True To Its Roots: Why Kickstarter Won’t Sell

Via FastCompany, Author: Max Chafkin —

Bing bing bing.

“Attention! Excuse me! Attention!”

It’s well past midnight in Park City, Utah, at the Sundance Film Festival, when Karim Amer hoists himself onto the bar, stands up straight, puffs his chest, and starts tapping his glass. The 200 or so producers, Kickstarter Foundersagents, studio executives, and assorted Hollywood types who are drinking whiskey at High West–which bills itself as “the world’s only ski-in distillery and gastro-saloon”–turn to half-listen.

“We just had our premiere,” Amer begins in a booming voice. His film, a documentary about the 2011 protests in Cairo called The Square, received a standing ovation just hours ago. “And in the spirit of doing it ourselves, and of saying”–he pauses dramatically to extend his middle finger toward the saloon’s wooden rafters–“fuck you to the Man, we’re launching a Kickstarter campaign tonight. Let’s make it happen!”

Kickstarter, the New York crowdfunding website, is hosting this party. The site has helped 10,000 filmmakers raise more than $88 million since it launched in 2009. Though most of these are student projects with budgets of less than $10,000, dozens of filmmakers–including the screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and the director Paul Schrader–have raised more than $100,000 on the site. At Sundance, 19 films, or 10% of the festival slate, had been funded on Kickstarter.

“I just wanted to make sure you saw that,” the company’s cofounder Yancey Strickler tells me after Amer steps down from the bar. Strickler, who is in Park City in part to recruit more filmmakers to the site, has been working with Amer and The Square’s critically celebrated director, Jehane Noujaim, for a year. “More and more people are looking at Hollywood and realizing that they have a choice,” Strickler says. “It’s about maintaining control of your work.”

Kickstarter has only been around since 2009, but the concept behind the site is centuries old, dating at least to the days of the House of Medici…

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