We all know that Kickstarter is pretty cool. (Heck, one of our writers used it to fund his last short film.) And film projects tend to be pretty safe bets; while video game Kickstarters routinely fail in a spectacular fashion, film projects are usually seen to completion. Probably because filmmakers are more dedicated and better at their jobs. (Suck it, game developers. (Just kidding, you’re pretty cool. (Sometimes.))
It’s hard to believe that Kickstarter is still a new thing and that crowdfunding is finding it’s niche, but what if Kickstarter had been around back in the day? What kind of films would have been made during the golden age of Hollywood by indies? What could have gotten on their radar and become the Next Big Thing?
Here, we’re looking at a few film projects abandoned, either recently or back in the day, by directors who poured their heart and souls into them. Money issues stopped them all, but what if they could have been crowdfunded? Here are six projects we wish would have turned to Kickstarter to drum up interest. And if you can think of any we missed, let us know in the comments.
Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon
Stanley Kubrick’s meticulousness was (is?) legendary. He was one of few truly genius directors, and he threw himself into his projects. If you see it in a Kubrick film, it almost definitely means something. (Though what things may mean is undoubtedly up for debate.) But the project that consumed him most was one that never saw the light of day. Though he had numerous failed projects, the one that stung the most was a failed biopic of Napoleon Bonaparte. Kubrick essentially became a Napoleon scholar in the process of setting this film up, learning everything he could about the man in order to make what would probably have been the best epic biopic ever made. It may have been his magnum opus… but alas.
Not everyone was an enamored of the idea as Kubrick, and he was unable to convince financiers to give him what he needed to pull off his (ludicrously) grand vision. (Looking for a cast of tens of thousands in order to pull off an accurate and realistic portrayal of battles will do that.)
And of course, the same things that kept it from happening back then would keep Kickstarter from being able to fund it. No, the film would never be able to make enough to actually front the costs of a production like this, but few to no Kickstarter film projects are funded solely by backers. But the world has changed since Kubrick died, and it’s possible that a Kickstarter campaign could have built a groundswell of support to convince some big spender(s) to pick up some of the slack. — Alec Kubas-Meyer
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Sons of El Topo/Abel Cain and King Shot
Alejandro Jodorowsky has undergone a semi-resurgence in the last few years now that his seminal works–El Topo, The Holy Mountain, and Santa Sangre–are easy to get in the United States. But Jodorowsky had a 20-year drought as a filmmaker beginning in 1990, unable to get any projects off the ground. Two notable Jodorowsky films that never got made are a sequel to El Topo and a gangster film called King Shot.
The El Topo sequel (variously titled The Sons of El Topo and Abel Cain) would have starred Marylin Manson and Johnny Depp as brothers in search of the island on which their father, El Topo, is buried. King Shot, a metaphysical gangster picture, was going to be produced by David Lynch and star Nick Nolte, Manson, Asia Argento, and Udo Kier. It’s unclear if actual scripts existed for either of the two projects, though there is some concept art and vague notions of a plot that can be found online.
Jodorowsky’s no stranger to projects that got away (see the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, which, come to think of it, I would pay money to see produced). Yet given his klout as the father of midnight movies, it seems like these two Jodorowsky projects would have come about if crowdfunding were a thing in the 1990’s and early-to-mid 2000’s. Instead, it’s crowdfunding that gives us The Dance of Reality and the forthcoming Endless Poetry. — Hubert Vigilla
David Lynch’s Ronnie Rocket
It’s easy to think David Lynch has done it all. From his brilliant surrealist directorial debut, Eraserhead, to his return to Twin Peaks in 2016 – 25 years post its original run. However, there is one movie he’s always wanted to make, but never could; Ronnie Rocket.
