Sunday, June 2, 2013

THE ZACH BRAFF KICKSTARTER CONTROVERSY! WHAT IT'S REALLY ABOUT (Right now, this blog is just a dream, but with a few dollars from all of you, I soon, will be able to write this wonderful blogpost on Zach Braff and the Kickstarter Controversy. I can even discuss other famous Hollywood players' Kickstarter efforts too. So if you want me to discuss the Kickstarter Controversy, in the same way as I do, all of my other great blogs, without the overseeing eye of a producer trying to change and alter my work to appeal to the masses or have them bring in another, more famous named blogger to do a complete rewrite of my blog, and be forced to write this blogpost under a Hollywood producer's dictatorial control, remember to donate. Everyone who does, will receive constant updates on the progress of this blogpost, and maybe signed copies of the blog, early releases and edits of the blogpost, and one donor will have seats next to me for him and a guest to the blogpost's premiere. So, if you want me to discuss this controversy, with the same special David Baruffi style, that you've always enjoyed, with my complete vision, please donate. Every little bit helps. Thank you)

I've been skimming down Zach Braff's headline page on, and as many of you can imagine, it's been full of recent news article and opinion pieces lately. Hollywood and the press, is pretty much split down the middle on this one, and I'm not gonna lie, while I certainly adored "Garden State",  and believe "Scrubs" to be one of the most underrated TV shows in recent years, Braff isn't exactly making it easy for us to like him these days. It's not exactly news, he's been known for being somewhat single-minded and high-maintenance, and if anybody's ever seen his explosion on a little kid after he was Punk'd by Ashton Kutcher that time, you can tell that, he might have a few issues controlling his temper, and based on some of his recent comments about some of his naysayers, it looks like he can use a publicist to make sure he doesn't put his foot in it. That said, he's passionate, and those are all good qualities for being a good director, and we certainly know, he is that.

Before we continue, full disclosure, I know a few people, who not only gave money to Zach Braff for his latest film project "Wish You Were Here," but I also know people who have funded projects, mostly smaller ones, through Kickstarter. I myself, haven't used it yet, although that certainly doesn't mean that I wouldn't consider using it, or any other crowdfunding website as a fundraising source, especially for any of my film projects in the future. All in all, it's actually quite a cool opportunity for artists of all kinds, to have complete control of their work, as well as form a communal bridge, not only with other artists, but also with the audience. They donate money for your projects to be made, hopefully it gets made, and even more hopefully, it's successful enough that you can pay them back, and Kickstarter only chargers a 5% fee, to be the go-between, and that's only if your project is successful at reaching it's predetermined fundraising goal.

That's the part, that's a little scary. According to it's own website, only 44% of all projects, meet their inevitable goal. Not a problem for Kickstarter, since the funding is all or nothing. If you don't reach the funding limit, then you don't get any of the money, and it all goes back to the donors. So, you have to have a project that garner enough faith and trust from your audience, to donate even the smallest amounts of money too you. It doesn't help either that some projects cost more than other, and certainly, many projects, including by big names, don't get funded. We've heard a lot about the success stories of Zach Braff, and the now-upcoming "Veronica Mars" movie, but "Girls" star Zosia Mamet, (The daughter of David Mamet by the way) wasn't successful of getting funding for her music video, and Melissa Joan Hart, from "Sabrina: The Teenage Witch", or if you're my age "Clarissa Explains It All", (Or that one she does with Joey Lawrence now on ABC Family) also failed to fund her rom-com project. Actor Shemar Moore, from "Criminal Minds" and "The Young and the Restless", also a Kickstarter casualty, was unable to fund his film project.

So, on one hand, it's a gamble for Braff to be doing this, and there was a strong possibility that he could've failed completely. That said, he felt it was the only viable option for him to make the movie he wanted to make, and that's where the real controversy comes in. You see, the thing is, he actually can make this movie, without the funding from Kickstarter. He's been passing this script around, his last film, was a financial success, although an independent-produced small one, that he admits, only happened because one guy gave him the money he needed to make "Garden State", and he only did that because he was a fan of "Scrubs". Sometimes, it really is that one guy, if you can find him, but even then, there's no guarantee that kind of luck will ever repeat itself. Anyway, with that resume, and the script, he can easily get the funding from a major studio to make the movie.

But, he wants final cut, and complete control over the project. Now, "final cut" is exactly what it sounds like; the final edited cut of the film, but it's not just that, it's also complete control over every aspect of the film. The funding, the cast, the crew, the locations, everything. Now, despite the success of "Garden State" it's still only one minor hit movie, so the studios are a little skeptical, and they won't give complete power to a relative new director, who, for all we still know, may just be a one-film-wonder, so they're not interesting in giving away final cut so easily. In fact, because they'll be pouring a lot of money into this project, they're gonna want to do everything they can, in order to earn it back, within reason. So, when Braff says that, the studio might want me to use Denzel Washington, and not and my friend and "Scrubs" co-star Donald Faison, is a particular role, he's not kidding. Believe me, Will Smith gets every script I've sent out, and I've never written a part remotely for him, (Although if he was ever interested, it would be re-written for him the next day) but he, makes the most money (At least he did until "After Earth" this weekend, question mark) so, he gets the first chance to say no.

Now the question is, exactly how important is, having final cut? (Deep breath) It depends who you ask, actually.

To any of you who've ever spent more than a half-hour in a film school directing class, the story I'm about to repeat will be familiar to you. For the rest of you, who haven't heard it, I'm gonna tell you a famous, actual situation that occurred in Hollywood. Probably many times, but this one particular famous example, gets repeated, discussed and argued everywhere. I'm also gonna leave out the names involved, until the end, so when I give you this scenario, I just want you guys to simply ponder it for awhile, and ask yourselves to determine what you would do if you were in this situation.

Now you are, a writer-director. Let's say, you've actually made a few films, but nothing that we would consider major successes even by indy-standards yet, but the studios know who you are, You've got your DGA and WGA cards registered, and a major studio, really likes your latest script. They only make, somewhere between a handful and a dozen films a year, so if they're interested enough to discuss making your film, you have to understand that they're interested. It's a chance though, you're an unproven quantity, so they give you two options:

OPTION A: They'll give you $10 million dollars, which sounds like a lot, but trust me, when you're making a movie, it really isn't. But, because it's such a low amount, that they have high hopes that, with that budget, you'll make back their money at least, so they're willing to give you, Final Cut of the film, provided you stay on budget. Or...

OPTION B: They'll give you $20 million dollars to make your film. Twice as much money, so that's good, but, you won't have final cut. Which makes sense from their perspective, they're giving more money, that's not guaranteed to be earned back, so you don't have Final Cut. Plus, in order to be more likely to earn their money back, included in that, the studios will give you, a big star to use, and you have to use him. And let's say for argument's sake, the actor they're giving you, has a history of being difficult to work with on sets, but he's box office, and it's practically guaranteed that, with just his name, the movie will be a success.

So choice A, complete control, but a small budget, that you can't go over. or choice B, more money, but you don't get final cut of the movie, and you have to use the star the studio tells you to use, and God knows, what else they might make you do, but they're promising that.

Now, there's no wrong answer here, but take a moment, and think, if given this opportunity tomorrow, what would you do? If you want to, comment by the way, this is actually a good question in general to ask artists, so think it over, for a minute before scrolling down.

(Wait a minute)

Okay. I'm interesting in hearing what exactly you guys would do, but when this deal, was actually given to a filmmaker; he chose to do Option B. This is sorta the counter-argument to Zach Braff actually but, the reason he took B, wasn't because of the guaranteed money or the star, but the guy believed that, he was confident enough in his directorial skills, and his script, that his first cut of the film, will be accepted by the Production company, with few, if any edits, and that he can the still make the movie he wants to make, and even with the star, he'd have the budget to do it right, and not, just do it cheap.

Alright, I've left you in enough suspense; the trailer for the film our director ended up making is below:

That's right. The director was M. Night Shyamalan, the movie star he had to cast...-, and by-the-way, I didn't even mention this part, but this was a star who has it written in his contract that he gets "Director-Approval" on all his films, so not only did Shyamalan have to use Bruce Willis, but he had to then, convince Willis, that he was good enough, to direct him, so that's an interesting conversation, and yes, Bruce Willis, since "Moonlighting" has been known to occasionally be a challenge on certain film sets. (In his defense, he does it for a reason, to see if the director can handle some obstructive behaviors from him, and still get the performance he wants/ Basically, he's looking to see, if the director, can in fact, direct, by being a pain on the set, and see if the director can actually, get him under control.)

