The internet is a place where people feel things deeply. Sometimes, those feelings are about Zach Braff. During the four days it took the Scrubs star and writer/director of Garden State to raise US$2 million dollars on Kickstarter to fund his next movie, numerous commentators felt it necessary to point out that a successful Hollywood actor was using a platform designed to fund small-scale art projects to finance a fairly commercial-sounding Hollywood feature film. Sometimes they phrased it as ‘it seems somewhat askew that an actor/director who has the means to either fund his movie himself, or sign a typical financing deal, is asking you for cash’. Other times they were more like ‘Oh for crying out loud. This needs to stop’.
It’s a little difficult to treat this angst as a serious anything, let alone a serious argument. So what if Braff’s already a millionaire? So is everyone else in Hollywood. So what if copies of the finished film aren’t part of the deal, forcing fans to pay twice? No-one’s forcing them to take up his offer. So what if he’s pitching it as ‘[my] follow up to Garden State’ when a more accurate term would be ‘the next film from the guy who made Garden State’? Just because one sounds like a possibly successful sequel and the other sounds like the kind of film that flops hard at the box office, that doesn’t mean he’s spinning things any more than the Hollywood norm. And so what if most of the arguments against Braff’s Kickstarter are fuelled by nothing more than an intense, almost irrational dislike of Braff himself? Wait, what?
The Atlantic says that the ‘short version’ of their argument against Braff is that ‘giving money to famous rich people to do something creative is silly and irresponsible’. So… all big name actors and directors should work for free then? When your article says ‘28,000 people are paying Zach Braff to make the most Braff-ian movie he possibly can — a freaking sequel to Garden State for heaven’s sake’, it’s pretty clear your problem isn’t so much with how he’s raising funds but that he’s raising funds in the first place.
The lesson from all this isn’t that Kickstarter is being co-opted by big business, or that some people are stupid enough to give a millionaire money to make something they’ll have to pay again to see. It’s that a lot of people out there don’t want Zach Braff to make another movie. And why should they? If you’re a Braff hater, this Kickstarter campaign feels like cheating. He couldn’t get his vision funded by regular means, but instead of accepting the fact that no-one wants to see yet another film where a mopey sullen manchild has his life turned upside down by a manic pixie dreamgirl, he’s dodged around the cultural gatekeepers and run out onto the street to pester passers-by into funding his dream. What if everyone started doing it? If James Franco announced he wanted to revive Manimal, does anyone really think he wouldn’t get the money? Even I’d give money to a feature length version of this:
You are right to hate and fear the coming world where deranged fans of rubbish films and puerile television shows will throw all their money at remakes, because those remakes will quickly crowd out everything you know and love. Sure, almost all of these revivals will be unwatchable and vanish quickly, just like remakes and comebacks always have; there’s just going to be so many of them coming at you that they’ll block out the sun. Good luck fighting in the shade when all you can find via every search engine is page upon page of Amanda Palmer songs about how tragic events make her feel sad and attempts to create a holographic Bill Hicks and efforts to film discarded mid-90s Joss Whedon film scripts and fund Ren & Stimpy reboots and Cory Doctorow children’s television series and remakes of Johnny Mnemonic and oh wait, that last one’s already happening even without Kickstarter. At least it looks like Melissa Joan Hart’s crowd-funded movie is doomed to failure. If only she’d just tried to fund a Sabrina revival…
Anthony Morris is a Killings columnist and has been reviewing films for almost 20 years for a variety of publications, many of which have closed down through no fault of his own. Though his insistence on reviewing every single Adam Sandler movie may have played a part.