Cannes: Kickstarter Chasing Established Filmmakers

Courtesy of Sundance Institute
Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson's Oscar-nominated 'Anomalisa' started as a Kickstarter project.

The crowdfunding site is in Cannes actively pursuing projects from established directors to use fan-funding to get their new movies made.

Crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, which has helped independent filmmakers raise money for thousands of movies, is going proactive. Instead of waiting for projects to come to it, Kickstarter is in Cannes actively pitching directors, producers and sales agents on the benefits of using fan funding to get their movies made.

“It started when Spike Lee wanted to go on Kickstarter to fund his [2014] film Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, and he actually emailed our helpline asking to talk to a real human being,” says Dan Schoenbrun, senior film outreach lead at Kickstarter. "We thought, if Spike Lee wants to talk to us, maybe we should have someone he can talk to."

While Kickstarter has a reputation as a site for first-time directors, Schoenbrun says the company is increasingly looking to bring in established filmmakers. He points to Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa, which started with a Kickstarter campaign, or the successful $6 million campaign to fund a new season of cult TV Mystery Science Theater 3000, a project that began with rights holder Shout Factory at Berlin's European Film Market last year.

“Mainstream projects are actually the ones we are least interested in — we find that projects from filmmakers with a really distinct vision do best on our site,” Schoenbrun says, mentioning Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, whose latest film, Endless Poetry, premiered this year in Cannes. “He couldn't make a mainstream film if he tried,” says the Kickstarter executive. “He's perfect for us.”

Kickstarter has co-operations in place with both the Sundance Institute and the Berlinale Talents section of the Berlin International Film Festival to support projects that come out of their programs. It also recently partnered with Kodak, whereby the company will provide donations of free film stock equivalent to 20 percent of the money raised on a Kickstarter campaign, up to a maximum of $100,000.

In addition to narrative features, Kickstarter is a major backer of documentaries. The company recently reached a milestone, with more than 1 million backers donating to doc campaigns, representing some $120 million in pledged support.

In the past, there has been pushback from Kickstarter users against established filmmakers using the site. Zach Braff came under fire from some quarters after he raised $2.6 million in fan donations in 2013 for his sophomore feature Wish I Was Here. But Schoenbrun says fans in general don't have an issue with successful directors so long as “they aren't coming to us for the money, but to really engage with their audience.”

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