So considering the success of "The Sixth Sense", for everybody involved, with it, it makes you think back a bit on Zach Braff's Kickstarter program, and wonder. Like I said, there's no wrong answer to this quandry. Shyamalan, took the money, and he made a very good and very popular film that's a modern-day classic, and by the way, he doesn't have to negotiate for final cut anymore, he has it, for all his films now. (For better or worse, but...) Zach Braff, chose, creative control, and decided to get the money to finance his vision, however he can, in this case, Kickstarter. He probably had some bad experiences with producers on his last film, and believe me, as somebody who's producing now, I understand not wanting to deal with producers. I can barely deal with myself half the time. (Hey, I just told you guys one story with producers that had a happy ending, I can tell you a bunch that didn't turn out nearly as well.)

So, should somebody like Zach Braff, use Kickstarter to finance his projects, when he doesn't literally, need to raise funds to make the movie? (Shrugs) I don't know. It works for him apparently, he's financed, he's in pre-production, and he's casted Kate Hudson, Anna Kendrick, and Jim Parsons among others, I have little doubt that he'll probably make more than $3.1 million in gross earnings. I know I'll definitely be interested in his follow-up to "Garden State", especially after all this hype and controversy over it. Couldn't have asked for better free publicity if you tried. Besides, I wanna know if he made the right decision, probably as much as he does. Maybe Kickstarter was designed for people, who were a little less off than Braff to be able to make their art, but hey, if they can fund him, they can fund me too, if I ever need it, at least hypothetically. Although hypothetically, I don't want to see Spielberg going on Kickstarter anytime soon either.

It's one option, that's all Kickstarter really is, an option. For some, it's a good option, for others, it's a bad one, and yeah, I don't know what the standard should be for who should be able to use it or not. Either way, it's there for those who need it, even if some people who happen to use it, might not. If I'm convinced of anything, it's that  I don't think anything good comes out of Kickstarter money, without knowing what you're gonna do with the money, so, here's to that at least. Braff, knows who he is, and the exact film he wants to make, and exactly how much it costs. Believe me, that puts him miles ahead of most every other filmmaker out there, in and outside of Hollywood.


karamelkinema said...

Oh this is interesting, i did not know about the 'Final Cut' since i have very little knowledge (or next to nothing really) of what happening behind the movie business.

I personally adore Zach Braff (for Garden State and i'm a Scrubs fan). I knew about his successful kickstarter campaign yet i did not know he actually had an option!
I think most directors consider themselves a visionary, and their work are the extension of themselves. Some local director in my country refuse to compromise with production houses to make their film more commercial and appealing to market, they choose to stick to their original vision instead. maybe it's just an ego.

while it may seems unfair, i think its also the choice of the donators whether their money would be worthy or not. I know there are smaller web series and lgbt film maker who also used kickstarters and quite succesful with their crowdfunding :) so thats good no?

David Baruffi said...

Yeah, Kickstarter, overall is good. It just depends really, some people get their projects funded, others don't. It works better for some than others, but yeah, with Zach Braff, the project was essentially about having Final Cut, which is what made his foray into Kickstarter, so interesting. And it's a choice really. There's no right or wrong way to make a movie (Unless you're making a bad one, of course), but 99.9% of the time, it's a collaborative art form. There's a few Chris Marker's out there, but it usually takes a bunch of people making a movie, and they're each gonna have an effect on the film. Some you want, others you don't, all these are directors' choices, essentially. Some don't want to give up control, some are right not to, others should. It really is, a situation-by-situation basis. I just thought it would be a good idea, to compare his situation with Shaymalan's, so that people can fully grasp, what he's trying to do, and why. I honestly don't know what I'd do; but I'd be more like Zach Braff, but it depends on the kind of film too.

Thanks for commenting I appreciate it, glad you learned something. :)