Should the rich and famous be crowdfunding for their projects?

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Ottawa Citizen | Ishmael N. Daro, Canada.com | May 19, 2014

Corner Gas

The idea behind crowdfunding was to let independent artists get their projects made by convincing enough people it was worth a few bucks, but with sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo increasingly attracting big media companies who have no need for the cash, it’s fair to say that romantic notion is all but dead.

Earlier this month Sun News, part of the billion-dollar Quebecor media empire of Pierre Karl Peladeau, took to Indiegogo to fund a documentary critical of wind energy and on Tuesday, the producers of Corner Gas launched a Kickstarter campaign seeking $100,000 from fans to help promote an upcoming film based on the popular comedy program. But Corner Gas: The Movie is no small undertaking — it has the backing of Bell Media, the largest media conglomerate in the country, as well as federal and provincial giveaways from Saskatchewan and Ontario.

In fact, the film doesn’t need any money at all at this point. As a press release from executive producer Virginia Thompson notes, “financing for Corner Gas: The Movie [is] firmly in place” and the Kickstarter is more about getting fans excited and involved ahead of its release in late November.

But, isn’t that just advertising?

“Oh absolutely,” Thompson said when reached by phone. “Effectively how we’re approaching Corner Gas is an eight-month marketing campaign.”

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Thompson said part of the reason for this approach is the number of Canadian films each year that go unnoticed as they get overshadowed by Hollywood blockbusters with multimillion-dollar marketing budgets.

“We wanted to try to do something in Canada whereby a feature film is really well promoted all the way to its release,” she said.

As with all crowdfunding pitches, there are rewards for various amounts given to the Corner Gas film. A $35 pledge gets fans a bumper sticker and a copy of the script, while pricier amounts could get backers mentioned in the credits or even appearing on screen as extras.

But given that the film will be made regardless of whether producers reach their $100,000 goal, the campaign would appear to stretch the limits of what crowdfunding is designed to do. Kickstarter’s website says a valid project is “a finite work with a clear goal” and that the funding target “is the amount of money that a creator needs to complete their project.”

Does advertising for one of the most recognizable Canadian entertainment products of the last 20 years fall under this guideline? Kickstarter did not respond to a Canada.com request for comment or clarification, but Thompson says Corner Gas is in the clear since anything raised above $100,000 will go toward improved editing, special effects and other production.

“We’re absolutely onside with Kickstarter,” Thompson said.

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Crowdfunding is still frequently described in the Web 2.0 language of discovery, sharing and collaboration but that may never have been an accurate way to think about these platforms.

Launched in 2009, Kickstarter is the most recognizable of a number of crowdfunding sites. But while it may have started as a place for indie projects, it didn’t take long for big names to invade the platform.

In 2012, American musician Amanda Palmer set a site record when she raised $1.2 million for an album from some of her hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. Although fans cheered their involvement in helping make the album, Palmer was criticized by for not paying guest musicians on tour despite her big haul on Kickstarter. (She reversed that policy after the backlash.)

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