Who Is Kickstarter For, Anyway? Indie Directors Weigh In

Categories: Film and TV

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Are celebrities like Zach Braff ruining Kickstarter for the rest of us?
So many ideas in our country begin with the best of intentions and end up completely corrupted. From Lindsay Lohan's acting career to the once-noble filibuster, well-meaning stuff sometimes just gets out of hand here. But has it caught up with Kickstarter, too?

Launched in 2009, this crowd-funding platform seemed, originally, to be a brilliant concept -- especially for filmmakers struggling to secure financing. Directors who had no money could use this vehicle to attract average people as backers -- plus, retain 100 percent control of their project. Perhaps film fans just assumed it was for the struggling masses, huddled together. But considering the mostly no-name directors who used it to finance films, it wasn't a bad assumption. There was no mission statement by Kickstarter to back this up, yet it seemed custom-built for the underdog.

But then, like Lindsay as Liz Taylor, or Ted Cruz by hour ten, things got weird. Name directors Spike Lee and Zach Braff, and famous kids like Zosia Mamet, some possessing the GNP of a Benelux country, started using Kickstarter. Is this fair? Is it equitable? Should anybody name their kid Zosia? We spoke with several indie filmmakers to see if such assumptions were true and all queries could be answered.

Count Katherine Dieckmann among the skeptics. This video and film director and Columbia Film School professor (she directed R.E.M's "Stand") isn't exactly overjoyed about A-list moviemakers using Kickstarter to fund their films.

"My students often use Kickstarter," says the director of the Uma Thurman film, Motherhood. "But I don't know why Zach Braff couldn't find money after Garden State. That's ludicrous. Why are 'name' people getting money from regular folks? Is it, 'Well, other people are using it, why can't I?' John Cassavetes constantly mortgaged his house to make his movies. I think with some name people, it seems like there's a sense of entitlement there."

Dieckmann is most concerned about her film students. "I teach kids who are deeply in debt. I feel that anything I did, that might take money from them, would make me sick."

Gorman Bechard, who's made features like Psychos in Love and The Replacements' documentary Color Me Obsessed, is an artistic Yogi Berra on the subject. About Kickstarter, he feels strongly both ways.

"I think it should be for filmmakers who've no other way to get the money they need," says Bechard. "I couldn't have made my last few films without Kickstarter. Plus, it restores my faith in humanity. Remember, in the old days, you had backers called 'angels'? The people who give me, say, 30 bucks are my angels. They make my movies possible."

Still, Bechard has an interesting take on celebs trying to raise money on this ostensibly meritocratic site.

"When there's a scuttlebutt about Zosia Mamet trying to raise 30 grand for a video, it's a good thing," he says. "First, she didn't raise the money she needed. Meaning celebrity didn't help. Also, sometimes, people come to Kickstarter just to see celebrity proposals. And end up spotting something from an unknown that really excites them. Then giving that person the money. Zach Braff's doing us a favor. He's bringing people here, who might not ordinarily come."

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