Poster for the film Brooklyn Castle

Poster for the film Kickstarter-funded Brooklyn Castle

Less than a year after being declared the darling of Sundance — especially for not having “the arrogance of a studio” — Kickstarter has announced that over $100 million has been pledged to indie film via its platform (which, of course, is hardly the only crowdfunding platform that filmmakers use, though it is the most popular). There are some caveats, of course. This is over Kickstarter’s lifetime (since April 2009), but the numbers have been growing rapidly. $60 million of those pledges came in 2012. Also, that’s pledges, not actual money given, since only projects that hit their target get the money. The actual total collected is $85.7 million — which means that’ll get over $100 million pretty quickly.

And, yes, the “but what about my $100 million movie” crowd will scoff and argue that this number is so “small.” But, two points there: first, this number is growing very, very, very fast. And if you can’t understand how trends explode, then you’re going to be in trouble soon. Second — and this is the more important point — those funds helped create 8,000 films. For those who have been arguing about culture and how we’re going to lose the ability to make movies… this suggests something amazing and important is happening which goes against all those gloom and doom predictions. By way of comparison, the UN, which keeps track of stats on film production, claimed that in 2009, 7,233 films were made. Worldwide.

Also, some will inevitably suggest that these aren’t “real” films and don’t “count” or aren’t important. But, of course, the data shows that it’s creating a nice long tail of film production, and that includes some very “real” films no matter how you measure. According to the Kickstarter post:

  • At least 86 Kickstarter-funded films have been released theatrically, screening in more than 1,500 North American theaters according to Rentrak. Another 14 films have theatrical premieres slated for 2013.
  • According to Rotten Tomatoes, three of the 20 best-reviewed films of 2012 are Kickstarter-funded (The Waiting RoomBrooklyn Castle, and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry). Another Kickstarter-funded film, Pariah, was among the best-reviewed of 2011.
  • Two films have been nominated for Oscars in the past two years: Sun Come Up andIncident in New Baghdad. A third, Barber of Birmingham, launched a project after being Oscar-nominated. Three documentary features and two documentary shorts are currently shortlisted for Oscar nominations in 2013: The Waiting RoomDetropiaAi Weiwei: Never SorryInocente, and Kings Point.
  • Kickstarter-funded films comprised 10% of Sundance’s slate in 2012 and 2013. In total, 49 Kickstarter-funded films have been official selections at the prestigious festival.
  • Kickstarter-funded films comprised 10% of the 2012 slates at the SXSW Film Festival andTribeca Film Festival. In total, 57 Kickstarter-funded films have premiered at SXSW and 21 at Tribeca.
  • At least 16 Kickstarter-funded films have been picked up for national broadcast through HBO, PBS, Showtime, and other networks.
  • Kickstarter-funded films have won at least 21 awards at the Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, Cannes, and Berlinale festivals.
  • Eight Kickstarter-funded films are nominated for Independent Spirit Awards this year.

That seems like a pretty good track record that any movie studio would be proud of… And, to think: this trend is just beginning.

Written by Mike Masnick

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