Zach Braff has made a name for himself in Hollywood by playing the beloved role of JD in “Scrubs” and penning and directing the indie-hit “Garden State.” But for his latest project, he’s gone directly to the people.
Hoping to keep final cut on “Wish I Was Here,” a film he co-wrote with his brother, Braff started a Kickstarter appeal to raise funds for the movie. While the project hit the $2 million goal in four days, some critics have angrily pointed out that well-known names like Braff shouldn’t be going to the crowds to get money for their projects. We talked to him about the film, and the backlash.
Congrats on reaching $2 million-plus. How does it feel?
Amazing! I feel so grateful to my own fans who rallied around us. We never knew what was going to happen and we gave ourselves one month to let it happen, and then to reach the goal in four days is beyond anyone’s expectations. In fact, many people thought it wouldn’t work at all.
Tell us a little more about “Wish I Was Here.” What kind of movie are you going to give Kickstarter funders with $2 million and counting?
The story is hard to explain without ruining it for so many people. There’s a summary on the page. Backers will get as much information as they want -- all of the images they want, spoilers if they want and ultimately they’ll read the script if they’ve chosen that. But it’s a story of a family whose struggling to get by in the valley of Los Angeles and trying to make ends meet and raise their kids. And the father, played my me, is an out-of-work actor wrestling to have his dreams come true as he gets a little bit older in his life. Through a series of circumstances they decide to homeschool their children.
He’s not much of an academic so he ultimately learns a lot about being a better dad and being a better person through teaching his kids what he knows now. He can’t really teach them much about academics but he can teach them what he knows about being a better person. It’s in the tone of “Garden State” and “Scrubs” sometimes, so It’s the perfect thing for people who like what I do.
Does it exist in the same universe as “Garden State” with all those manic pixie dream girls running around?
I never really got that expression! I guess people were taking a dig at the character of Natalie Portman. There’s not that type, there’s not a Natalie Portman in regards of that role if that’s what you’re asking.
Why was it so important to you to have final cut?
I’ve been involved in a lot of movies as an actor/writer, and I’ve been involved in a lot of TV pilots. I don’t think a lot of people who aren’t savvy to the film industry don’t know that very often the person’s whose name is the director didn’t essentially have the final say of what’s going in and what goes on in the movie. Films are tested for a test audience these days, and if a test audience or even a couple people in a test audience start campaigning, “This thing should go this way,” I’ve seen executives and financiers’ ears perk up and want to try that. In the spirit of creating art with a small little Indie like this we’re creating art hopefully, I don’t think that’s a very good way to make a film.
Were you planning a crazy insane ending, and afraid it’d be changed?
I think people were thinking I was talking about this specific film. I just mean in general, many films are changed after a test screening.
You’ve had a ton of supporters, but there’s also people who weren’t as supportive of the project. One tweet that we saw said, “Imagine - fools funding #VeronicaMars & #ZachBraff via @kickstarter sent cash to Haiti, NO, Sandy vics instead of hollywood #BetheChange.“ Another pointed out that you reportedly made $350,000 per episode for Scrubs. Do you feel you’re on the defensive, more than you expected?
I think a lot of people definitely got their panties in a bunch. They definitely don’t know all the facts. It is frustrating at times to read stuff on the Web that is so misinformed, but I think it started a giant conversation which we’re probably due to have because anyone who doesn’t think that this is a way musicians and filmmakers and artists of all times whether they’re known or unknown people are going to be able to directly reach their fan base, I think those people aren’t keeping up with what’s happening. To me, this was the next logical step. I just like to say to detractors who might say this isn’t for people in the public eye, the day we launched this campaign was by far the most traffic Kickstarter has ever had. So, we’re introducing people who aren’t Web savvy and don’t know about crowdfunding to all the many, many, many, many hundreds if not thousands on Kickstarter and the way so support art in that way. I think it’s only positive for everyone.
Did you see that Tim Heidecker, of “Tim and Eric,” wrote a “sample” script page? A family goes broke and can't feed their child because they funded your movie. What did you think of that?
I think it was funny. He’s a really funny comedian, and I think that as he pointed out, “This is a zeitgeisty thing and I can make fun of it.” The only problem is he has so many followers that I don’t think if he meant to do this or not, but the amount of people that he sent to the page was one of our highest so I thank him for that! But then there were some nasty fans of his that really decided to, I don’t know if they were drunk tweeting me or not, but they were saying some really vitriolic things.
For filmmakers that are going to attempt the Kickstarter route, what are some words of advice you want to give them?
Like any sales pitch, it’s really about the video you make and being honest about the thing you want to do. The things I’ve supported on Kickstarter -- I’ve supported about six things -- the video is what got me, the passion of the artist and the sales pitch saying, “Look this is what I want to do. This is why I want to do it.” I believed they could pull it off.