How I did Kickstarter: Avoiding content-specific stretch goals


Another few days, another few backers. Seriously, this is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done in my life, and I can’t even imagine what it would be like on a larger scale. In the grand scheme of things, $3,500 is really not that much money. It’s not like we’re asking for $35,000 or $350,000 like some projects do.

This post is only sort of about my Kickstarter. It’s a bit more focused on a broader trend in crowdfunded projects in general that makes me sad. It applies more heavily to video games than movies, but it definitely applies to movies as well. The issue at hand? Content-focused stretch goals.

[Alec is doing a Kickstarter. You can (and should) back it here. Through the project’s duration, he will be writing a series of articles about the process. More about that here. Check out the other entries here.]

Stretching Cat - Mate2Code Wikimedia

I mentioned stretch goals in my article on Friday, and the way we went about presenting them. We listed some places where the money could go, but without any numbers attached to them. The list was as follows:

  1. Better equipment
  2. Professional sound
  3. Pay our cast and crew
  4. Submission to film festivals
  5. Quicker/Higher quality post-production

You’ll notice that absolutely zero of them have anything to do with Reel‘s content. (And if you didn’t notice, you’re aware of it now.) This was important to me. Reel‘s story is what it is. It is the story we tell if we have $10 or $10,000. We’re not going to change the script if we get a ton of money; we’re not going to turn it into a feature or add more locations and fights. We have our narrative, and trying to tack on extra scenes or ideas just to

And on the flip side, if our goal was $3,500 and at $5,000 we had “The proper ending” or at $10,000 “We add weapons to such and such fight,” that would mean we’re cutting content for our bare minimum goal. Once again, we’re acting as though our narrative is piecemeal, and we could just add and subtract without

At $3,500, we make Reel. Period. End of story.

Veronica Mars

Too many projects don’t do that. Even the ludicrously successful Veronica Mars movie fell into this:

More backing means more locations, more sets, more actors, and most important of all, more shooting days. That additional money could mean the difference between a movie that lasts 90 minutes, and one that lasts 110. It could also mean the difference between us shooting in Southern California, where the series was shot, and in a less expensive location somewhere else.

That ain’t right. Pitching a 90 minute, $2 million Veronica Mars movie when the creators really want to make a 110 minute, $5 million movie is a cheat. “We can make this movie, but it’s not really the movie we want to make.”

Bigger is not necessarily better, and while that money likely went to making the Veronica Mars movie better, it also sets an unfortunate precedent.

It’s even worse in the video game sphere, where pretty much every single game has half a dozen stretch goals with extra modes and locations and characters, things that will make a complete game. Backers who put their faith and funds into a project only to have it come out as less than the developers wanted because they couldn’t get more people to put in faith and funds are cheated out of the proper experience. It’s unfair to them, and it’s also unfair to the game itself.

A cohesive narrative can’t rely on a few extra bucks. And we’re in a position where it’s easier to say that, because we made our script around our limitations. But that’s also the point. Reel would not be better if we made it longer. In fact, it would definitely be worse. They say that limitation breeds creativity, and that’s true to some extent. But it’s also a warning in disguise. Money corrupts. And it can easily corrupt a narrative and its thematic resonance and relevance.

We asked for $3,500 because it will allow us to fulfill our vision. Extra money will go towards making that vision look and sound better, but it will do nothing to change the vision. Every story beat, every line of dialogue, and every single punch will be exactly the same. Because that’s what our backers deserve.