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Why do People Hate Celebrities Who Crowdfund with Kickstarter?

Kickstarter launched in April 2009, creating a system for common people to fund dream projects. Someone with a big idea but without finance could access funding through crowd benevolence. Lately more people with big ideas and bank accounts, find funding. People like Zach Braff, who launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his movie Wish I Was Here which was a continuation of his indie romantic story Garden State.

According to the pitch Braff’s made, the film needed fan-funding because the crowdfunding website could allow a “small, personal film that doesn’t sign away all artistic control”. The project of this pretty famous actor and director had many fans and social media followers, and he managed to secure over $2 million from 30,000 backers in four days! It was a victory for Braff and Kickstarter, but posed an uncomfortable question: Why does a famous Braff need my money?

Crowdfunding Success

These are successes for creators aiming at something outside the system, but what about those people without fame and fortune who were never even in the system to begin with? While Kickstarter will not overthrow Hollywood soon (a single Game of Thrones episode costs more than any crowdfunding campaign ever raised) there is uneasiness when the movie industry plays in the indie cinema’s grassroots origins. Valleywag posed the headline to read that ‘Rich Person’ Zach Braff wanted the internet to make his new movie. Braff replied that he is not some Oprah, and cannot fund a $5.5 million movie out of his wallet. A spate of other big names are passing the hat now on Kickstarter – singer-songwriter Rob Thomas raised over $5.7 million to fund a film version of a popular show. Other similar campaigns fund a film version of ‘The Goon’ which is an Eric Powell’s comic, the $52,527 campaign which went on to fund the Oscar award-winning short movie ‘Inocente’ and Brian Knappenberger’s Aaron Swartz documentary.

Helping Others in Distress

When people think you have much money, they question your asking them for more, inevitably inviting a backlash. After his Kickstarter campaign took off, filmmaker Jared Caldwell accused Braff of ruining it and did not blame him for using @kickstarter, but this privilege was hurting upcoming indies.  Braff humbly disagreed terming it as slightly beyond his control. Psychologically we calculate our worth compared to other people, and if we perceive someone to be socially “above” us, we are less inclined to support them. A study found comparison makes people feel less empathic towards targets and hence less inclined to help them. These attitudes are not compounded if the target in question happens to be a famous person and it is natural to not help someone from the haves but telling them to not to play on Kickstarter, could hurt have-nots.

When Braff’s Kickstarter campaign started, the website saw increased traffic with supporters discovering and backing other campaigns.  A recognizable face may draw the spotlight away from small filmmakers in the site’s “Popular” list but possibly brings in others who never visit Kickstarter. The crowdfunding site declined comments but noted “snowball effects” caused by one campaign’s success, ensured windfalls for others. Kickstarter noted that one project’s backer does not amount to another project’s loss and backers of one project often back other projects also. Braff wanted doubters and the haters to recognize that Kickstarter never introduced an ass-ton of people and if you click on Kickstarter, there is no picture of him smiling, it’s only about thousands of awesome projects.

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