The Wishing Well

    I’m in the middle of fundraising for and I’ve noticed a logical disconnect: people know that contributing to a crowdfunding campaign directly funds the creation of a project, but they don’t see that same connection when they go to the theater and buy a ticket for a movie.
    Movies are funded up-front by investors (read: rich people who want to be richer) with the expectation that they're going make more money. When people buy movie tickets, they’re paying back the investor with interest.
    Investors like to make money and when they see that movies make money, they invest again, and thus another movie, like the earlier one gets made. If we, the people, don’t go to see a movie, the investor loses money and won’t invest in that type of movie again.
    Crowdfunding campaigns has the potential to eliminate the investors. It’s just the artists and the people who want the art. And that’s where this strange disconnect becomes pragmatic: people see crowdfunding as a way to get the movies for less than they would otherwise pay, or maybe they’ll pay more, but the budget for the movie will be way less than the movie actually costs to make.
    People think movies can be made for $70k or even $7k. And they can, but not by paying people. I made ALGORITHM for just under $9k. No one got paid. If I’d paid people a living wage, it would have cost 100x, or about $800k. ALGORITHM did pay for itself, and the $10k of my own money, and I’ve been able to write profit-share checks to my collaborators. But, it’s way less than the $800k we should have been paid.
    When people see a realistic budget for a movie or series on a crowdfunding site, they freak out, not because the cost is too high, but because the cost is not what they’re used to seeing on that kind of platform. When they read that Wonder Woman made $775 million, they think that’s normal for a superhero movie, which is stylized science-fiction or fantasy movie.
    When I launched the campaign for with a $33 million budget, a lot of people haven’t contributed; they feel the budget is unrealistically high. One acquaintance wrote, “It feels like I’m tossing a stone into a bottomless pit.” He feels he’s not going to make a difference when his contribution actually makes the most difference, but at the theater that’s not a factor in his mind.
    I realized that I’m seeing a symptom of something that has shown up elsewhere in our society. Most U.S. citizens don’t vote. They feel their vote doesn’t matter. And this isn’t just because of the current president. It’s been a problem for a while. They see the U.S. population is 330 million people and they think, “One vote doesn’t matter.” That idea spreads and then it’s half the population who don’t vote.
    The Electoral College notwithstanding, every vote counts. Every $15 contribution to matters. Because, if enough people do it, we’ll have done the impossible. We’ll have changed the way movies and shows are made and distributed. We’ll have democratized access to premium level art so everyone everywhere can benefit from a broader understanding of why we does what we do.
    For me, on the inside of this crazy thing, I know the statistics and the general morale of the world at this point. But, I choose to live in hope. Many of my friends and some well-intentioned and well-informed Hollywood people tell me what I’m trying is extremely unlikely. But, I choose hope. I wake up each morning and think, “Sure, you may be right. But what if it works? Isn’t that at least worth trying and fighting for?”
    There’s another way to see throwing the stone into a bottomless pit: What if the bottomless pit is a wishing well? And what if your wish comes true? Even that moment of hope, however long it lasts, feels good, and I think we need that amidst this endless stream of bad news. We need more hope.
    If you want to have a taste of what it feels like to dream big and hope big and try and change the world for the better, join You and your choice matter!