Zach Braff Defends His Movie Kickstarter: I'm Not Oprah

Zach Braff poses for a portrait in New York, Wednesday, June 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
Charles Sykes, AP
Zach Braff, Hollywood rich person, has explained why he set up a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund his next film-making effort: He's not a billionaire.

"People seem to think I have Oprah Winfrey money," Braff told the LA Times, defending his decision to solicit donations toward the production of his new movie, "Wish I Was Here." "I've done well in my career, but I am not sitting on $22 million" -- a sum that's been circulating online as an estimate of Braff's net worth. Oprah Winfrey's net worth was reported by Forbes to be $2.8 billion as of March 2013.

On Kickstarter, Braff explained his appeal to fans for financing as an attempt to ensure the project's artistic integrity:

I was about to sign a typical financing deal in order to get the money to make "Wish I Was Here," my follow up to "Garden State." It would have involved making a lot of sacrifices I think would have ultimately hurt the film. I've been a backer for several projects on Kickstarter and thought the concept was fascinating and revolutionary for artists and innovators of all kinds. But I didn't imagine it could work on larger-scale projects. I was wrong.

What changed Braff's mind was the recent Kickstarter campaign to fund a film version of "Veronica Mars," the television show starring Kristen Bell as a young private investigator. The show's creator raised more than $5.7 million, drawing on the largest number of backers in Kickstarter history (91,585) and far exceeding expectations.

Normally, those who put up the money for a movie are entitled to make their money back, plus profits, if the project is a financial success. (Granted, in the usual model, investors can't put up a measly $1.) Not so in the case of these Kickstarted films: Braff promises his benefactors a tiered structure of rewards, none of which involves return on investment. They range from the trivial -- contribute $40 and receive a "Wish I Was Here" T-shirt -- to the participatory -- send thousands of dollars towards the realization of Braff's ambitions and he'll allow you to name a character, offer advice after screening the director's cut, or play a walk-on role. The last of these, which was available to one deep-pocketed admirer for a pledge of $10,000, has already been claimed. But eight out of 10 "visual effects made possible by" end credits are still available, for $9,000 a piece.

Braff's Kickstarter is on track to reach its goals rapidly. As of this writing, the campaign has raised more than $1.8 million toward its goal of $2 million, in just two days. But as the Kickstarter method proves its worth for established entertainers like Braff and Bell, a backlash is starting: "A dollar for Braff is a dollar away from an unknown," The Guardian's film blog argues. And Braff's defense -- that he may be rich, but he's not that rich -- is tough to take seriously from an actor who made $350,000 an episode while starring in "Scrubs," as Entertainment Weekly reported in 2007.

If someone has money to burn and wants a chance to hang out on a movie set, and happens to be a big Zach Braff fan, it seems harmless enough. But there's something exploitative about selling low-level access to the movie business, a highly insular industry that many people want desperately to enter. One of Braff's reward packages, for those who give $5,000 or more, promises to make five fans his "personal guests at the premiere and afterparty." This offer is already sold out. One wonders what those donors want to gain from their pledges: Just a good time with an actor they admire, and maybe an extra dimension to their enjoyment of the film? Or are they hoping for a lasting benefit from their investment?


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If this catches on, it could mean the end of the Natl Endowment for the Arts! Yeah!!! One less drain for the taxpayers' $$$ to disappear down.

April 28 2013 at 8:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

ZB, you are awesome, rock on, can't wait to see the new project. I hope he gets way more than the two million. People love to talk about the free market, well this is exactly that. People donating their money to help make the vision its author saw in his mind, with his actors, his locations, and his final cut. Best of luck to him and anyone else who puts their artistic efforts up for the public to donate or not.

April 27 2013 at 4:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I see no problem with Zach asking for donations for his movie. Keeping his artistic vision is a valid reason for making the Kickstarter. Zach has promised to donate some of his own money into the project since day one. Rob and Kristen didn't do that. I don't see why they get mostly praise from the public and press yet Zach gets heat from both.

No one is being forced to donate. Anyone who is donating is doing so because they loved his previous work. For proof all you have to do is look at the comment page of the Kickstarter. Almost everyone mentions the reason they are donating is because they loved 'Garden State' and would like to help Zach make his next movie the way he wants it.

The idea from The Guardian that "A dollar for Braff is a dollar away from an unknown" is false. Most of the donors are new users and are donating because of his movie. His project is adding tens of thousands of new members to the site that may one day donate to other smaller scale projects. It adds to the potential number of backers to various Kickstarters, not take them away.

April 27 2013 at 4:17 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Joel's comment

I agree with you.

That site is for creative projects. Why anyone should give a rat's behind how people decide to spend their own money is beyond me. The most important thing for any of these fundraising websites is that people aren't being lied to when someone is requesting funding. I wish the guy the best of luck. Personally, I prefer to donate my money to food banks. So, to each his own and all that good stuff.

April 28 2013 at 8:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hi Fred

If Zach Braff's new movie is anywhere near as good as Garden State, I would gladly contribute. I believe we should support his efforts to bring his latest work on screen. I applaud him for not letting the mainstream movie industry compromise his artistic vision.

Garden State was a genuine portrayal of human fraility and growth. How many movies, with the possible exception of Harold and Maude, can you remember being drawn into as we were in Garden State? He did it without fancy side effects or contrived plot lines. He did it by making his characters relevant and vulnerable. His choice of music was guided us through the development of the story and characters as it generated a visceral response to their deepening emotional involvement.

I thought that the reason we hadn't seen more movies by Zach was because he couldn't find a project that could top what he had done. I have confidence that he will not disappoint his fans. I believe we should encourage his efforts by giving our support verbally and financially.

April 27 2013 at 1:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have no problem with ZB doing a kickstarter to fund his movie. If anything, it gives those who have donated a little pride in knowing they helped (and they get some neat stuff too). Plus, 27k people have helped, many of them really large donations, so someone must be ok with it. :)

April 27 2013 at 12:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I had a crush on ZB and he's a brilliant comedic actor but he should be ashamed of himself for not putting up $5 mill of his own money and getting his Hollywood elite friends (of whom he has many) to help fund the film. Kickstarter is for poor people, people looking to change the world, and cure diseases, etc. Shame on you Zachy.

April 26 2013 at 10:40 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pawtraits515's comment

Kickstarter is for funding creative projects, not for "poor people,... looking to change the world, and cure disease, etc.." . Take a look at the web site. I think you have it mixed up with Acumen Fund, Kiva, and various other sites.

BTW, how do you know he isn't putting up any of his own money into this or have other private backers. The article states his goal is $2Mill. That isn't much of a budget these days to create a film.

April 28 2013 at 8:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply