When the hyper-popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter launched their campaign to fund a movie based on the mid-2000s TV series Veronica Mars, the Internet largely lost its mind. The show’s old writer turned to fans to fund a film Hollywood execs didn’t care to support. Fans showed up in droves, donating more than $5 million to the cause, and most of them were promised a free download of the film in exchange.
Only they didn’t get a download. Not the download they wanted, in any case. The Veronica Mars movie was made and debuted to largely positive reviews and fan enthusiasm, but the free download was via a streaming app. Fans balked. Many turned to iTunes or Amazon instead, and many more called to complain, saying they’d been cheated. Refunds were issued, and the whole thing ended up serving as yet another reminder of the limitations—and growing backlash—against crowdfunded art.
It’s a lesson Garden State director Zach Braff learned the hard way when he also turned to Kickstarter to fund his next film, despite the fact that he already had wide studio interest in his script.
Braff said involving Hollywood execs would compromise his vision for the film (titled Wish I Was Here), and hoped Kickstarter would give him the funding—and, subsequently, the freedom—to make the movie on his own terms. He raised $3.1 million, but not without incurring the wrath of people who felt Kickstarter should be reserved for unknown artists instead of celebrity filmmakers. Robert Downey Jr. and Tim Heidecker poked public fun at him, and Braff only made matters worse by getting publicly defensive when fans started complaining that they hadn’t received their promised rewards yet.
They’re not alone, according to a 2012 study by CNN, which found that a full 84 percent of Kickstarter’s 50 most popular projects missed their estimated delivery dates. That reality is forcing both the crowdfunded and the crowdfunders to find some happy medium between their lofty promises, stark realities and the diminishing returns in-between.
###Failed Kickstarter Projects
Alex Andon raised more than $160,000 to build tanks designed for jellyfish. The product was a flop—numerous customers reported their pet jellyfish were killed by their new tank.
The Doom That Came to Atlantic City
A few friends tripled their funding goal to create a board game based on sci-fi writings, but a year later, they announced the project was canceled.
POP iPhone Charger
The idea—a portable charger for wireless devices—was good, but the team forgot to check with Apple, who shut the project down.