Ronnie Rocket was to star Michael J. Anderson as a three-foot tall man who could control electricity, as long as he was plugged into an electrical supply from time to time to charge his batteries. Oh, also, there was to be a detective who sought to enter a second dimension, which was made possible by his ability to stand on one leg (no wonder it didn’t get the funds it needed, I mean, I can’t even imagine the special effects costs to make this happen…)
It’s sound incredibly bizarre, and therefore, incredibly Lynchian. Sadly, he will most likely never make this today, as the industrialism that’s synonymous with everything he creates is ruined. Untouched and sacred industrialism has been killed by the damned youths and their spray-cans, or just simple architectural modernisation. — Per Morten Mjolkeraaen
Shane Carruth’s A Topiary
Shane Carruth’s second film, Upstream Color, was a daring and idiosyncratic work of art and a fitting follow-up to his mind-bending debut Primer. Upstream Color is easily one of my favorite movies of this decade. The movie obsessed me so much, I wrote an 8,000-word analysis.
But before Carruth made his misfit love story about mind-control worms and personal narratives, he spent years developing a movie that fell apart. That movie was A Topiary, the plot of which sounds just as slippery as Upstream Color and Primer, if not more so. Split in two parts, A Topiary would follow an informal gathering of strangers who are convinced there’s a recurring and meaningful starburst pattern that can be found wherever they go, and a group of pre-teen boys who find a machine that creates strange robotic animal creatures (featured briefly in the beginning of Upstream Color). Somehow the two are linked.
Both David Fincher and Steven Soderbergh were excited by the project and wanted to executive produce the film. Carruth spent years learning to do CG so he could create the creatures and do the visual effects for A Topiary on his own. Unfortunately the proposed price tag was $14-$20 million, and with only Primer under his belt at the time (budget $7,000), the project fizzled.
Carruth wouldn’t be able to get seven or eight figures through crowdfunding, but if the campaign showed genuine enthusiasm from an audience, it might have prodded some money-people to fork over the dough. (Maybe Carruth should consider crowdfunding for his next movie, The Modern Ocean.) — Hubert Vigilla
Guillermo del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness
Guillermo del Toro and screenwriter Matthew Robbins wrote a screenplay adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness back in 2006, and have been fighting to get it made ever since. A combination of the high budget required (the story was long considered unfilmable) and studio discomfort with the bleakness of the material have thus far prevented it from happening.
Del Toro has occasionally come close to getting it made, most recently with Universal Studios in 2011. However the studio, uncomfortable with del Toro’s refusal to pare down the R rated material to a more family-friendly PG-13, opted instead to pull of the project before filming began.
Lovecraft’s work has been adapted to film a number of times, most notably (and often) by Stuart Gordon. Those films are fun, but I would argue they convey little of the cosmic existential horror that makes Lovecraft’s work what it is. On the other hand del Toro’s films, even the more mainstream English language ones, contain traces of that darkness, though usually to a more positive end. We’ve never seen him go for the hopelessnes he would need for At the Mountains of Madness, but for his fans, and old-school horror fans in general, the prospect is mouth-watering.
Del Toro hasn’t given up on getting it made through the studio system, and raising the kind of budget necessary through something like Kickstarter would be a tall order. That said, if every true-blue Lovecraft fan still waiting to see his work done justice on the big screen were to give just a dollar, I reckon it could happen. — Ciaran McGarry
Neil Blomkamp’s Alien
OK, this one may be newer and Kickstarter is around, but there’s no way it’s ever going to happen. Blomkamp revealed some amazing concept art for a made up Alien film he was randomly thinking about, but with Prometheus hogging up the franchise they’ll never, ever, ever green light this. Fox has no idea what it’s doing and there is no way in hell they’d jump on such a cool idea from such a stand out director in the world of science fiction. This is basically impossible to occur and even if a Kickstarter was started for it Fox would have to give permission and they wouldn’t in a million years. I don’t say things are impossible much, but this is impossible. I will eat a shoe if it ever happens. The level of this not happening is so great that God is coming down and confusing our language in punishment. This will not…
Wait? It is? Oh… better find a shoe. — Matthew Razak