Publicity Image/ Credit: Lawrence Sher

BREAKING: BuzzFeed Writes Stupid Article About Crowdfunding

on Tuesday, Jan. 21st

Or: You Won’t Believe What Happens When A Blogger Constructs A Lame Argument For Hits

Well, we probably should have laid some money on this happening. After all, the Internet loves nothing more than attempting to take down Zach Braff a notch or two. How can we not: he’s Zach Braff. You either love him or you hate him. (Disclosure: still not Team Braff.)

What shouldn’t happen is the mess Buzzfeed pulled today. Staff writer Adam B. Vary’s piece about Braff’s Wish I Was Here, which had its debut at the Sundance Film Festival over the weekend and promptly sold to Focus Features for around $2.75 million dollars, is just lame.

In that story Vary drags out the old anti-crowdfunding canard: the idea of a “refund” for backers. It shows up right in the headline–“Why Zach Braff’s “Wish I Was Here” Won’t Be Refunding Its Kickstarter Backers“–and the fact that the cash won’t be forthcoming is set up as a kind of cop-out in the second paragraph:

According to producer Stacey Sher, however, Wish I Was Here’s Kickstarter backers will not see any of the money from the film’s sale. “That’s not the way Kickstarter works,” Sher, a veteran producer behind movies like Get Shorty, Pulp Fiction, Contagion, and Django Unchained, told BuzzFeed via phone. “That’s not what we promised anybody.”

It’s not until the sixth paragraph that Vary cops to the hard facts:

 But none of those backers can see any profit from the film’s eventual box office sales; it’s literally illegal.

Which begs the question: why is this even a post?

Since profit participation isn’t in the cards, Vary brings up the idea that Braff could issue a straight up refund. So instead of giving a sober, clear-headed look at the rather arcane process of film financing Buzzfeed does what Buzzfeed does best: use tabloid logic to play on an illusion of social justice. “Zach Braff is rich so he should give money to all those poor people he swindled into making his film now that he’s covered the costs.” That’s the thinking here.

The problem with that logic is that it presupposes that the backers of the film are somehow stupid. That they are not getting exactly what they paid for: they enabled Braff to make a feature film while receiving some cool-to-them swag in return. That’s the very heart of what creative crowdfunding is about.

We’ve developed, at long last, a pretty good way to insulate the art side of movie making from the commerce requirement with crowdfunding. Why the hell would we want to take three steps backwards by devolving this method into a byzantine web of profit participation is beyond me. Beyond me because it is profoundly stupid.

It’s not like the facts aren’t present in Vary’s piece, but by raising up this busted way of thinking of crowdfunding Buzzfeed is trying to drag us back almost a whole year in the wider crowdfunding conversation. What we should be focusing on is that Braff has managed to do exactly what he set out to do thanks to crowdfunding with a pretty fast turn around, and see if his backers are happy with the finished product.

H/T: Lucas McNelly


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