So in my ramblings about crowdfunding, I posited how a big star could raise enough money to make a mid-budget sci-fi actioner. A Joss Whedon could raise $50 million for a Serenity sequel. I wrote that before The Avengers became the third highest-grossing film of all time. Now he could probably raise $100 million with a phonecall. But as far as the whole “Can Kickstarter scale to big time blockbuster (or even mid-tier Pitch Black thriller)?” thing goes, there’s more than one way to fund the skinning of a cat.
You don’t have to raise all the money for your mid-level actioner via crowdfunding. You can raise just enough for proof of concept. Then that proof of concept can spur bigger funding by a studio. It’s happened before (sort of). Sci-fi action short Archetype got picked up earlier this year to be turned into a feature under Chronicle producer John Davis. Fame re-boot director Kevin Tancharoen’s (illegal) $7,500 Mortal Kombat re-boot short went from lawsuit bait to Warner Bros-commissioned web series to (potentially) feature film. And while the outstanding Portal short has yet to produce a feature-length version of that particular title, its director is now shooting a sci-fi action film for Universal.
It doesn’t just have to be proof-of-concept. It can just be proof of talent. Seth Worley’s recently Webby Award-winning Plot Device may not have gotten him a feature yet, but to some, he may have gotten the next best thing, an agent at ICM.
Of course, the short as calling card is nothing new. Shorts, commercials, and music videos have been proving grounds for the likes of Gore Verbinski, David Fincher, and Michael Bay (see if you can match the early work to the director).
But the cost of producing those proofs was prohibitively expensive for amateurs, and extremely competitive. It was a one in a million shot to get to direct that beer commercial or film that Aerosmith video. But now as compelling or more compelling a story can be told for a much lower price point. None of the above projects were produced via crowdfunding, but at least two were produced with crowdfunding-achievable budgets. (I’ve been unable to find a budget for Portal: No Escape, and Archetype coverage claims a budget of zero with no explanation, but Plot Point cost $10,000 and Mortal Kombat: Rebirth cost $7,500 – both easily achievable figures via crowdfunding.)
It should be noted, however, that each of these films were made by people with connections in the industry. Archetype director Aaron Sims’ visual effects company worked on War Horse, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and The Thing. Kevin Tancharoen, as noted, directed the Fame remake. Portal: No Escape was directed by commercial helmer and Totally Rad Show co-host Daniel Trachtenberg. And Plot Device was produced by Red Giant to demonstrate their Magic Bullet Suite 11 software.
But, as I’ve noted, content revolutions tend to favor the B-listers first. But it doesn’t have to stop there.
That having been said, competition for eyeballs is much more fierce than it was in Fincher and Bay’s early years. Lest we forget, the reason it was a one in a million shot to get their early gigs was because those platforms went out to millions of people, guaranteed. But everything comes at a price. And the people looking for talent are able to do so now in a much more targeted fashion.
A similar thing is happening in the world of business. Whereas in the 90′s, before the dot com bust, it took millions of dollars to get to a stage where you could prove your company’s value (or fake it) and the game was huge investment, huge payout/bust. Now it costs much, much less to get to the stage where you have the choice of going for venture capital and you can afford to take the time to see if your business idea has merit (and investors, after the bubble, are expecting a tested idea) before trying to convince investors to go all in.
Point is, you can now get to proof of concept via crowdfunding and then try to get on the world stage via a studio. Granted, the studio involvement comes with baggage complete funding via crowdfunding does not, but it’s at least another alternative.
By the way, here’s a different kind of collaboration between an established media company and crowdfunded art.