Zach Braff Scores Traditional Funding For His Kickstarter Movie, 'Wish I Was Here' [Updated]

Update: Variety has a new report on this financing deal which changes the equation. In short, it says the funds from Worldview are gap financing, which is not at all what was reported earlier. To sum up, the production is doing foreign rights sales in Cannes, which we knew, and which Braff had disclosed weeks ago. Traditional loans against those sales may not come in fast enough to get the production going on schedule. So Worldview is, in essence, loaning that money to the production now so that it can move forward.

Producer Stacy Sher says "Worldview may end up providing nothing at the end of the day beyond the gap loan depending on how we do in Cannes."

If Variety is accurate, then any assumptions made about "full financing" from Worldview could be quite wrong, as would be conclusions (such as mine) drawn from previous reports. (Zach Braff later updated his Kickstarter page with the same information, so there's no reason to believe it is wrong.) Our original article follows; it was sourced from THR's original report about the financing, which has been scrubbed to remove inaccurate information with no mention of that fact.


I'm not going to proclaim that there is one reason that people finance Kickstarter campaigns such as Veronica Mars, or Wish I Was Here, aka Zach Braff's follow-up to Garden State. But there's no doubt that for some people, funding such projects is about expressing a type of influence. "I helped this get made" is a point of pride expressed when a Kickstarter campaign produces tangible results.

The product is important, as are rewards for donors, but Kickstarter succeeds in part because people want the feeling of being part of something. So what happens when that feeling is betrayed? In a culture of consumers, knowing we helped make something — even if we essentially bought the feeling for $50 on Kickstarter — is pleasing. Realizing you've been played is far less pleasing.

When Braff asked for money to fund Wish I Was Here, he said explicitly that taking conventional financing "would have involved making a lot of sacrifices I think would have ultimately hurt the film." He turned to Kickstarter instead. Braff's campaign has another eight days to go, but has already raised more than $2.6 million from more than 38,000 people. That's well over the $2m goal.

Now Worldview Entertainment has stepped in with full financing for the film — or "conventional financing," to use Braff's term — which is reportedly budgeted at under $10m. It's exactly the sort of financing Braff said he didn't want to take. So was the Kickstarter campaign a savvy proof of concept, or just a marketing lie?

THR reports the deal, but doesn't say how much Worldview is giving Braff. This isn't a distribution deal; it's financing, and the film will still have to find distribution. (A couple days ago Wild Bunch boarded the project to sell foreign rights at Cannes.)

On May 2, Braff explained that the budget would be between four and six million, and detailed where the money would come from:

  • The money raised here on Kickstarter. (That's you. You rule. I love you.)
  • My own money. (Don't worry. A LOT! An ass-ton.)
  • Pre-selling select foreign distribution rights to a few countries.
  • (Those three bullet points are his own words.)

    Asked by the LA Times around the same time if he would take money from "industry types" should it come his way after the Kickstarter splash, Braff said,

    I think that would be in bad taste for all the people who are backing this. It wouldn't be in the spirit of the thing.

    How does this new financing avoid being "not in the spirit of the thing"? Simple: it doesn't.

    For projects like this, Kickstarter is a flawed but persuasive proof of concept. Flawed, because the mix of Kickstarter money and traditional funding, if not properly disclosed, can be a really bad PR move. Persuasive, because the swift collection of donations speaks louder than almost anything else when trying to establish audience interest.

    It worked as such for Veronica Mars, a film the creators wanted to make and fans wanted to see, but in which Warner Bros. lacked interest. And it worked here, by showing financiers that there is an audience for a film in which Braff gets to do whatever he wants. His own campaign pitch suggested that financing was out there for the film, but he didn't want to take it. What changed? Did Worldview offer him a few million with no strings?

    This is Braff's film, and he can do whatever he wants with it, financed by whatever means work for him.

    Taking this financing does have the effect of making the original Kickstarter pitch look like a lie. It goes a long way toward invalidating any feeling of participation donors may have had. And it deepens the cynical attitude that already exists for campaigns such as this one. Did Braff have this approach in mind all along? Was the campaign very well-timed, to enable Braff to head to Cannes with a crowd-funding success in hand?

    Perhaps more important: will many people who donated now pull their money out of Braff's film?