Following in the footsteps of the immensely successful crowd-sourced Kickstarter campaign that was (and will be) the Veronica Mars movie, Zach Braff is looking to pull off a similar trick with his long-awaited follow-up to Garden State, Wish I Was Here. You can find out more about it in this news story – which includes a link to where you can contribute yourself – but for details about how @ZachBraff is harnessing this new way to make movies, have a look at our exclusive interview with him below…
What’s your problem with the subjunctive mood?
For starters, Wish I Was Here sounds cooler than Wish I Were Here. Then the movie’s about a father who’s trying to teach his kids at home despite not being much of an academic himself. So it works in two ways, really, but yeah, I take your point.
Was this Kickstarter idea something that struck you before Veronica Mars came along?
I’ve been involved with Kickstarter – funding small projects I like – for a while now. It’s just that it’s a fresh, new way to support new ideas. I’ve also worked with Kiva.org, who do micro loans for people who need them. I was savvy about the concept before the Veronica Mars movie took off, but it didn’t really occur to me that it could work on a much larger scale until Kristen Bell and Rob Thomas did it.
So my producers and I had this movie, based on a script I’d written with my brother Adam last summer, and we were having the normal conversations you have with financiers about what sacrifices were going to have to be made, what’s going to have to be cut, changed, which superstar won’t be able to take a certain role, that sort of thing. Then there was the most important thing that I didn’t like about the process: I wasn’t going to be given final cut. So if you go to a test screening and something that you don’t like at all tests huge, the company then has the right to change that and make that the ending, or whatever it may be.
I was really torn. I was hungry and excited to make the film, but I really didn’t like the way this all sounded. Then Veronica Mars happened, and we couldn’t help but stop ourselves and regroup and have the Kickstarter conversation. If it were to work, all of these problems would go away!
Do you feel like it becomes part of the PR process at the same time?
|It’s a new way to look at movies! It’s not going to work for everything – it’s not for giant blockbusters...|
I don’t know... I’m just a movie geek and it feels like something exciting. It’s a new way to look at movies! It’s not going to work for everything – it’s not for giant blockbusters, but if you’re making these art films, labours of love and passion, personal endeavours, and there’s a built-in audience for them... Honestly, everywhere I go, whether I’m doing press for other movies or if I run into my fans on the street or if I’m on Twitter, the most common question is, “Why haven’t you made another movie?” So I know there’s demand for it, I know there’s interest, but I don’t want to put my name on something and have to deal with the whims of someone who isn’t the director of the movie.
Is that something you’ve experienced before, the studio system cutting you up?
I’ve tried to make a couple of films within the whole Hollywood system since Garden State and they’ve all fallen apart for one reason or another. They weren’t scripts I’d written – I’d rewritten them or adapted them – and they fall apart for any number of reasons: your star falls out or an executive gets fired. Anyone in Hollywood will tell you that it’s amazing any movie ever gets made. But this Kickstarter method was exciting, because not only does it put the fans in charge of the movie, it also brings them in early. They get to see behind-the-scenes stuff, be a part of it – it’s almost like subscribing to an online magazine, in that they’re all going to get this insider information as we make the movie.
I backed this really innovative bicycle light on Kickstarter once, and I ended up watching them in their development phase, troubleshooting, blueprints, sketches, test run videos and I fucking loved it! It was so interesting and I know nothing about engineering and I found it fascinating to be a part of it. So I look at it like that. For people who love movies and for people who know nothing about the making of movies, for the minimum amount, people are going to get regular video and email updates for about a year. It’s just cool.
You’re well known for your good relationship with your fans…
I genuinely like them! I think some people do it because they have to, because it’s a part of the job, but I genuinely like the discourse.
|Zach Braff filming his debut film, Garden State, in 2004|
What’s the best donor incentive you’re offering?
I’m really looking forward to doing people’s outgoing voicemail messages. That’s going to be fun. There are plenty of Q&As and they are always enjoyable. There are going to be animated fantasy sequences in the film too, so there are going to be pre-visualisation art pieces to give away as well. There’s only one speaking part, but there are plenty of background and featured extra spots available. The cost for the speaking part? That’s a $10,000 donation to say that one line. It should be more, if I’m honest, because they’re going to have a significant sentence to say. There are only a handful of characters with just one sentence in the movie, and they’re all significant, so I hope for the love of God that they can act. If it’s really bad, I’ll have to loop his voice. I’ll just say, “Look buddy, you just move your lips and I’m going to fix it in post.”
Did you ever take the Wish I Was Here project out to studios?
I never went out with it. I knew that was a waste of time – it’s not the way to make this movie. This movie is to follow the path of Garden State, so you make it for as little money as you can, and then you take it to a festival like Sundance and find a domestic distributor who can give you a theatrical release. Ideally, we’d film this August and hopefully be ready in time for the Sundance January deadline. This is a smaller movie, not something that’ll be released to appeal to the whole country – it’s for the audience that likes what I do.
Are you planning on casting some big names to help make the film get more attention?
There will be some names. My leading lady will probably be a name. But I don’t like films where it’s just jam-packed with different famous people. Some filmmakers cram them all in so it’s a different star for every line, and personally, as a lover of movies, that really takes me out of the moment and alienates the audience generally. “Oh look, it’s Sylvester Stallone as the hotdog vendor!” I just think that’s bizarre. Obviously I understand the economics: you need some sort of celebrity to make a poster that’ll get people to notice it, and obviously you want great actors, but you don’t want to jam it full of stars because that’s the only way to get the money.
You’re working with Garden State producers Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg. Can we expect the same visual style in Wish I Was Here?
That’s the style I want to continue, that’s the style I like… And it’s fans who’ve responded to that look, that style, that I’m catering for here. That was my first movie! I really didn’t think it was going to have the reaction it got, my first time out at bat. Now I get “Sidecars are for bitches!” shouted at me in the street, and I love that. Also, “Who here just saw some titties? Raise your hand if you just saw some titties!” I’m really dying to give people more – if that was my first movie, I can do much better.