That didn't take long. On Friday, news about director Kevin Smith's idea to fan-finance his dream project "Red State" via a donation website of some kind spread like wildfire around the internet.
In an interview with CINSSU, the director said, “We’re kind of creating this website. We’re seeing if it works to set up and collect donations. But it became 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.” And with that, speculation ran rampant. Of course, without much else in the way of comments or contexts some bloggers and readers (see our comments section on the story) criticized Smith for taking advantage of his fans, being a money grabbing shill and essentially equated him with being the indie equivalent of George Lucas. Other sites did the same including a rant from Bloody Disgusting.
Well, Smith responded this morning via his blog to clear the air and his intentions regarding the "Red State" donation idea. We would summarize, but Smith does a much better job of making his points himself, so here is a key excerpt:
If (and I mean IF with a huge fucking i & f) this fan-financed idea were to move forward? I’m not making a dime. If I were, as suggested, to turn to the fan-base to fund the movie, do you honestly think I’d even take a salary? I was just tickled and touched a bunch of people wanted to see it so badly, they were like “Here’s my twenty, if it’ll help.” All without having read a script. I wouldn’t want or take one dime from something as pure as that gesture. I’m not a money-guy; if I was I’d charge for SModcast (at 300k-plus dl’s per ep at .99cents apiece, even if only half started paying, that’d be a cool $150k per week - and I leave that on the table weekly).So what do we think about all this? It's a lovely little socialist/communal/let's-all-hold-hands idea that will probably never happen. Why? Filmmaking is just too complicated and fickle a business to let something as ambitious as this idea really flourish, despite all the good intentions. We have no doubt that Smith is sincere in his sentiments but we can easily list off a dozen problems such a venture would face, even before a project were to get in front of cameras. And to be slightly more cynical, Smith can afford not to take a salary (and can look altruistic in the process) but we would guess anyone else who would need to be involved on a backend level (in terms of marketing, distribution, sales, legal) simply can't or won't.
This isn’t about making money, you negative pricks: it’s about making movies. And what’s sickening about it? Motherfuckers screaming foul WRITE FOR MOVIE WEBSITES. You’d imagine they’d support the making of a movie. If we did fan-finance and actually make the film, let’s say it sold: what then? There will be profits? Would people get their money back? Where would that money go? 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. Because with the shuttering and impending sale of Miramax comes the sober realization that the specialty business has just died completely. The 90’s are long over and Indie Movement v.2 has come to a sad close. Until that market is vibrant and thriving again, maybe this is a small way to keep the home-fires burning. I know we’re supposed to let all things run its course, but can’t help it: I don’t wanna see the indie film world I knew go away forever. I’m an idealist and a silly-heart, and I’ve got a dream.
It would be great if Smith could get together a team of people who would work to scale or next to nothing to help budding filmmakers get their projects out there, but we are seriously skeptical that it could come together. As Smith himself claims, he's already sunk 10K of his own dime in lawyers just investigating the idea. We seriously doubt he's going to throw much more of his own money into a project in which he has no opportunity to ever get that money back.
We think there is a kernel of a good idea in all this, but we think it's just a one-shot thing. If Smith truly wants to do this, he should make it into a simple fan-investment strategy that is simply this: you get a percentage of whatever your investment was worth in the total budget once the film turns a profit. For example, if you put in $20 and it ends up being 0.003% of the final budget, you can get that in return. Simple, straightforward, and easy for everyone to understand. Unfortunately, that's probably a pipe dream and the logistics of that are likely much, much more complicated when the myriad of elements are factored in.