A few weeks ago on the CBC website there was an article called "Crowd funding: Why easy money doesn't always add up to a hit." Every now and then I come across a headline where the mere wording irks me, and this was one of them.
For anyone who's ever run a crowd funding campaign properly, and there's a lot of us, you know that this is by no means "easy" money. It's not easier than any other way of funding your film whether it be through private investment or gov't funds. It's called a campaign for a reason. Ask any politician coming off of a hard fought campaign if getting elected was "easy."
That said, the heart of that article is something I can align myself with. It speaks to the mega giants of crowd funding, the Zach Braffs and Spike Lees, and how now that their films are coming out and getting less than stellar reviews, is this really the best way to make a film? Braff made his film with crowd funding for the sheer reason that he didn't want anyone's voice but his own involved in the process -- as much as he tells his contributors that he made the film with us (and I was one of them), he made the film he wanted to make. And to be honest, I don't love that film. It feels like the script changes he fought private investors against might have been a good thing potentially, in that scenario, for that film. But we can't paint all filmmakers with the same brush and say that all crowd funded films are personal pretentious pieces of crap. If that were true we'd have to say that every studio film was perfect and amazing and we all know how untrue that is.
When it comes to crowd funding it's no different from opening up your web browser to decide what film to see that evening. You have to use the information you have at hand: do you like the story, the genre, the filmmaker, the cast (if they have some attached)? It's a leap of faith, an unofficial investment in an artist -- and the question you have to ask yourself is: do I think this person can make something that I would like to see? Are they worth my time, energy, and money?
I will tell you that what I like about crowd funding other people's films, and what I aim to do with my own, is the insider experience. That's something you don't get when you buy a ticket at the multiplex. You don't get personal updates from the filmmakers, hellos from set, a window into the entire experience; that's the truly unique thing about crowd funding. Even with Braff's film, while I didn't love the end product, he did a really amazing job of bringing people into the world of the filmmaking experience and really showing the process. As a filmmaker, I found value in that alone. So while I might want my money back from the finished film, I certainly wouldn't want my money back from that.
I did my first crowd funding campaign two years ago for my second feature film "Sex After Kids," which was before the celebrity era of crowd funding really kicked in. At the time I thought I'd hit a nice sweet spot before people started to get annoyed with the idea, but now that I'm starting up my second campaign for my new feature film "How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town," I see that the landscape has shifted dramatically.
The crowd funding fatigue that I saw setting in about a year ago has dissipated and it seems to have entered into the public-norm. It's here, and it's here to stay. And like everything in this world it can't be painted with an over-all brush. A product from every store whether its amazon or etsy will at some point disappoint your expectations; welcome to life. Make a note and don't support that person or company next time around. But for my money, I think this is an exciting new world, especially when I know that I can personally have an impact on someone's project, where I can be on the inside of something from the get-go. It's a crucial part of the human experience to be want to be involved in something greater than yourself. You're helping to make someone's dream come true, and you get to come along for the ride. What's cooler than that?
I want to tell you to go to a crowd funding site right now and find something and someone to back, but I know that not everyone has the means to do so -- so here's what I'm going to ask you to do: next time you've got some time to kill check out a crowd funding site, whether it's Indiegogo, Kickstarter, RocketHub, or any of them, and browse around the campaigns. If you find something cool you like and can afford: back it. If you find something cool and can't afford it at the time, spread the word to the people in your social media circles. Maybe one of them can support it and you can piggy back off of their experience (consider it a finders fee for bringing them something cool to get involved in). In the end, the real power of crowd funding is that you get to vote with your time, energy, and (if possible) money. You get to decide how the next generation of artists, inventors, and so much more, grow. You get to be part of reclaiming what's important to us.
Jeremy LaLonde is a filmmaker who has had one successful crowd funding campaign and has just launched another with his new film "How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town" on Indiegogo.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: