If you’re a regular reader, you know by now that David and I have some pretty strong opinions on what should and shouldn’t be crowd sourced. No matter how the narratives around Kickstarter and Indiegogo may be changing to become more inclusive of established creators, the institution of crowd funding is rooted in the idea that people with the means to give can support the creative endeavors of people without the means to realize them. I’m talking about helping out the little guy–the weekend warrior, the lay craftsperson, the dreamer–get a leg up and maybe bring something wonderful into the world. We’ve long held that the more established creators that leverage the crowd, the less support there will be for the indie creators. This is especially true in media driven categories like video games, movies, and music, where backers are likely to fund an obvious winner, or where fans may choose to back a favorite, rather than try their luck with an untested indie artist looking for a break…
That lengthy preamble brings us to today’s news: James Franco has launched a project on Indiegogo.
I’m pretty sure crowd funding jumped the shark today.
Before I go any further, you may have surmised that this post will get a little ranty. I’ll try to keep it brief.
First, a bit about the project. Franco wrote a book of short stories and now wants to see some of them become films, and he has tapped some novice filmmakers to realize his aspirations. He’s asking the crowd for $500,000 (but its a flex campaign, so he’ll get whatever the crowd gives). In return for your support, James a bunch of inane crap (but no, you know, copies of the film, which is a cardinal sin, IMO). On the plus side, all profits derived from the films will be donated to Franco’s choice charity. No word on whether profits will be calculated using ‘accounting’ or ‘Hollywood accounting’…
I’ll be blunt: A Hollywood freaking A-lister has no place crowdfunding a pet project. Period. End of discussion. Franco knows producers. He has money. Achieving this ‘dream’ is totally within his reach. He doesn’t need the charitable contributions of work-a-day folks to get it done (unless what you’re really after is an original Franco painting for the modest investment of $7000… “A veritable steal,” said no one, ever). Franco is a leading man. He may not be pulling down Robert Downey Jr. money, but I’m sure he’s doing alright. Turning to the crowd is just… tacky. And it robs truly needy indie artists of monies that may have otherwise gone to their projects, if Franco’s wasn’t there grabbing attention.
I blame the likes of Zach Braff and Amanda Palmer for setting the precedent that this shit is okay. I accept that people can vote with their money, but frankly, it’s fucking poor form for these projects with meaningful connections to real industry money to undermine and crowd out (figuratively, if not literally), the projects that earnestly need the help. It’s a vile use of celebrity and, if the administrators of Kickstarter or Indiegogo had a scruple between them, they’d challenge these kinds of celebrity vanity projects to demonstrate real need before they go live. So long as the admins earn their bread on the backs of projects like these, things will only get worse.
I think I’m going to take a bit of break from trolling Kickstarter and Indiegogo. It’s bad for my blood pressure.