March 15, 2015

'Don't Give Your Money to Rich People on Kickstarter' Says 'Power/Rangers' Director Joseph Kahn

Commercial and music video director Joseph Kahn and producer Adi Shankar of the recent Power/Rangers bootleg fan film recently sat down with Collider (you can see the timeline and questions at that link) to talk about that short, the history behind it, and the state of the movie industry and film violence:

You may have already seen the insane Power/Rangers bootleg, but if you haven't, here is the NSFW version along with the BTS (be sure to check out our previous post for even more behind the scenes and how they shot it):

Both of them have a lot of interesting things to stay in the Collider video, and Kahn touched upon some of the same things he talked about in the /Film podcast that's on the previous Power/Rangers post. I think it's important that we live in a society where we can comment on properties owned by other entities. If everything we're using is original material, fan films should be allowed under the same Fair Use arguments that allow people to create video essays (and plenty of those get taken offline every day). Part of the reason that's important is that these properties are nothing without the public who consume them. Parody is actually protected under the law, but these fan films are in a bit of a grey area. I think there are so many fine lines it's pointless to pick and choose, and we should have better laws regarding intellectual property that actually reflect the internet culture we live in.

Getting to the title of this article, Kahn's quote about rich people using crowdfunding is an important conversation to have. On one hand, just because you have a significant net worth does not necessarily mean you have money in the bank to spend on a movie. But on the other, if you really care about the art, and you are going to put your heart into something, some of the wealthier people should be smart enough to be able to afford some of these projects without help from anyone else. Certainly they are utilizing the same system that small indie projects are taking advantage of, but instead of buying that Ferrari, the money could definitely be spent elsewhere. In the end, it's up to individual people to spend money where they want to spend it.

And that's what is admirable about Kahn and his approach. He spent a lot of his own money on the Power/Rangers bootleg, and therefore was able to have total creative control. He doesn't mince words and is pretty clear about his monetary situation, but he really tries to pick projects that appeal to him. I know I've spent considerable amounts of my own money on personal projects, as have plenty of you, and I think the film is treated a little differently when your own dough is at stake.

The one positive I could see about utilizing these platforms if you are wealthy already is that they can help build a fan base. In that case, the barrier of entry should be lower — you should be able to watch the piece sooner than anyone else, at least digitally, and it shouldn't cost more than a movie ticket. I'm sure there are plenty of producers that look at these platforms as free money, but to keep crowdfunding healthy and viable for true indie projects, we need to be having these conversations.

What do you think? Should celebrities refrain from Kickstarter or Indiegogo and spend only their own money on projects they really care about?     

Your Comment

18 Comments

Meh. People on Kickstarter are funding projects THEY want to see made. Why does it matter if it's a poor independent or a rich independent? Or an actual studio? They get their special "backer" DVDs, posters and patches. They feel like they've contributed directly to a project (cause they have) and that makes them happy. What's wrong with that? It would be poor business practice to spend you're own money when there are legions of fans who want to contribute and feel like part of the process. I don't see anything wrong with that.

As a poor independent, I would be much more interested in Mr. Shankar disclosing the budget breakdown for the power ranger short. I think it's great he wanted to make this film enough to use his own money, especially since it definitely wasn't a small amount.

Back on point, I remember spending a hour in the "video store" with my gf trying to pick movies to rent for the weekend, going by only the description on the back of the VHS box. We'd rent 3 or 4 movies. That cost us about $25. Only to get home and find out the movies were all terrible. Backing a Kickstarter project today isn't really any more of a risk.

As with everything, they is gold in that mountain of crap.

March 15, 2015 at 1:33AM, Edited March 15, 1:33AM

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seanmclennan
Story Teller
935

I mostly agree. Give your money to whoever you want to. No skin off my nose.

I understand the potential problem of how big names can sort of crowd out yet unknowns. I think the proper response to that is exactly what the two individuals did in the interview. Light hearted mockery. Big fish swimming in little ponds, when they have the ability to make their way in bigger waters by their own resources is kinda funny.

March 15, 2015 at 2:56AM

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Daniel Thoen
ne'er-do-well
258

I was going to post but then realised Sean said pretty much what I intended to.

