Kickstarter Films Dominate Sundance This Year
Much ink has been spilled lauding Kickstarter‘s crowdfunding potential as a new model for DIY financing, especially on the design front. But at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which took place last week in Park City, Utah, the start-up’s Film & Video division, which accounts for more than $45 million of the $125 million pledges the company has seen over the past two years, undeniably stole the show. Of the festival’s 200 films, 17 of them were funded via Kickstarter, and 3 of these have already been optioned for mass distribution.
Sundance parses through more than 9,000 submissions every year, so when close to 10% of their selection represents indie films self-financed via community contributions, it’s nothing to balk at. “I think it speaks to the quality of work that we’re seeing on Kickstarter,” says Kickstarter founder Yancey Strickler. “These things aren’t just interesting because they’re an internet curiosity, they’re interesting because they’re art. They’re good work. Getting recognized on Sundance, which is an important film festival, shows me that we are able to attract really good people and suggests a strong future for Kickstarter.”
Another indicator of Kickstarter’s strong future is the fact that major film and TV distributors are taking note of the talent coming out of the crowdfunding platform. Of the films that showed at Sundance, two have been picked up by HBO: Me At The Zoo, a feature documentary about Chris Crocker and the phenomenon of internet celebrity, and Indie Game: The Movie, another feature doc about independent game developers, which was optioned as a series. Meanwhile, the film Black Rock, which stars Kate Bosworth and Lake Bell and is the most “Hollywood-level” film to come through Kickstarter, has sold for more than $1 million.
“You have to take it seriously at this point,” says Strickler. “We’re at a moment in time where the center of culture has shifted from TV, radio, and movies to the internet. All those other places were controlled by people who granted money and ran the promotional machine, and the internet is an ecosystem that feeds itself. So there’s this interesting thing where everyone’s understanding that this is true now, but the question is how to fit these things together and how to make money. What’s the value of a Facebook like? For this world, we’re one of the few success stories that turns the internet into something tangible and allows you to make something. We aren’t just a cool points system.”
And perhaps that last point is the most important one: Kickstarter is one of the few companies turning internet success into something real for budding creatives of all kinds. As more and more projects, of an increasingly higher production value and level of skill, migrate to community-powered platforms such as Kickstarter, it’s likely that the percentage of Kickstarter-powered projects showing at festivals and award shows the world over will continue to rise. Last year there were just five Kickstarter films premiering at Sundance, this year 17—if this kind of growth continues, we may just have to rename the Sundance Film Festival the Kickstarter Film Festival in a few years time.