In the interest of full disclosure, let me preface this article by saying that inconnu magazine ran and successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign back in 2011 in order to support our Debut Issue, and without those funds, this site would not exist today.
It seems as though everybody has an opinion about crowdfunding these days. When Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas announced that he was launching a $2 million Kickstarter to pull the snarky teen detective out of TV purgatory, news of the campaign went viral, and people who had never heard of “crowdfunding” were suddenly debating the merits and ethics of it all on the public stage. And as with everything else that earns a spot in the 24-hour news cycle, the backlash was immediate.
Isn’t Kristen Bell a millionaire? Why doesn’t she just fund the movie out of pocket? Will the backers be reimbursed if they don’t like the movie? Do they technically count as producers? Does Rob Thomas they really think he’s going to change the industry?
And why don’t people just donate to a real charity? Aren’t there children out there starving in Africa?
The problem with this line of thinking is that it fails to understand the relationship between the backers and the creators entirely.
You see, when you run a Kickstarter campaign, you have 30 days to convince your potential backers that your project is worth something to them. Were this a mere charitable platform, all creators would have to do is plead their case to the public and wait around to receive the requested money. Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and indiegogo, however, are designed in order to help creators find audiences and means of production for their creations. That’s it. That’s the whole thing.
Take me, for example. I’m a 20-year-old college student living in a foreign country. What little spending money I have I use for food and the rare night-out. I purchase new clothing about twice a year. I’m fortunate enough to have parents who are willing to support me while I’m still in school, but other than that, I really don’t have much to spare. Also: I contributed $35 to the Veronica Mars kickstarter campaign.
But Taylor, did you even hear what I said? Are you really going to give Millionaire Kristen Bell thirty-five of your precious dollars over a starving child in Africa?
Okay, first of all, there are children starving on other continents, too. Like, I’m at least 20% sure of that. And secondly, yes. I am giving $35 to Millionaire Kristen Bell, because in exchange for those $35, she’s going to play my favorite character of all time in a movie that doesn’t exist yet. I’m going to get to see that movie, legally, on my laptop as soon as it premieres. And I also get a nifty t-shirt to show the people of the Universe that I like it when snarky teenagers solve crimes.
This is because Kickstarter is not a charity. I’m a Big Fan of these Creators, so I gave them my Money in Exchange for Goods and Services that only they can provide. To me, it was worth $35 to ensure that this movie will exist. Furthermore, if the movie had funded through the traditional model, I still would have probably purchased the movie ticket, the DVD, and the t-shirt — all of which would have added up to more than $35, easily.
Despite the backlash, the movie funded at just under $6 million, and with Kickstarter’s cut of the profits and the very real cost of shipping and producing physical rewards, the VM team can expect to have to have over $4 million at their disposal to make the movie that they’ve wanted to make since the show was cancelled back in 2007. I call this a success for Team Marshmallow, and a success for the future of crowdfunding.