No movie or show gets off the ground without the proper funding. It’s why the studio system came to be in Hollywood in the first place. Creative people wanted to do creative things, and people with money wanted to see those things happen. Those people with money in turn wanted to make more money, and then established an infrastructure devoted to doing that with those same creative people. It’s a bit of a reductionist perspective of the history of Hollywood, but it’s the simplest version of a decidedly complex story.
Fast-forward to today, and the studio system is alive and thriving, with each clawing for the next big cash-cow franchise to fund. But over the last couple years, a bizarre little universe has started to exist outside of this in the form of crowdfunding. The rise of sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo has led to a massive influx of independent projects that otherwise never would have seen the light of day, effectively circumventing the dog and pony show of getting studio funding. The real kicker: It’s working like gangbusters.
Already we’ve seen Kickstarters for both Reading Rainbow and Veronica Mars haul in over $5 million each in fan funding, resurrecting two long-since dead yet beloved properties. Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk recently collected over $2 million on Indiegogo for a proposed web series (with almost a month left to go in their funding cycle). And just this last week, we saw Broken Lizard take their turn atop the pile, petitioning fans to help them raise money for Super Troopers 2. Not surprisingly, they met and then exceeded their goal of $2 million in just 24 hours, spread out over 24,000 separate donors.
In many ways, this represents the people taking back their favorite TV shows and movies from a studio system that has one priority: The bottom line. The fans who fund these projects hand over their money do so because they truly believe in the project, not simply as a means to get rich. Sure, they qualify for a number of perks depending on the amount of their contribution, but the only real incentive here comes from people committed to art for art’s sake. The sheer level of this commitment can be staggering, too. In exchange for the actual patrol car to be used on set in Super Troopers 2, one fan pledged an astronomical $35,000 donation to the project.
Given the massive success of all these projects, it’s become abundantly clear that crowdfunding has carved out a considerable niche in Hollywood. In a lot of ways, it’s a system that benefits everyone. Studios don’t have to spend money they weren’t interested in forking over to begin with, and fans get to directly effect the fate of some of their favorite movies and TV shows. This symbiotic relationship serves all interests, helping make at least a small sliver of the industry accountable to investors not sitting in a board room in Los Angeles.
With Super Troopers 2 now careening toward $3 million in donations, it’s clear that this is only the beginning for crowdfunding. A thoroughly planned marketing strategy, a meticulously designed campaign, and a well thought-out creative vision can have any project finding itself as the next with millions of dollars to create something truly amazing. Most importantly though, it’s one gigantic (and very necessary) step toward giving fans the stake in Hollywood they so rightfully deserve.
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