I think people have a misconception that Kickstarter is some indie hero website for the small guy to finally get the credit he deserves and that it's a model which fights the classic studio setup. That's simply not the case. The Veronica Mars movie was a perfect example where WB green-lit the movie on the grounds that Rob Thomas and crew were able to bring some money to the table, I personally helped fund that project and I don't regret it, it was an enjoyable movie and in my view worth the money I put down in Kickstarter. Officially speaking, we wouldn't have had that movie without Kickstarter, sure people involved had the money to cover it, but they weren't going to and in that regards film is a unique animal. It's part business part art and everyone has a different (and usually strong) opinion on how exactly that split should be managed. Before I started working in film I had an IT help desk job and I certainly wasn't expected to buy any of the company computers with my own money, it's not a perfect metaphor but the concept still stands, these actors and directors have gained their money, in most cases, through successful films. If they are not wanting to part with that money that's really up to them, if we the public want to see the films created, then we can make it happen or not make it happen by putting our money behind it.

I think there's also this false perception that there is a limit to the money that is sitting in this "kickstarter backers" pool and if it goes to the big guys there's less left over for the little guys. That's not how I've seen it personally, even when I was barely able to find work I somehow always still able to find money for a coffee every morning. It's not true of everyone but most people have more expendable income available. It's more about what peaks their interest than some perceived limit to available funding.

March 15, 2015 at 7:14AM, Edited March 15, 7:14AM

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Give your money to "rich people" aka studios and you`re again feeding those who messed up in the first place. But hey, millions of flies can`t be wrong, can`t they?

March 15, 2015 at 4:56AM, Edited March 15, 4:56AM

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Gerard M.
1163

It's easy to have this democratic approach to letting "rich people" use kickstarter to make films. The reality is a little different when the field for indie film is already crowded by people with camera phones putting films out there like cans of baked beans. I protested when Spike Lee did this, because I feel that as much as he protest the Hollywood elite, he is INDEED part of that elite. If you're not invested in indie film on a day to day basis, you just don't get how hard it is to get your crowdfunding campaign to go viral, LET ALONE GETTING YOUR FILM RELEASED. And for me, a black filmmaker who has been at this 40 years, it is even harder when i produce cinema that is not "stereotypically black" TO GET A DEAL. Look, HOLLYWOOD people with money to invest in their own films, should do just that. Use THEIR money. We, the little guys who work day jobs and pay our own way seem to find a way to make films for thousands as opposed to millions of dollars, and that is done with no help, no pub, and no key to the Hollywood boy's washroom. We also don't have access to the producers, publicists and distribution channels established filmmakers have. I am really trying to figure out the justification for an embedded filmmaker to use a platform which really should be all about helping unknowns make that step. After all, I can't just call up my buddies at Paramount and get them to look at a rough cut of my film. It is not an even playing field folks, and when the big boys begin stepping in on our one way to even that playing field, it looks awfully unbalanced to me.

March 15, 2015 at 11:39AM

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WILLIAM X LEE
President CEO Cinema Lexzikon productions LLC
81

Money buys money: the rich have the opportunity; the poor can go get f*cked. Kickstarter is just another instance of that rule.

Crude, but true. And usually the people who defend this form of economic libertarianism are the people who come from privileged backgrounds, or the people who aspire to become millionaires.

March 23, 2015 at 10:04PM

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Raph Dae
Screenwriter & attempted director
510

Crowd funding for a short time supported talent. Unfortunately now the only projects that get a look on these sites are ones that have already had significant money pumped into them to sell themselves to you. Once again its just supported the 'anyone can buy their way into this industry' mentality. What do I respect? Someone who has pulled off an incredible film pitch/pilot using cheap gear and showcased their talent without having to use several RED cameras, specialised gimbals and a friggen a panavision supertechno 100 crane just to ask for your money in kickstarter. I'd support projects that showcased talent and where you could imagine the person doing great things with the right gear etc. But these projects are hidden amongst the weeds now and obscured by the already rich.

March 15, 2015 at 11:53AM

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Jarrad Cody
Guy who likes film stuff
250

Exactly. A person who has resources will naturally get a better opportunity than the guy who doesn't; simple social darwinism. Denying that is just plain delusional... Now, the great thing about crowdfunding is that it's capable to counteract that, but instead it seems to enhance it!

I've seen so many crowdfunding projects that are not innovative or helpful in any way but they get attention because they pull the right strings in people's mind, and by people I mean those who can afford to waste a little of their money on a whim. That money should go to people who NEED it, period. Again, that's what crowdfunding COULD be about, for christ's sake: giving a chance a those who've earned through intellectual development and creative thinking...

All looks fine on the surface - we might think all projects have a chance at being funded based on their value, but the truth is that resources being limited (maybe not for everybody, it seems?), project selection being based on popularity (itself governed in part by the initial marketing budget - now we see where the bias comes from) and omniscience being a fantasy of the human mind, we can't possibly get the chance to fund worthy projects - because unworthy projects occupy our attention first, and ultimately our funding comes right after 'em. Whence my use of the word 'overshadow'.

