There's something incredibly democratic about crowdfunding, but something sort of quite beautiful and inherently optimistic too. Yes, there have been crowdfunding horror stories of creators buggering off with the money, but generally... it works for everyone.
What I love about it most, as someone who has worked in film and TV, is how creators are trusted to just do their thing.
That's what you invest in when you back someone through crowdfunding; you're investing in a person, or group of people, and giving them the confidence to deliver something that is true to them. It's an amazing, selfless gesture, and - as a creator - profoundly humbling.
It allows to exist stuff that is niche, that doesn't feel the need to pander to as broad a selection of people as possible; stuff that feels more personal, not just to the creator, but to the audience.
Years ago - and we're talking two decades here - I, like many, saw working in TV or film as some sort of Holy Grail. It's incredibly hard to get into the industry, very tough to stay in, and there are days when I'm exhausted, where I question whether the rewards are always worth the effort. Since the rise of crowdfunding I've come to realise how wanting to be accepted into that club can be quite ego-driven.
There's an unquestionable degree of looking for validation, acceptance, and being able to go to people "Oh, I work in TV actually" - simply because our society has placed the media and entertainment industries on a sort of golden pedestal.
Getting that break in TV boils down to getting the thumbs up from one or two people.
Yes, it helps to have talent and ambition... but it really helps to have talent - or a style - that isn't going to rock any boats. I've forged a career out of an ability to round the edges off my true, instinctual, style and taste, to colour within the lines, and not break too many rules. No matter how much I might want to. The last 20 years has honed me into a good, reliable, writer, but it also left a part of me shackled.
Always, the decision to commission something boils down to a few people sitting in a room, discussing whether the idea you've had fits with the profile of a channel. In film, it's almost always about how much money an idea can make. The more money at stake, the more voices will chip in at a creative level.
Experimentation - the sort of thing that people with a creative itch need - is rarely welcome, because it narrows down the potential audience, and makes it harder for others to have input. Personal projects, where the creator has the final say, are scary if potential failure can reflect badly on others. It's only human, of course, to try to control or limit the risk of perceived failure, but with crowdfunding that sort of experimentation is precisely what you're investing in.
What has opened my eyes is how crowdfunding can get you the support and approval of hundreds of people, rather than just one or two, all of whom are saying "Go on - experiment... do your thing your way".
It's amazing, and once more creators wake up to this, I think it's going to become the model of the future, a real alternative to sit alongside mainstream film and TV. Funding a lot of different projects might, potentially, cost more than a TV license or Sky subscription (or maybe not), but what you get from that is designed with you in mind.
Something I'm loving at the moment is the work of Neil Blomkamp's Oats Studios. Blomkamp got his break when a short film he made led to him directing the movie District 9. From there he made Elysium and Chappie, and was scheduled to make Alien 5... until the studio backed Ridley Scott's disappointing Alien prequels instead.
Clearly singed by Hollywood, if not outright burned, Blomkamp has now gone back to his roots, and is making relatively low-budget sci-fi shorts through Oats.
Though not crowdfunded in the sense of starting from scratch - Blomkamp had a pot of money upfront, but is also asking for donations, and is selling CGI assets via Steam - the results are clearly a creator making stuff for himself, and trusting there'll be an audience that will want to watch it.
Admittedly, that audience may not be as huge as the one that might've been there for Alien 5, but that doesn't matter. Something I've learned since starting Digitiser2000 - and lest we forget that I was resistant to crowdfunding this site initially, until you wore me down (thank you) - as well as doing Found Footage, is that the most important thing isn't necessarily the size of an audience, but its passion.
I mean, I want Found Footage and Digi to be enjoyed by as many people as possible - but that's mainly so that I can potentially grow the pool of people who might back me in the future, so that I can do more and do it better.
I'm pretty sure that there are more than 8,000 people a week who would enjoy Digi2000, and more than 13,000 that would enjoy Found Footage if they saw it. That's the real challenge; getting the word out there. Of course, I had the misfortune to have had a profile, which diminished in the eight years I was away from the public eye...
Anyway, I really hope Blomkamp's experiment works, because it could potentially lead to other movie makers doing the same, and create a true alternative to a system that is built on compromise and trying to please everyone with a stake in it; a system that is mostly controlled by people who've careered their way up a management or production ladder.
Don't get me wrong: I do love my day job - not least for the fact it pays my mortgage. I get to work with a lot of talented, creative, people, I love seeing the stuff I write get made. But like any job there are frustrations and compromises. The reality of working in the media is very different from the fantasy of it.
So far, the crowdfunding I've been on the receiving end of - through those of you who back me on Patreon, and those who have backed me on Kickstarter - has had none of those same frustrations or compromises. If I could somehow work full-time in a crowdfunded capacity, I'd do it in a shot.
That said, it might be that what I do is too niche even for that. I mean... Found Footage is weird. And if even I think Found Footage is weird, then it's probably weirder than I perceive it as. It'll never be for someone who thinks Michael McIntyre is worth the cost of the license fee.
The downside, for me anyway, is an almost overwhelming sense of responsibility to all those who support me. I don't want to disappoint. I know it's not that different to, say, someone who runs a corner shop being supported by their customers, I suppose, but it feels different somehow. Perhaps because what I'm offering isn't a physical product as such, or perhaps because my backers have invested more than their money - they're investing their faith.
Plus, the more I unleash my imagination, the bigger my ambition gets - which is why I've now ended up funding a lot of Found Footage out of my own pocket. A lot of the Kickstarter fund went into things which are necessary, but aren't readily apparent on screen. I want to at least make it look as if all of your money is up there. I want to reward you with something that feels worth it. I want to connect and share the process with you.
When you get a TV show or film commissioned, ballsing up means you might be letting down investors or a channel, but really... there's something more remote about it, if you don't deliver. With crowdfunding, your audience are your backers, and there's direct contact. I love that side of it - for me, and I hope for those who've backed me, it feels like we're all in this together. We all want the same thing. But also, the buck stops with me more than it would with a TV commission.
I implore you, though, if there's something you love - something you think you'll get pleasure from - that is available to support through Kickstarter, or Patreon, or Indiegogo, or whatever, please consider backing it. Yes, it means laying out money... but what would you pay for a new game or a DVD that you've had no direct hand in giving birth to?
Not only will you make the creators happy, not only will you get an end product that you hopefully enjoy, but you also get the pleasure of being part of its creation, of knowing that you made it happen. It's better than making an actual baby!
So... if you want to back me on Patreon, please do.
Alternatively, you can send a one-off donation via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org - which will go into the budget for the Found Footage finale, and help us pay for thing such as two nights accommodation for the cast and crew, travelling expenses for cast and crew, the two-day exclusive hire of a major filming location, van hire to get the props, set, costumes and equipment to the location, and myriad small expenses... all of which are adding up to a big chunk of money.
100 people pledging £1 equals £100. That would almost pay for the van. Fortunately, all the writing, directing, animation and editing are done for free...!
Or if you don't want to support me, and think I'm taking the piss... here are some of the things I think you should support:
Our Type - a book containing the best of the legendary gaming website Way of the Rodent.
Consolevania - brand new episodes of the best video games show ever made.
Horsenburger - support the world's greatest teletext artist as he creates new images daily!
Chris Coltrane - the friend-of-Digi is creating political comedy for nice people!
Buh... buh-bye now!