The last month has seen quite a bit of dissension amongst filmmakers regarding Spike Lee's decision to crowdfund his latest film on Kickstarter, but the quarrel started much earlier with the campaigns for Veronica Mars and Zack Braff's passion project. Some say these filmmakers are pulling away pledges that would be going into other projects, and others say they're introducing the crowdsourcing platform to new backers. Kickstarter decided to give their two cents on the matter regarding whether or not celebrities, like Spike Lee, should fundraise on a platform used by creatives who don't have the resources or connections more readily available to established, successful, and well-known filmmakers.
If Rob Thomas' Veronica Mars campaign lit the fire on the celebrity Kickstarter discord, Zach Braff's Wish I Was Here campaign added more wood, and Spike Lee's poured the gasoline. Just a few days ago, Lee's campaign met and surpassed its $1.25 million goal, which only added another dimension to the debate. Should celebrities use crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter and Indigogo?
The arguments I've heard against it state that celebrities are rich and can fund their movies themselves -- they shouldn't be asking money from their fans. Celebrities get to keep all of the money earned from their projects, and the backers who fronted them the money get a T-shirt and a tweet (not really -- some perks include dinners, tickets to premieres, even a seat next to Spike Lee at a Knicks game.) But the most pervasive qualm with the whole thing is this: Celebrities are taking potential backers (and backer money) away from other campaigns.
On the side that supports celebrity Kickstarters is Kickstarter itself, writing a blog post addressing the naysayers of Spike Lee's campaign, as well as others like it, providing a little bit more information and perspective for people to think about. Kickstarter says:
Kickstarter is not a zero-sum game where projects compete for pledges. All projects benefit from the network effect of a growing Kickstarter ecosystem -- Spike Lee brought three decades of fans to Kickstarter when he launched his project. He introduced many of them to this new way of funding creative works, and to the thousands of other projects that are funding on Kickstarter. Of Spike’s backers, 47% had never backed a Kickstarter project before.
Essentially, the more people know about crowdfunding, the more crowdfunding there will be. More money will be pledged by backers for projects. However, many of us wonder, if all of those new backers are shelling out money for celebrity campaigns (who doesn't want to be connected to a major project in any way possible?) where does that leave those of us who are less famous -- or completely invisible to the creative world? Does the money pool eventually run dry?
Kickstarter addresses the idea of competition among campaigns in a blog post about the "blockbuster effect." The question posed originates from the rise in number of Kickstarter campaigns, but it deals with the same general concept:
Projects aren't fighting over a finite pool of Kickstarter dollars or backers. One project's backer isn't another project's loss. The backers that one project brings often end up backing other projects as well. Each project is not only promoting itself, but the Kickstarter ecosystem as a whole.
According to Kickstarter, a campaign's success isn't negated by other campaigns, but by a poor ecosystem. In fact, they say other campaigns, especially celebrity campaigns help grow the Kickstarter ecosystem by bringing in more and more backers to whichever category the project belongs to, be it Film & Video, Games, Design, etc.
Double Fine Adventure is the largest project in Kickstarter history. With $3,336,371 pledge by 87,142 backers, the campaign consisted of 61,692 new backers (71%.)
The graph shows how Double Fine Adventure brought in a boatload of new pledges, stating that before the launch of the campaign, the Video Game category saw an average of 629 pledges per week, and after the launch averaged 9,755 -- and those pledges exclude the ones from Double Fine.
So, be you opposed or for celebrity Kickstarter campaigns, it is important to be informed about the data that exists right now. In the future, I'm sure we'd all like to see the numbers related specifically to Film & Video, seeing as not all audiences, backers, and fans are the same across all platforms.
What do you think about Kickstarter's views on celebrities using their platform? Let us know in the comments below.