March 23, 2015 at 10:17PM

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Raph Dae
Screenwriter & attempted director
510

I see where a lot of low budget "indie" movie makers think they should be given some special treatment just for being low budget and outside the studio system. 99% of those movies are just studio wannabes. Total crap. Sorry to break that to you, but it's true. I'd rather give my money to someone who I think has a good chance at making a good movie, regardless of their personal wealth. The rest is whining. I don't have a problem if they use sophisticated equipment and techniques as long as that's not the only thing they are selling. Going through crowd funding means you don't have a couple of rich executive producers telling you how to make your movie. You rarely see directors use their own money to make a movie. They go for investors (either the studio or experienced investor groups). If Spielberg went to kickstarter to fund a movie, I'd donate. Period. If some unknown low budget movie maker can't raise 10K on their own and make a good movie, why should I believe they will somehow do better with more? Make a low budget movie that people like, then come back and ask for more money on your second one.

March 15, 2015 at 5:06PM

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Yea, this guy needs to get off his high horse. This "Power Rangers" idea was done for nothing more that "buzz-value" and he knows it. Totally took advantage of an existing IP for his own gain. Saban should have pulled it outright.

March 16, 2015 at 12:41AM

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Great interview!

March 16, 2015 at 2:59AM, Edited March 16, 2:59AM

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Einar Gabbassoff
D&CD at Frame One Studio
1086

Wow! How much coke do you think that Adi guy was on in this interview? Why hasn't anyone mentioned this in the comments? Seriously, did anyone watch the interview and not think that?

March 16, 2015 at 10:52PM, Edited March 16, 10:52PM

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Scott Wild
Director
170

Bingo

March 18, 2015 at 7:20AM

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devtank
photographer
74

If we are talking about celebrities specifically, I say go fund yourself, you have the network and you have the pull to go do this all by your little own self.
If we are talking about rich people well I'm split on that; half of it is they are rich so go fund yourself, the other half is if you are making something that benefits the greater good of mankind then something like TED might work out better as a starting point for your endeavors.

March 18, 2015 at 7:18AM

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devtank
photographer
74

We can all argue as much as we want, but the fact of the matter is that people vote with their dollar more than anything else these days. Kickstarter gives individuals the power to support projects and people that they want to succeed -- which is actually pretty cool.

You can't condemn successful Kickstarter projects because they have a fan base. Kickstarter backers are audience members too and if they want a film made for them and can make that happen, that's awesome. However, if an indie filmmaker has a really good idea and makes a kickstarter project, they have to work twice as hard to make a fan base because they are an unknown. But like all great franchises or stories, they start at the bottom. Do you think the Power Rangers Series was an overnight success? No. They built a fan base over time. Indie filmmakers can do that too! It just takes a few sleepless months.

That said, if a celebrity wants to make a kickstarter project to have more control over their work and build up their fan base as opposed to giving away their rights to a big studio, all the power to them.

If a celebrity wants to use their own funds and make a movie, that's ok too.

You can't be angry at people for contributing to these Kickstarter projects. It's their dollar and they can vote how they please with it.

March 18, 2015 at 12:09PM

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Chelsea Lupkin
Director / Director of Photography / Screenwriter
204

I should mention, that i've had a successful Kickstarter. I raised $8,200 in 3 weeks to make my film and I worked almost 24 hours a day to make that happen. If people think that Kickstarter projects succeed "just because", that's an illusion.

March 18, 2015 at 12:13PM

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Chelsea Lupkin
Director / Director of Photography / Screenwriter
204

Just because your independent doesn't mean your not big time or your not able to be big time! I choose to be independent because I'd like to have more control over what content I am putting out... I'm not sacrificing anything It feels great knowing it's my own money being put into my projects! Makes it so that when it does take off, I won't have to deal with as much politics.

March 18, 2015 at 12:10PM

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Nicholas Taylor
Owner of MyKindaParty Productions LLC. / Film Maker
93

The Coen Brothers never had a kick starter.

Kickstarter is pretty lame in general. But if it can help actually new and exciting art that wouldn't get made otherwise then it is good. If it's celebrities like Zack Braff or Veronica Mars who could pay for that lame movie with money from one of her stupid Samsung commercials, well you can feel good saying she duped her naive fans.

Find new and important artists to give money to. Don't give it to local bands so they can play (party) in Europe, and don't give it to a celebrities' vanity projects. Studios take a bath on movies they finance all the time. So can the residents of Malibu and Park Avenue.

March 20, 2015 at 2:07AM

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Andrew packer
Screen writer
100