Zach Braff has been in the public eye for nearly twenty years now, since the debut of Scrubs in 2001. To his credit, in all of that time, Braff hasn’t stirred that much controversy, save for three times: (1) His Punk’d appearance, in which he understandably reamed out an 11-year-old he thought had spray-painted his new car; (2) The backlash to the initial wave of adoration for his directorial debut, Garden State; (3) The backlash to Braff’s decision to crowdfund half the budget for the spiritual follow-up to Garden State, 2014’s Wish I Was Here.
At the time, Kickstarter was a relatively new phenomenon, mostly used by those who could not otherwise afford to fund dream projects. Braff — a relatively wealthy actor coming off a nine-season run on a popular sitcom — endeavored to use Kickstarter to fund half the budget for his film. The thing is, it worked. Within three days, Braff had blown past his Kickstarter goal and eventually raised $3 million. Soon thereafter, however, the wave of backlash had completely destroyed the goodwill of the original campaign. Twitter users, bloggers, and entertainment writers (including myself) took the entire idea of crowdfunding millions of dollars for producing studio movies to task as something that felt like multimillionaires asking people on the Internet to give them their lunch money.
In any respect, Wish I Was Here was a solid movie for those who love Garden State (and I include myself in that demo), but it was poorly received at the box office, earning only $5.5 million (like Garden State, however, it also had a very good soundtrack). This week on Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast, Braff — who took a break from his own podcast Fake Doctors, Real Friends to appear elsewhere — spoke to that controversy.
“I think I was the first known actor/director to [crowdfund] a movie, and it was so successful, and we funded beyond what we asked for in 24 hours” Braff told Maron. “That there was instant backlash saying that you as a known entity should not be using this. This should be for people who have no other means. I, unfortunately, or fortunately became the face of the debate: Should people who have fanbases be allowed to participate in crowdfunding campaigns?”
Asked by Maron where folks landed on that debate, Braff said, “Well, no one really does it … and not many people have done it since because of the amount of antagonism there was for the very idea.” In other words, Braff was the first (and last) major figure to crowdfund a multimillion movie.
Braff believes (I think rightly) that the backlash also hurt the film, and that fans dismissed it because it was that crowdfunded movie. “It was a bit of a bummer, because I was really proud of the film, and not a lot of people saw it,” Braff said.
It is a bummer, and though I was critical of the idea at the time, I do commend Braff for taking it on the chin as well as he did.
(Via WTF with Marc Maron)