'Citizen Koch' Filmmakers Set Sights on $150,000 Crowdfunding Goal

"Citizen Koch"

Co-directors Carl Deal and Tia Lessin tell THR that increased attention spurred by a New Yorker article helped raise awareness for their documentary.

After hitting an initial crowdfunding goal of $75,000 within days, a grassroots effort to recoup financing for Citizen Koch could rake in double that figure by the time the project's Kickstarter closes on Aug. 8. It currently sits at $140,000 in pledged funds from 2,779 backers.

The doc premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, but it received more attention in late May when Jane Mayer's New Yorker article arrived, detailing how the film saw $150,000 in public television funding vanish in April due to billionaire industrialist David Koch's influence as a trustee on the board of the station that it was set to air on. 


When the article made waves in the media, the film drew increased interest outside the film festival circuit.

“We felt that there was an audience for this film, that’s why I think public television commissioned it in the first place," co-director Tia Lessin told The Hollywood Reporter. "And when that piece came out, it became clear just because we got this outpouring of e-mails of support from not just friends but people we didn’t even know clamoring to see the film."

The film may also have benefited from the progressive backlash against David and Charles Koch for their speculative interest in acquiring newspapers. Four petitions supported by separate left-leaning groups -- Moveon.org, Working Families and SEIU, Demand Progress and Credo -- have gathered thousands of signatures and helped raise awareness for the project. 

"One of the things that happened in the immediate aftermath of Jane Mayer’s article was, all of a sudden, there was an awful lot of interest in the film," said co-director Carl Deal. "Particularly from people who wanted to bring it to their schools, to their universities and who want to organize community screenings.”

Capitalizing on the headlines, Lessin and Deal then sought advice on launching a Kickstarter. Their ensuing crowdfunding campaign began on July 9. "We feel like we’re all fighting for something very similar, which is, we’re fighting against private money’s ability to control the public discourse," Lessin said. 

STORY: L.A. Times Suitor Charles Koch Confirms Interest in Acquiring Newspapers 

The duo have both previously worked on Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine. Moore has been supporting Citizen Koch, retweeting donors who have backed the campaign and adding his own $5,000 pledge. 

The doc itself looks at the influence of money in elections after the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling in 2010. The film centers on Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's recall election and the role that the Koch brothers played by infusing money into the campaign. 

As to how much their project could eventually raise by crowdfunding, Deal didn't speculate on a ceiling. "It’s hard to know, we’re rookies to Kickstarter so we’re not sure how it works. We don’t know how to project where it might end and how long we can keep this up," he said. 

Citizen Koch is set to be screened several times during Moore's Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan, which runs from July 30 through Aug. 4. 

E-mail: Erik.Hayden@THR.com
Twitter: @Erik_Hayden