Is Zach Braff an honest artist or ruthless businessman?
Right now there is an interesting controversy going on: Actor Zach Braff (Scrubs) has started a Kickstarter campaign to fund his upcoming Indie movie “Wish I Was Here”. He wants to raise 2 million US-Dollars. Well, he has already achieved this goal and secured over 2,7 million bucks on his Kickstarter page. He has also aquired additional financing through Worldview Entertainment, which give Brach an investment / loan so the budget of his movie is now about 10 million US-Dollars.
These are the facts. Now why is there controversy around this? Well, famous youtubers ScreenJunkies started their own campaign against Braff. They even made their own Indiegogo crowdfunding project to raise 10.000 US-Dollars for a full page advertisement in the Hollywood Reporter to raise awareness. While I think this is fairly pretentious, I generally agree completely with their main argument: Zach Braff is a rich Hollywood actor with lots of incredible contracts in the industry. He is really losing perspective by letting his fans finance a pet project.
Don’t get me wrong: While I never was a fan of “Garden State” I love Zach Braff’s work on Scrubs. He also has a cool taste in music and seems to be a nice guy. But his kickstarter project is a punch in the face of all “real” indie filmmakers who truely need the money to make a movie at all. Braff even says that he COULD have aquired traditional funds by studios and producers but just wanted to have the right for the final cut and selecting the cast. These are luxury problems he is lucky to have! Even more experienced and famous director’s don’t get final cut on most of their movies. And most indie director’s would feel lucky if they were allowed to shoot their movie at all – regardless of possible alterations and casting decisions.
I think Braff is also more of a clever businessman than the quirky indie director he makes himself out to be: If it was really only about producing this vanity project of his with artistic integrity he could at least have said: “Ok, I fund it myself”. He has enough money – period. But no, he simply says: “I could lose money with this movie…” Wow…You know if I would open a store I’d have to go to the bank, get a credit, pay it back and maybe go completely broke for the rest of my life! These are the problems of “normal” people, Zach Braff! The kickstarter backers are not even investors: Say the movie becomes some kind of sleeper hit and makes tons of money – it will all go into the pockets of Mr. Braff. He COULD have said: “It is really all about the art. If “Wish I Was Here” makes a big profit I will only cover my own costs and a small salary. I will donate the rest to charity.” Now that would have been a cool example no one could really criticise.
Bottom line: I am not a big fan of crowdfunding: I think the three roles of “fan”, “customer” and “investor” get mashed up with only disadvantages for people who back projects. But it completely steps over the line when celebrities with tons of money and endless contacts use crowdfunding to finance their vanity projects. Zach Braff is a good actor and a decent director but in my opinion he has taken a step into the wrong direction.