Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Kevin Smith May Try Crowdfunding Horror Film, Red State, After Fans Offer To Do So

We've already pointed out how director/writer/filmmaker/entertainer Kevin Smith is a great example of a filmmaker embracing the model of connecting with fans and giving them a reason to buy, even to the point of saying that unauthorized file sharing is just a way to get more fans he can "convert." Apparently, he may take things to another level, by following a crowdfunding effort similar to what we've seen with some musicians and authors.

The twist here is that it wasn't his idea. The fans came to him and made it clear they wanted to fund the project. If you are a fan of Smith (as I am), you know he's been talking about various projects he's been thinking about, and last year talked a lot about a rather different kind of movie, a "political horror film" called Red State. Of course, that's definitely a big step away from Smith's usual comic-fare, and finding financing for it was initially proving difficult. But, the fans stepped up:

"I think an interesting thing that may happen with it is--I was on Twitter and people are asking about Red State, and then a dude tweeted 'hey man, what if we pay for it?' And all of a sudden, a bunch of people were like 'Seriously, why not?'"

Smith has said that if he does this, he'd match every dollar donated. They're working on a website for it, but there have been some logistical issues:

"We're kind of creating this website. We're seeing if it works to set up and collect donations. It becomes a weird tax nightmare, though... It sounded like such an easy thing online... but now there's lots of checks and balances to make sure we can do it, but if that's the case, I would be into it, and I'll match it. Whatever you raise on line, like fuck it, you put it up, I'll put it up."

Of course, doing it from scratch may raise some issues, and I'd imagine he'd be better off if he weren't trying to sell "shares" in the film, since that's where things get really tricky, but focusing on selling something else (credit in the film, access to screenings, meet & greet with Kevin, etc.), with the proceeds going to fund the film. But there are lots of platforms like Kickstarter or Biracy that he might want to look into, since they've worked out a lot of the legal issues.

Still, it highlights, yet again, what a lie it is to claim that "fans just want everything for free." And it shows that content not yet created is a scarcity people will pay for. It's still early (and Smith is focused on another movie first), but it could be one of the most high profile movies made using this technique.

But the further this moves along, the more interesting it gets. After a bunch of people misinterpreted the original interview Smith gave, he wrote out a more detailed explanation of his thinking, which is clearly still in the very initial planning stage (i.e., they don't even know if it's possible), but it looks to be about more than just fan funding this one film:
Our plan is to put anything we make into a fund that would, in turn, finance other (cost-sensible) flicks fans want to see. And from that? Build a People's Studio. Simply have any interested/frustrated/desperate party put their script on our website, open for all to read, during a "pilot season" of sorts. Script that gets the most votes, gets the loot. That flick gets made and sold, all the loot goes back into fund for next round. If there's enough loot from RED STATE sale to do so, idea would be to fund two low budget flicks a year. Ultimate dream: Indie Movement, v.3.

Even though a lot of the talk around these parts has been about music industry business models, in the last year or so, I've really been amazed at the number of indie filmmakers who have been really digging in on new business models, with a strong willingness to experiment and adapt. It's very encouraging to see.

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