Crowd sourcing, Fan Power and the Future of Entertainment!

Kickstarter disturbance in the force

“The world has changed. I see it in the water. I feel it in the Earth. I smell it in the air.” Galadriel said it well but in the parlance of Star Wars, I feel a disturbance in the force and it’s convergence is Kickstarter. It seems we are moving into a place where good “art” be it television, movies, podcasting or comics can develop and survive unfettered by outside intrusions. It is true that fan action, innovation and hard work are not new but there has been a building process that is now reaching some of it’s true potential.

Of course many examples of what is becoming more widespread now come to mind. Zachery Levi’s Chuck got a fifth season, Firefly got a damn movie, and going back even further Kevin Smith made Clerks for just $20,000 basically on pure will alone. But now we have two advantages over our fore bearers, technology and community. Modern technology means that anybody can be a content creator, one can literally shoot or record and upload or live stream to the internet from our phones now. But there is also effectively a new nation that exists solely on the internet without borders and baggage that just wants to see and help develop new and interesting projects. An ethos that is particularly emphasised within the “Nerd” community, people want cool stuff and want to help it exist.

Kickstarter Collage

So let’s talk about Kickstarter, If you aren’t aware Kickstarter is a website that devotes itself to helping an incredible range of projects find funding from people across the world via the internet. Most recently it has drawn the attention of mainstream media because of a number of “high profile” campaigns that broke all sorts of records for Kickstarter. First of these was the Veronica Mars Movie, which made more money than any other Kickstarter campaign in history, a sum of $5,702,153. Veronica Mars was a TV show that I honestly wasn’t a fan of, it was set in the fictional town of Neptune, California and starred Kristen Bell as the title character. A student who progresses from high school to college while moonlighting as a private investigator under tutelage from her detective father.

The Veronica Mars campaign showed a almost Whedonite/Brown Coat levels of fan fervor and it was amazing to see how fans could have such a dramatic Impact and direct in put into something they loved. This was to be followed in media coverage by a passion project from Actor/Director Zach Braff (Probably best known as JD from the television show Scrubs) entitled “wish I was here”. Braff described the new film he proposed to make as a sequel in tone to his successful movie Garden State(Which unlike Veronica Mars I was a massive fan of) with no compromises. In fact the driving force in his campaign was to give him a chance to make his vision without corporate intervention, a thing he was a capable of doing before, in garden state, thanks to a private citizen who believed in Zach fronting a large amount of the costs. This idea of creative freedom is a sentiment that is beginning to sweep through the industry.

Another Campaign that brought some controversy(which in this case was stupid) to the system was that of penny arcade podcast’s, entitled Penny Arcade DLC. Penny Arcade is a company set up by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. Initially to write a web comic, one of the only to be successful in becoming a business, but has now diversified to include many things including gaming conventions across the world called PAX (Penny Arcade Expo). Their Kickstarter was to raise money to fund a continuation of Podcast’s that they had previously made. Some people (henceforth known as idiots) saw this as some sought of money grabbing exercise that was not needed to create the content they promised. Not at all realising the time involved in producing these new podcast’s would be unfeasible in a large company(workload wise) made up of so few individuals, as is the case at penny arcade, unless it could be sensibly monetised. These new podcast’s will be available soon  but if you can’t wait for that or your stuck waiting for either the Mars or Braff projects it might be worthwhile to check out the old podcast’s here.

Of course there is plenty of opportunity to abuse the Kickstarter system, I shudder to imagine a montage of famous people saying give money to Sony or McDonald’s or Coca cola for example. It is sad that but true some people will do anything if it’s Celebrity endorsed. But ignore all that, there’s always gonna be the bad one’s in the bunch, What I want to champion here is the rise of “Art” unfettered by outside influence of the studio and other manifestations of the corporate. But it is also key to realise Kickstarter is a tool and is not the only force for this new movement.

The Kevin Smith Machine

If you’ve not guessed the person I want to talk about next is Writer/Director Kevin Smith. Partly because what he’s involved in right now and what he has done in the past is so interesting, but also because in many ways he is a symbol of the changes that I’m talking about and want to promote. In many ways Kevin did with his first movie Clerks what people are only just realising they can do now, and for him it was significantly harder. He made a movie for just $20,000! and with the hard work of him and his friends and a whole load of credit card debt he forced his way into the public consciousness.

In many ways Kevin Smith has now returned to his routes after moving away from the big Hollywood flicks of his past. Particularly the Podcast network he has created, or Smodcast as it is known, is a well of entertainment built off of self production. He also self funded a horror movie called Red State and runs across the country to talk to his fans. His latest project, Jay and Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie, is an animated feature produced by his long time friend Jason Mewes for almost Clerks money at $69,000. He is currently touring across the United states with the movie, which if you’re lucky enough to live there you can see date’s/places here. No word as yet when the international release might be or where one could see it but it definitely looks like fun, check out the trailer.

But more important than helping your favourite TV show getting made into a movie or going on the road to see Super Groovy Cartoon Movie, is this. Use Kevin Smith as a inspiration, go out and do it whatever creative urge you have the tools are there to help you. Or instead help someone else do it, if you have that friend that keeps procrastinating and you believe in their work, help them realise it. The chance is their the future is now go forth and be entertaining.

“If there is a message to my work here it’s go out, do it, create!”                                     Joss Whedon

The Future

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