Crowdsourcing: should fans get more for their money?

As more and more viewers fund TV shows and films, some feel it's time they got a share of the profits

If subversive musical comedy is your cup of tea then now's the time to show you care. The writer and comedian David Baddiel has launched a campaign to raise funds for a new pet project – the stage musical adaptation of his 2009 film, The Infidel, a comedy about a British Muslim who discovers he is Jewish – and he's hoping fans will pay for it. If Baddiel can raise enough on popular crowdfunding platform Kickstarter – £55,000 by 16 April – the show, complete with ditties such as "Sexy Burqa", will go ahead at London's Theatre Royal Stratford East in October.

Baddiel is relying on a legacy of support either for the film itself (perhaps not the most reliable plan, given the muted reception on its original release) or else on devotees of his dark humour and the talents of his songwriter, Erran Baron Cohen, older brother to Sacha. If you want more of the same, the investment model submits, then put up your money. In exchange, Baddiel and co offer treats from rehearsal room email updates for £1, to premiere tickets for £1,000.

Will that be enough? Past precedent suggests that it could be. Baddiel is not the first to tap the kindness of strangers. Projects dependent on the love (and deep pockets) of loyal fan-bases are everywhere, both on stage and on screen – and they can make a pretty big splash. Consider the wildly successful Kickstarter project to fund Veronica Mars, the film based on the geek-tastic teen detective show, released earlier this month to very decent reviews. When the TV show's director, Rob Thomas, launched the campaign a year ago, it raised almost $6m, $2m of which was pledged within just 10 hours. Screenwriter/director Charlie Kaufman (of Being John Malkovich fame) raised twice the budget he needed to make the animation Anomalisa via Kickstarter.

Money aside, the power of fans to revive cancelled hits by heavy lobbying has ballooned in the past decade, thanks largely to fervour stoked by the internet forums that keep cult favourites like Veronica Mars and Arrested Development, the dysfunctional family sitcom starring Michael Cera that was rebooted last year on Netflix after a seven-year hiatus, alive online long after production has stopped. More recently, Ripper Street, the axed BBC drama about Victorian detectives in London's gas-lit East End, announced that it would air its third season on Amazon Prime Instant Video (formerly LoveFilm Instant), after an online petition was signed by 10,000 people.

Fans who fund or campaign for niche reboots expect quite a big bang for their buck. Realistically, what can they expect to get in exchange for their money and time? Interestingly, fan power revivals don't need to be a mainstream hit to be successful. The Arrested Development reboot wasn't a hit with critics, but in general, it met with approval from long-time fans. New distribution methods mean that reviving a show just to please a narrow demographic is now financially viable. Online channels like Netflix don't have to chase ratings like traditional TV channels, so long as they attract new subscribers and word-of-mouth kudos.

So what about when money changes hands? Crowdfunders usually get things like free tickets, downloads, posters, celebrity meets and even film roles in exchange for their donation. Certainly Veronica Mars fans seemed pleased – the film revival recouped more than a third of its budget at the US box office opening weekend alone.

But as fan power grows will people expect more? Eyebrows were raised recently when a campaign for Scrubs star Zach Braff's film Wish I Was Here raised $2.6m, only to announce shortly after that the film had secured millions of dollars in extra support from a traditional film financier, Worldview Entertainment. The hybrid model prompts a question: what happens if the film is a big hit? If Worldview gets a monetary return on its investment, shouldn't everyone else?

There are concerns too that you are being asked to pay twice for the same product, once to get the show made, and then again to see it. Most VM contributors (from $35 up) were offered free downloads. But that's far trickier to offer in theatre. Infidel fans will have to spend £150 for a reward that includes a single ticket to the show itself.

What's next? You decide, of course – film and TV fan power has never been greater. Just make sure you know what you're asking for. Especially if you're paying.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk