Although it is moderate thus far, Hollywood has commenced testing the viability of crowdfunding to finance projects. Starting with the cult TV show favorite Veronica Mars, which sought and raised the desired $2 million dollar target, while setting a record for fastest time to the same mark. Veronica Mars has raised $5.7 million, making it the highest grossing film in crowdfunding history to date.
Seemingly inspired by the crowdfunding success of Veronica Mars in raising its money, Hollywood star Zach Braff has also taken a much publicized foray into the burgeoning equity space in support of an indie film titled “Wish I Was Here”.
Although Braff, who raised $3.1 million, did not have the same level of success as the Veronica Mars campaign, it is undeniable that the star power and existing profile he enjoys afforded him levels of success that most crowdfunding filmmakers are unable to benefit from, as veritable unknowns.
Since the successful realization of the campaign goals by Braff and Veronica Mars, a flurry of media has arisen that is discussing the impact of these campaigns on crowdfunding in general.
A negative view regarding Braff and Veronica Mars could concede that they are cannibalizing funds that would otherwise have gone to other campaigns. The argument, from this perspective, is that Braff, the producers of Veronica Mars and others with their type of influence and opportunity can obtain funding elsewhere, hence those who are seeking support from the crowd without the benefit of these other resources have a greater priority.
Kickstarter is, for their part, defending the rights of anyone to raise funds on its platform (both Braff and Veronica Mars used Kickstarter for their campaigns). The founders of Kickstarter generated some interesting statistics that suggest the increased profile of these projects is bringing more people to crowdfunding, and those people are in turn donating to other projects in addition to these well-known campaigns. The official Kickstarter blog says “The Veronica Mars and Zach Braff projects have brought tens of thousands of new people to Kickstarter. 63% of those people had never backed a project before. Thousands of them have since gone on to back other projects, with more than $400,000 pledged to 2,200 projects so far…” (www.kickstarter.com/blog/who-is-kickstarter-for).
It is still very much the early days of celebrity involvement in private ventures, cut in the cloth of Braff’s movie, through crowdfunding. It remains to be seen whether additional projects will seek funding through this method, if for no other reason than risking alienating some stakeholders by pursuing a crowdfunding campaign. In addition to uncertainty around future adoption rates of crowdfunding for films and other arts projects, there is much lingering ambiguity as to the intended and unintended consequences of celebrity involvement in crowdfunding. Given the dynamic variables at play with crowdfunding and the newness of celebrity culture in search of funding, it is simply too difficult to say whether the celebrity involvement is a net positive or negative, at this point.
Until the day that there is compelling evidence one way or the other regarding celebrity activity in crowdfunding it will be up to the market to determine if these projects will continue, simply through the volume of donations future projects receive. If you have formed an opinion on the influence of celebrities in crowdfunding, that will be the simplest way to dictate the volume of future campaigns – and therein lies the beauty of crowdfunding.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/shankbone/4545100162/ and Kickstarter