Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thoughts on Kickstarter (and Crowd-Funding)

I just set up an account on Kickstarter and made my first contribution, $10 to help the webseries Lost in the Woods buy a spiffy alien costume for the second season.

Here's the back-story. I met Matt Nielsen, head of Cool Hat Media, while working as a production assistant on an Atlanta movie during late December and early January. He told me about Lost in the Woods, which I thought was pretty interesting. After friending him on Facebook and liking Cool Hat, I saw he was looking to raise funds on Kickstarter. This morning I saw he was in the home stretch and decided to contribute, but by the time I actually got around to doing it, he'd already crossed the finish line. I contributed anyway, with the extra money going to help fund more alien costumes/makeup and some cuts/bruises/mayhem for the cast.

This post isn't just my bragging about helping someone. I've actually been putting some thought into Kickstarter (and crowdfunding in general) for awhile. On the movie shoot, Toria Munoz, another production assistant, told me I ought to try to fund the production of a movie version of "Melon Heads" (already writing the screenplay) via Kickstarter. I was skeptical due to not being well-known enough to raise a lot of money, but another friend (I can't remember who) told me if I wanted to get any money, I'd need to shoot a scene and post the video in order to attract the funding to finish. I already have an idea for the scene I'd shoot (the first real appearance of the Melon Heads and what happens right before), but getting the money together to even do that is going to be problematic and I have a lot of other stuff to do in the meantime. However, it's worth a thought.

In the long run, crowdfunding would be a good way to get around the problem of Internet piracy eroding the incentive to actually create media. If the entire cost of the project is paid for in advance (by people who then get books, movies, etc. to their taste in exchange), that means all actual sales of the product after release are pure profit. Sure the torrents and the like are going to cut into sales, but you won't need to make as many sales in the first place to make the project worth your while. And if the numbers justify a sequel, you have a much larger fan-base now to pay for it.

And this might help save genre fiction, especially short stories. Something I've noticed over the last few years is that the number of paying short fiction markets has plummeted, especially the ones in the middle. One of the things I've seen on Kickstarter is a number of themed fiction anthologies, which I'm told are very poor sellers. I've also seen established figures in the genre like John Joseph Adams seeking funds to start new publications of their own. Crowd-funding these will help compensate for the decline in print media publications that used to publish these stories and could allow for a diversity of thought and content that didn't exist even during the genre's "glory days." Given the consolidation of the book-publishing industry, you could apply the same thing to full-length novels.

Crowdfunding also gives people who complain about the state of the media today the opportunity to put their money where their mouth is. If you want more original films, help fund the production of a screenplay the writer could never sell because it's too "risky" (aka it's not a remake or a sequel of something original that did succeed, years ago). If you think the publishing industry has some bias (be it political or stylistic--I remember some complaints about there being too much cynical, dark material out there), fund a book or anthology of stories that goes against the grain.

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