Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s conference coverage.
The Kickstarter model of financing movies was front and center this morning at a Produced By conference panel entitled “The State of Producing — Finding Funding, Lining Up Talent & Securing Screens,” which replaced the scheduled session with Tom Cruise (postponed to next weekend). Before the seats were even warm, producer Stacey Sher (Django Unchained, Erin Brockovich, Pulp Fiction) was quizzed about her groundbreaking Kickstarter effort in April on behalf of Zach Braff that found his project Wish I Was Here meeting its $2 million fundraising goal in a mere four days en route to a 30-day total of $3.1 million from a grand total of 46,520 pledgers). “We were absolutely shocked,” Sher admitted. “We became these people who lived for 30 days under both a microscope and a spotlight. And it was excruciating.” Why “excruciating”? Sher explained that by virtue of being Exhibit A in the new media funding model, the haters were inspired to come out of the woodwork wondering why they deserved this kind of support. But she stressed that the experience has been overwhelmingly encouraging and positive. “The people who backed the film are going through every step of its production with us, with more access to how it’s being put together than some of our interns,” she said. Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin and Josh Gad will join Braff in the film about a thirtysomething actor who is trying to figure out who he is. The former Scrubs star co-wrote the screenplay for Wish I Was Here with his brother and will direct the film. Sher and Michael Shamberg are producing the pic through their Double Feature Films. Worldview Entertainment has stepped in to provide gap financing for the film, which begins shooting on July 31.
“It was like a miracle,” marveled Sher in noting that a mere 40 days after beginning the campaign, the money was in the account and planning for the shoot was in motion. But in trying to extrapolate the experience as something to which the audience of would-be producers could relate, Sher emphasized that generating funding doesn’t have to be about having heavyweight contacts or a star like Braff attached. “A large amount of the people who contributed to the
Kickstarter campaign weren’t just Zach’s fans but all of our friends,” she said. “They were people in the industry who were applauding doing something outside the system. And everyone here has a network of people, friends and friends and friends of friends. It’s about amortizing that group of people surrounding you and giving them something that they want.” She added that the Kickstarter revolution is indeed in full swing, noting that an eye-popping 40% of the films on the slate last year at the Sundance Fest were partially or fully funded by Kickstarter. Not that it’s the model of the future for tentpoles or anything, Sher cautioned. “”I’m not financing The Avengers sequel this way,” she assured. Sher was joined on the panel before a packed audience at the Zanuck Theatre by Film Academy president Hawk Koch and fellow producers Gary Lucchesi and Mark Gordon.