Zach Braff Wants Your Money

You want to give money to him don't you?

You want to give money to him, don’t you?

For those of you who haven’t heard, Zach Braff has been in the news lately. The actor, screenwriter and director best known for his role as J.D. in “Scrubs” has faced a popular backlash after using the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to raise money for “Wish I Was Here,” a follow up to his 2004 directorial debut in “Garden State.” Braff has asked for $2m to fund the project, which, according to the Kickstarter page, is about “a struggling actor, father and husband, who at 35 is still trying to find his identity; a purpose for his life.”

Yeah, I know. Gag.

But anyway, the criticism of Braff’s use of Kickstarter boils down to three different arguments. The first argument essentially asks why a rich and famous movie star can’t either pony up the money himself or find a studio willing to fund it.

Braff has responded to these arguments by saying that while he’s done well in his career, he doesn’t have “Oprah Winfrey money.”

“I’ve been very successful in my career, I am going to put a ton of my own money into this endeavor, but I can’t go out and fund what will likely be a $5.5 million movie out of my wallet. If people think that, they’re very wrong.

“I’m doing this so that one negative audience comment in a test screening won’t force me to change the end of my movie.”

Since I don’t have access to the actor’s personal finances, I can’t really comment on whether or not he has the money to fund the project himself. I can understand, however, Braff’s desire to have complete creative control over his project. In his video introduction to the movie, Braff talks about his concern that the “money guys,” who are willing to fund the movie, would insist on having a say in the casting and the final cut. If he were to use conventional means to finance the project, then he would essentially be relinquishing aspects of the creative control over his project. It’s understandable that he would want the final say in how his movie ends.

The second criticism asks why the person giving the money will only be a “donor” and not an “investor” in the project. In other words, if “Wish I Was Here” goes on to gross a ton of money, the people that gave money to Braff and Co. won’t see a dime from it. Rather, all they will receive are gifts based on how much they donated: a “production diary” for $10, a “soundtrack and playlists” for $20, a “backer’s thank you and screening” for $30, etc.

Braff has an answer for these critics as well. He suggests that this sort of insider access is something he himself would want if debating whether to back a movie.

Shooting "Garden State"

Shooting “Garden State”

“Even the most entry-level backer will get access to an online magazine about the making of the film. If David Fincher, who I’m a huge fan of, had a video blog of the making of one of his movies, I would have been the first one there.”

Whether or not you think the backers are getting a raw deal or not, in the end, it’s their money they’re donating. In addition, Kickstarter doesn’t allow the people that invest in projects to make money, so Braff actually has no say over this. He can only offer non-monetary rewards for backers. If Kickstarter doesn’t allow investors to profit, how can you criticize Braff for not doing it?

The last criticism leveled at Braff is that by hosting his project on Kickstarter, he is taking money away from projects that don’t have the same options that he does. For example, a no-name director has to rely on Kickstarter to fund his movie and someone that might donate to that project instead ends up donating to the more well-known Braff, who could easily have his movie funded through conventional methods.

Once again, though, this criticism doesn’t hold up. According to Wired magazine, “The day Braff’s campaign started, Kickstarter saw more traffic than ever before, and it’s not hard to imagine at least some of his supporters discovered, and backed, other campaigns.”

Braff echoed a similar statement.

“I think it’s naïve to think we didn’t introduce an ass-ton – and you can quote me on the word ‘ass-ton’ – of people to the idea of Kickstarter,” Braff said. “And when you click on Kickstarter, it’s not just a big picture of me smiling, it’s dozens – if not thousands – of awesome projects.”

In the end, as much as I or anyone else want to bash Braff’s use of Kickstarter (and I really, really tried to find a way to), we really can’t. Though there is something particularly… icky… about a celebrity using a platform meant for those who don’t have the means to begin a dream project, Braff has followed all the rules and has the right to use Kickstarter just like anybody else. Whether or not you care for his particularly twee aesthetic (again, gag), you can’t criticize him for this move.

I guess you’ll just have to wait for the release of “Wish I Was Here” to get your criticize on.

Don’t worry, though, I’m sure there will be plenty of material in it to choose from.


CharlieCharlie Crespo (@Little_Utopia) is the editor-in-chief of Little Utopia.

Previously from Charlie Crespo:
How Far Can Steph Curry Carry the Warriors?
You Gotta Fight, for Your Right, to Write… a Memoir!
Beertopia: Three Floyds’ Gumballhead
College Football’s Brilliant Marketing Strategy
Get Your Luddite On

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