Magazine article Variety

How Zach Braff Kickstarted a Film Financing Firestorm

Magazine article Variety

How Zach Braff Kickstarted a Film Financing Firestorm

Article excerpt

When Zach Braff's $5 million dramedy "Wish I Was Here" premieres Jan. 18, it will be one of 20 Sundance films funded through Kickstarter, alongside six financed via Indiegogo.

As the number of crowdsourced films and budgets continues to grow (including the March 14 nationwide release of Warner Bros.' "Veronica Mars," which raised $5.7 million from fans alongside Braff's $3.1 million campaign), so do the questions: What's the impact of crowdsourcing on a film's acquisition prospects and eventual distribution?

As one of the producers of "Wish," the biggest crowdsourced film ever to play a fest or seek a distribution deal, Stacey Sher is about to find out.

"I think it's a gift to a distributor," she says. "It's (46,520) people who are as invested as we are in word getting out there about the movie. It's as close to pre-awareness as you can get."

Roughly half of these supporters will attend an online or in-theater screening of "Wish," Braff's follow-up to his $27 million-grossing 2004 dramedy "Garden State," just before its anticipated September release. Translated to a $12 ticket or pre-theatrical VOD fee, that's amounts to around $275,000 in lost revenue - small change for most releases, but a sizeable chunk of a low-budget indie's gross, taken directly from its core fan base.

"Backers coming to early word-ofmouth screenings are the kind of things you would do in your publicity campaign anyway," Sher says. "I have a feeling they're going to want to see the film in the theater, go with friends who aren't backers and say, 'Look, this is the film I got made.'"

There's reason to believe she's right. The docu "Inequality for All," which has grossed $1.2 million after an $83,392 Kickstarter campaign, is Radius-TWC's second best title in theaters to date.

Until now, most crowdsourced films have either been self-released or have arranged a service deal, a la Christian-themed SXSW entry "Blue Like Jazz" ($595,018 B.O. gross after a $345,992 Kickstarter) and the Sundance healthcare doc "Escape Fire" ($126,238 gross after $3,390 in Indiegogo funding), both in 2012 via Roadside Attractions.

Roadside co-prexy Howard Cohen says he doesn't recall the campaigns affecting either release, an observation repeated by Music Box Films head William Schopf, who adds that the Kickstarter for the gay-themed 2012 drama "Keep the Lights On" (which grossed nearly 10 times its $26,630 in pledges) didn't affect his decision to acquire North American rights to the film, either.

But Cohen noted that "Jazz" funders became a valuable focus group. "We showed 10 possible posters to the people who gave, and the poster they picked was different from the one both the filmmakers and Roadside liked," he recalls. …

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