For a while there, Kristen Bell and Zach Braff had us thinking that all a celebrity had to do to make money on Kickstarter was just show up. Post a pitch video on the crowdfunding website and voila, fans shower you with dollars like rose petals.
If only that were true. As some other stars who have followed in their footsteps have found out, fame offers no immunity from failure when it comes to getting millions to finance passion projects. There doesn’t seem to be any one reason why that is, but pointing out the many pitfalls may protect the inevitable next wave of entrants before they suffer similar consequences.
Before celebrities even open their mouths on Kickstarter, they’ve got one strike against them. Why give money to someone who’s already a success? But as Bell and Braff proved with their own pitches, charm and wit can work magic.
But now that other stars are giving Kickstarter a go, it turns out it’s not so easy. Former teen TV star Melissa Joan Hart was forced to suspend her bid to fund her romantic comedy, “Darci’s Walk of Shame,” after generating little more than $50,000 in a month’s time. Employing the same kind of self-effacing humor Braff and Bell used in their own pitch videos just didn’t work.
It simply may be that Hart isn’t as beloved as Braff, who is a dynamo on social media. But her failure may be due more to a case of content than personal popularity. While Braff was pitching “Wish I Was Here” — exactly the kind of film his fans loved last time around with the cult classic “Garden State” — Hart was pitching a title character that represented a departure from the squeaky clean roles with which she made her name, which is like asking people to love you for doing something other than what they love you for. On Kickstarter, talent should stick to what made them popular, not look for a departure.
That’s not the mistake Shemar Moore made. The handsome TV actor played directly to the fan base he built up from his days on the soap “The Young and the Restless” by pitching a romantic comedy of his own with himself in the lead role. He, too, borrowed from the Braff playbook by appealing to fans about how he was struggling to maintain creative control of his film.
But while Moore uses his video to pour out his heart about artistic integrity, he’s also parading his chiseled chest by whipping off his shirt midpitch. Maybe that kind of hypocrisy is why he’s currently nowhere near reaching his $1.5 million funding goal.
At least Zosia Mamet of the HBO series “Girls” keeps her clothes on in her own pitch. And she doesn’t want millions of dollars, just $30,000.
But it’s what she wants it for that may be the problem: to make a musicvideo with her sister, Clara, for a folk music song they wrote.
Really, Zosia? You’re a great actress, but who on earth is going to finance your “unique brand of folk via body percussion, banjo and harmonies?” Most would presume your “Girls” salary can cover this kind of indulgence.
With absurdity like this, a Kickstarter celebrity parody was inevitable. And it came courtesy of comedian Jon LaJoie, who doesn’t even bother pitching a passion project. “By simply turning over your hard-earned money to me, I could become super-rich without all the added pressure of actually doing something,” he deadpans.
LaJoie cuts to the heart of the self-entitlement and condescension of some of these celebrity Kickstarter videos. Maybe that’s why there’s so much criticism that online crowdfunding is best left to the unknowns who are most in need.