With the success of the VERONICA MARS Kickstarter effort, fans everywhere are wondering why this isn’t being done more by more studios.
The answer may be this: because it is the wrong way to crowd fund studio projects.
Let me detail a few realities for anyone out there looking for a CHUCK (or fill in blank here) movie.
- Kickstarter and Amazon (which handles transactions) each take 5% off the top. That’s 10% of total donations gone in handling fees. So, if you need $10 million to make your movie and you raise $10 million, you only have 9 of those millions. Problem.
- Pledge rewards cost money. In the case of VERONICA MARS, that included renting out movie theaters and sending packages to thousands of donators. In the case of our fictional $10 million project (which I suspect the CHUCK movie would cost), that could be a considerable loss. Now you’re down to anywhere from $8 to $5 million of the original funds raised.
- Kickstarter eliminates a vast number of payment options due to Amazon’s tyrannical fear of PayPal. Your crowd funding project is missing out on millions of potential donators who could make your effort an enormous success.
- Projects are only funded if the goal is reached in the allotted time. If you miss the deadline by $1, then it isn’t funded and you start all over. That happens. It's insanity! There should be an option to make donations perpetual until the project is funded.
- Studios are less likely to do a public crowd fund for any project that will cost many millions to produce for fear that it will fail (and/or negative media coverage). The VERONIC MARS creators brought to Warner Brothers what they believed was a reasonable budget (WB agreed to cover marketing costs). Other projects could cost much more to deliver as a worthwhile movie (SERENITY II anyone?) and those efforts would need a more specific type of crowd funding model designed specifically for studio productions.
- Currently projects of this type are being looked at long after production ends. That means added overhead to kick things off again, including building sets and the like.
Studios, either individually or as a collective, could develop their own crowd funding model that is designed from the ground up to fit their unique needs. They have to eliminate the middle-men so that the handling fee losses at Kickstarter/Amazon are absorbed at the source. They also need to be able to accept a greater number of payment options from more areas around the world.
Once implemented, this type of studio run crowd funding model could be used for any number of projects.
Consider a world where a studio doesn’t pick up a TV pilot but posts it online and asks if anyone would be interested in seeing it go to series. Or at the point where a show is about to be cancelled due to low ratings, the studio offers fans a chance to crowd fund a movie or a final episode that wraps things up in a satisfying way before production is shut down.
POSSIBLE SOLUTION TAKE 2
A crowd funding site specific to TV and movie productions could be created by some enterprising individual familiar with the industry and with the drive, experience, and resources to pull off something like it. Someone like NerdMachine/NerdHQ creator Zachary Levi. The launch of such a site could also be used to kick-start a CHUCK movie crowd funding effort.
SIDE WORD TO FUTURE CROWD FUNDED VENTURES
Please, for the love of everything holy, unholy, and otherwise imagined, stop creating ridiculous and expensive rewards that end up being so cost-prohibitive that the funded project either never gets underway or is delayed indefinitely. Or if the crowd fund initiator believes they are necessary for the venture to succeed, then at least make the required donation amount realistic. If you have to send out DVDs, t-shirts, vouchers, or rent out theaters around the country, then it is going to take money and a lot of time and personnel. Account for these things in your planning. Hire a project manager!
SocialTimes has a couple of articles about the trouble with Kickstarter projects either not being funded, or not delivering on time.