But, okay. The spectacle of one of the most powerful multimedia conglomerates in the history of planet Earth latching onto a service originally designed to help the kind of projects that their entire infrastructure exists to say "No!" to as a way to say "Oh, you guys like Veronica Mars? Prove it!" rubs me the wrong way and feels inappropriate. But it's not unethical or wrong.
It does give me pause, though, all the same.
Firstly, it's an open invitation for studios or other corporate entities to really abuse the system. It took mainstream Hollywood a good long while to understand fandom and devotion of geek culture, but they've figured out how to monetize that devotion with astounding quickness. The idea that they can now potentially ransom fans of this TV show or that movie for their continuation will be the big take away from these events for a lot of the industry, and the implications are pretty grim.
Hollywood budgets are illusory horrors designed specifically to ensure that as few people outside those who'll reap the final profits actually understand or even know what anything actually costs. If an unscrupulous studio executive was to say, "Y'know, we're already more or less decided on renewing this show, but before we make it 'official' we might as well toss up a Kickstarter implying it's in danger of not coming back and see if we can't get those gullible fans to lower our production costs a little more!", there'd be no real way of preventing it or even proving that anything "untoward" went down - after all, who's to say they didn't need just that little extra million or so? Do you know what catering costs in this town?
But even beyond outright malfeasance, it feels like yet another step away from creativity and risk taking within the industry. Contrary to popular belief, Hollywood has not run out of new ideas. There are screenwriters with piles of new ideas out there. The problem is that movies are expensive to make and "new" equals "financially risky." Who wants to risk their job on some new, unproven concept when you can just sequelize (or remake, or reboot, or reimagine) a concept that you already know sold once and can probably sell again? Believe it or not, the offices of Hollywood's wealthy and powerful are not generally stocked with DVDs of cult classic 80s horror movies and Silver Age Marvel and/or DC comics - movie theaters are dominated by comic book adaptations and remakes because they're known quantities backed up by market data.
Now, do original ideas get Kickstarted? Sure. But for the most part, the stuff that really brings in the big crowdfunding bucks are known quantities. The Ouya (which promises to run Android software) or revivals of old IPs in TV, movies, games, etc. This is unsurprising, since people are always more willing to pay for what they already know they like. The proof, now, is in the pudding: The biggest and most-visible "major" movie financed via crowdfunding is Veronica Mars - a spin off of a TV show. And it won't be the last.
After all, now that the studios have been invited to the Kickstarter scene, what do you think they'll be Kickstarting? Original projects? Not likely - to gain any kind of traction they'd need at least trailers, or production stills, or concept art, and if they had the overhead to produce that they probably wouldn't be using Kickstarter. But TV spin offs? More sequels? More remakes? More adaptations, reboots and reimaginings? Yeah, that sounds about right.
A few years ago, we called crowdfunding a "revolution." Revolutions aren't supposed to look exactly like what came before.
Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.