‘Garden State’ Director Launches Kickstarter for New Indie ‘Wish I Was Here’

Published 2 years ago by

Ever since the phenomenal success of  the Veronica Mars movie kickstarter, quite a few people in the film and television industry have been pricking up their ears and paying attention to the possibilities offered by the crowd-funding platform. Bryan Fuller is already putting together plans for a Pushing Daisies Kickstarter, and Scrubs star Zach Braff has cited the success of Thomas and Stewart as the direct inspiration behind his own Kickstarter project.

Wish I Was Here is based on a screenplay by Braff and his brother Adam, and tells the story of a man called Aidan Bloom (played by Braff), “who at 35 is still trying to find his identity; a purpose for his life.” Even as he approaches middle age, Bloom continues to engage in his childhood fantasies about being a Space-Knight, but is forced back down to Earth when he is charged with home-schooling his two kids.

Garden State cinematographer Larry Sher and producers Stacy Sher and Michael Shamberg have all agreed to work on the project, which is scheduled to begin shooting this August with plans to premiere at next year’s Sundance Film Festival.

The pitch video is pretty fun and Wish I Was Here does sound like a worthy project, especially for people who loved Garden State and want to see more of Braff’s work both behind the camera and in front of it. The pitch clearly shows how passionate Braff is about the project, and there’s no doubt that his intentions are pure. However, there is also a sense that he is glossing over the issue of crowd-funding vs. studio funding, and the parts where he talks jokingly about “the money people” and their demands feels a little too oversimplified.

Zach Braff directing Garden State Garden State Director Launches Kickstarter for New Indie Wish I Was Here

One issue that some people have with Braff and other established film producers using Kickstarter to fund their projects is the idea that it redirects funding that could have gone to other, smaller campaigns started by people who are still struggling to break into the film industry and trying to get their first major project off the ground. With that in mind, however, Kickstarter states that the site is designed for projects “big and small” and that anyone can launch their idea on the website. The central idea behind the platform is simply to offer creative independence, so technically famous names and already successful creatives aren’t violating the spirit of the site when they use Kickstarter to fund their projects.

Braff states that his main reason for using the site is not simply to obtain financing, since $2 million is a modest amount and Braff acknowledges in his pitch video that he’s already had a few offers from investors, but because, “We want to make this film the same way we made ‘Garden State,’ without a distributor or financier demanding we adapt it to fit their needs.”

Of course, minor creative concessions will still be made to Kickstarter investors, since the higher pledge brackets come with perks like a speaking role in the film, appearing onscreen as an extra, being able to name one of the characters, and being invited to offer feedback on the director’s cut and help shape the final edit.

Out of those pledge rewards, the offer of a speaking role (this opportunity has already been “sold”) and the 50 background performance roles are probably the two most likely to be considered objectionable, especially since one of the requirements for these roles is that the backer not be a member of the acting union SAG-AFTRA. By using backers for these roles, the production not only pulls in an extra $225,000 to spend on production, but they also save the cost of employing professional actors or extras to star in the film. It sounds like a great idea on the face of it, but on the flipside is the fact that these roles probably should have gone to performers working in the film industry, and should have been paid, not paid-for.

Pre visualisation for Wish I Was Here Garden State Director Launches Kickstarter for New Indie Wish I Was Here

The message in Braff’s pitch video is clear, and in many ways its emblematic of the spirit behind many Kickstarter projects. Generally speaking, the film industry functions on a system whereby financiers invest in a project that they believe has promise, in the hope of seeing a return on their investment in the form of profit. Kickstarter has a similar system, with the difference being that the return on investment is not a financial one; instead, backers are rewarded by getting the opportunity to see a film that they’re interested in, untainted by studio interference, and to be directly involved with its production.

Crowd-funding for films is a complex issue, because even the most creative and independent project is part of a much larger industry, and Kickstarter campaigns like those for Veronica Mars, Pushing Daisies and Wish I Was Here effectively ask for charitable donations to commercial undertakings. But since the phenomenon of fan-financing films from big names within the industry is still finding its feet, we’ll simply have to wait and see how these projects pan out, and whether the removal of interference from distributors and financiers really does lead to better films.


At the time of publication, the Wish I Was Here Kickstarter has nearly 10,000 backers and has raised over $700,000. You can make a donation at the link given below.

Source: Kickstarter

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  1. Angry. Video game. Neeerd.

  2. I wonder how people feel about celebs using kickstarter. I understand that he wants to use it to gain money without selling the movie’s soul to a studio, but still… He actually has the option to get a studio to back. Other smaller filmmakers don’t even have that. They have no other options beside kickstarter.

    • I had formerly expressed in a comment under VERONICA MARS on Screen Rant that Kickstarter.com ran a serious risk of becoming corrupted by a celebrity hierarchy in putting smaller filmmakers into a caste system that would incidentally direct funding away from their chance to produce demo projects on spec.

      Kickstarter’s liberal policy of “big and small” — this, together with the website’s e-mails to registrants strongly recommending certain submissions (with prejudice) — precludes many unknown and hopeful filmmakers from their minimum requirement to finance a movie venture.

      Rot, like mole, is not something to watch but something to realize.

      • Yeah, I’m not a fans of celebs using Kickstarter. It was already becoming a place where to be successful you had to have some degree of a pre-existing name this just makes it worse. Oh well. Things change I guess.

  3. For crying out loud, in no way is this a charitable donation. It is pre-merchandising, that’s all. People pay $40 for movie T-shirts all the time; the only difference in this is marketing the movie merchandise to raise the movie’s budget beforehand.

  4. this makes me sick, why wont these big name actors just write a f;in check for their own project

  5. I too am an independent filmmaker desperately trying to raise funds for my 4th feature film ‘Bonobo’ (after a backer pulled out and we go into production on June 5th) so we set up a Kickstarter campaign for which I’ve already shaved my hair off as publicity and agreed to get a Kickstarter tattoo if we hit our goal of $12,000 (this is to re-top up our small budget)….yet is is so slow! Unlike Mr Braff I’m not ‘known’ and I certainly don’t have the kind of money he A)earns or B)has access to, yet I’m currently BANK ROLLING THE PRODUCTION MYSELF at huge financial risk (if and until we find another investor) so I feel that if a well known (and financially well-off) individual is as passionate about their film as I am mine they should be prepared to personally ‘put their money where their mouth is!’ Because just like the Hollywood blockbusters it pushes aside the smaller indies, leaving them lagging behind in their shadow, barely noticed.

    • Good luck with raising your goal amount Mark. Some people just don’t understand and have to have it explained to them but you cannot teach ignorant. The need to create is more important than the need to make money. But in order to create and keep on creating we need money.


  6. I’m with a lot of people on this, in that someone like Braff shouldn’t be using this avenue. Hopefully, the public in general will start shying away from celebrities using Kickstarter, in favor of unknowns.

    Let’s be honest, he has enough money and clout to make a small indie film even without the studios….heck, have you seen what Jim Parsons pulls in a year? He can cover this whole production if he wants to be in it that bad.

    It just seems really strange to see these guys who are ESTABLISHED and have access to financing, stepping to the front of the line on Kickstarter.

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