Without the aid of a movie studio, Zach Braff, of “Scrubs” fame, has raised enough money to through a Kickstarter campaign to fund his new movie, “Wish I Was Here.”
On his own Kickstarter page, Braff says he has been a backer to other projects on the site, and was inspired by writer Rob Thomas’s similarly successful campaign to produce a Veronica Mars movie. With the help of over 90,000 backers, Thomas raised $5.7 million for the movie.
Braff’s proposed budget of $2 million was met in only four days. Currently, the project’s funding is sitting at a comfortable $2.2 million.
According to Braff, the movie centers around 35-year-old Aidan Bloom, a struggling actor with his head in the clouds and a wife and two children to take care of. As budgets get tighter, Aidan — to be played by Braff — agrees to homeschool the two kids, which results in some unorthodox teaching that helps Aidan to learn more about himself. The script was written by Braff and his brother, Adam.
Though Braff admits he already had backers for the project, he explained in a video plea that he wanted to fund the movie himself in order to retain creative control. “We want to make this film the same way we made ‘Garden State,’ without a distributor or financier demanding we adapt it to fit their needs,” Braff writes.
However, many have come forward to criticize Braff and his use of Kickstarter. Richard Lawson, a writer for The Atlantic Wire, had been particularly outspoken about the “Veronica Mars” campaign, and did not look on Braff’s new project favorably. Lawson pointed out that, for Braff’s backers and fans, the new movie is a shot in the dark.
“There’s [this] unseemliness … of rich celebrities asking random people for thousands of dollars and offering them no accountability for money spent or share in the profits, before anything has really been seen,” Lawson writes. “But there’s also the sense that we as the audience are setting ourselves up for potential grand disappointment. What if it all goes wrong?”
Robert Kessler, of the Celebuzz, was quick to point out many of the differences between Braff’s project and the Veronica Mars movie. Veronica Mars was a cult-classic, now off the air for six years — no studio would have picked it up. “Wish I Was Here,” on the other hand, was about to be signed into a financing deal with a definite financial backer, but Braff pulled the plug.
“What he’s saying is that he wants to shoot a vanity project,” Kessler writes. “Braff wants you to produce his new movie, but you won’t see any part of the profits.”
Although the Kickstarter backers of “Wish I Was Here” may never turn a profit, Braff offers a wide range of incentives for people who wish to donate. A backer in the $30 bracket is invited to a live online screening of the film, as well as weekly playlists and Production Diary videos, all created by Braff. One $10,000 backer — who has already pledged — will become a credited cast member with a speaking line, plus tickets to the film’s premiere and after-party, art prints, a T-shirt and sneak peeks of the soundtrack and the script.
Despite criticism surrounding the Kickstarter campaign, Braff said in an interview with Screen Invasion that he does not think the backlash will not have a negative impact on the film.
“The people who aren’t a fan of mine think [the campaign] is crazy,” said Braff. “But the second you insert, ‘what if it was your favorite person who is an entertainer,’ they start to go, ‘oh, well then maybe I would be into that.’ …You have to go out and be in front of everyone and then certain people will choose you. I never imagined that this many people would choose me in four days, but that’s how we were lucky.”
Contact CU Independent Senior Staff Writer Sarah Elsea at Sarah.firstname.lastname@example.org.