of A New York Heartbeat. Davis (and her husband director and screenwriter Tjardus Greidanus) pulled off a small miracle in completing a period-piece action film for under $1 million with name cast members, but is seeking Kickstarter funding for distribution related costs so her picture can reach an audience. With A New York Heartbeat getting rave reviews at its opening in Pittsburgh which coincides with Lee’s entrance into the Kickstarter market, the question arises whether quality can compete with celebrity for Kickstarter dollars. As Davis nears her goal, it suggests that Kickstarter can accommodate both the upcoming indie Davises and Goliaths like Lee. With $16,000 still to raise, the next seven days may tell us a lot about the evolving “Kickstarter Studios.”
Sarah Myles, Kickstarter & Independent Film – A Conversation with Director Simon Horrocks, eMag; Bennet Kelley, The Transformation and Regulation of Crowdfunding, E-finance and Payments Law & Policy