Monday, September 29, 2014

How is Crowdfunding Changing the Media Production Industry?

Here is the final draft of my research paper on crowdfunding and the traditional media industry:


For the past 60 or so years, our movies have come from large production companies, such as MGM, Paramount, and other companies associated with Hollywood or the MPAA (Motion Picture Assc. of America). Traditionally, future producers would pitch their ideas to the production studios and investors. With the advent of crowdfunding in the last few years, movies can be produced at professional quality, independent of a large studio. Crowdfunding gives the creators complete control over their project and allows them to keep editorial rights. Crowdfunding doesn’t take away the movie pitching: the creator now pitches his movie to a broader audience. Also, crowdfunding can’t generate as much funding as traditional funding, as is pointed out in, “Why Kickstarter Can’t Usurp the Hollywood Entertainment-Industrial Complex,” from So the question we ask is not, “will crowdfunding replace traditional studio funding?” but, “how is crowdfunding changing the media production industry?”

Crowdfunding isn’t that new of an idea. In Hamilton’s paper, he traces it back to Athens, where the earliest form of consumer can be found. Hamilton believes that the decline of crowdfunding in its original form came in the mid-18th century. But in the late 20th century, he says that consumer production in the form of crowdfunding reappeared, meaning, “users are free to choose whether and how to produce through financing.” (Hamilton 2014, p. 498) According to Hamilton, the development of modern crowdfunding “requires the participation of users,” (Hamilton 2014, p. 500) rather than a separate entity producing for the users with feedback only after the product has been produced, as in MPAA studio films. The popular definition of crowdfunding today is essentially internet funding through a site like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. Crowdfunding connects future producers to their audience in a way that production companies can’t.

Traditional studio films may not be in direct contact with their audience, but, like crowdfunding, the audience can talk through their money. How well or poorly a movie does in the box office can be a large determining factor for future movies produced. In this case, however, if a movie is a ‘flop’ (box office revenue <$1M), the investors lose capital. The studio can try to prevent a ‘flop’ through surveys and research like the demographic research in the MPAA’s Theatrical Market Statistics. On crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter, the producer can see that a movie is a ‘flop’ if it doesn’t reach the funding goal. One such ‘flop’ was “Darci’s Walk of Shame,” a movie that actress Melissa Joan Hart attempted to fund via Kickstarter. It only made 2% of its pledge goal before Hart cancelled the project. The article by PhDs and PhD candidates from the University of La Mancha, Spain, (Martinez-Canas, et. al. 2012) asserts that crowdsourcing can test the interest in a project before any capital is lost. It can help the artist change the focus of their project to better suit the needs or desires of the funders, who become the audience, without going through a middleman funder, as in MPAA studio films. A traditional studio produced movie may have a higher risk of losing capital from a film, but the movies will have a budget that is difficult to get through crowdfunding.

Films produced by studios in the MPAA generally have a larger budget than independent films produced through crowdfunding. With a smaller budget, crowdfunded films might have a harder time making films with believable visual effects, experienced and talented actors, or compelling stories. This is almost certainly why many of the films produced on Kickstarter are documentaries. It is not impossible, however, which can be seen from the reviews of “Veronica Mars.” In The Wrap (Gilman 2014), Gilman quotes critics who thought highly of the film. Duralde of The Wrap is quoted: “The ensemble cast is generally fast and funny … even Mars newcomers will find themselves welcome in their company.” Gilman also quotes Sharkey of the LA Times, who shares a similar opinion and glowing review of the movie. The reviews praise Bell, the leading lady, for her performance and the story. But while this movie was produced independently, its fanbase was built through traditional media outlets.

“Veronica Mars” had a strong fanbase and the well-known producer Rob Thomas helping to make it a successfully funded movie, something that many indie films don’t have. This suggests that while Hollywood may not be a perfect system, those that come from it are more likely to be successful with crowdfunding. In the case of “Veronica Mars,” Thomas pitched it to various production studios, but was turned down. Since the fanbase had already been built up, Thomas was able to take his movie concept to the fans. And because he got funding from the fans, he had complete control over the production of the film.

Sørensen, a PhD with research interests in digitization, says that online funding “gives editorial and creative freedom to the filmmaker. This can be difficult to maintain when a project is fully financed by and contractually tied to a broadcaster, because the broadcaster’s commissioning editor will typically also act as an executive producer and potentially have significant say in the editorial of the film.” (Sørensen 2012 p.737) Sørensen also says that online funding leaves the rights to the film in the creator’s hands so that he can continue to shop his film around to secondary markets, such as DVD rental and streaming sites. The concept behind crowdfunding is an attractive alternative to many producers who might otherwise be unable to create their movies.

Figure 1. MPAA & Kickstarter Movies Produced by Year. Sources: The Year in Kickstarter (2011): and Theatrical Market Statistics (2013):

Since it’s creation in 2009, Kickstarter has helped thousands of movies get funding. In Figure 1., the amount of Kickstarter movies produced are compared to ones produced through MPAA members and non-MPAA members. While most of the movies produced through Kickstarter should more appropriately be called documentaries, they are not likely to have been produced without Kickstarter. Kickstarter films may also have been produced independently, but still be accounted for by the MPAA. The Theatrical Market Statistics numbers for non-MPAA films could also include Kickstarter films. While many Kickstarter films may fit into the MPAA or non-MPAA category, many more do not, but all of them were tailored to suit their audience. Even though MPAA movies may have global distribution, Kickstarter distributes to audiences the MPAA may never reach.

Crowdfunding won’t replace the traditional media industry, but it can strengthen it. Crowdfunded films are also strong enough to stand on their own, without the support of the film industry. Crowdfunded films can be produced at professional quality, receiving good reviews from both fans and critics. And the fans can talk with their money, telling the producers what they do and don’t want in a film. With the support of their audience and fans, producers can maintain creative and editorial control over their projects. But even if the films are made independently, they still benefit from the traditional media industry, whether by associating with an MPAA member or by building up a rep through the traditional industry.



Gilman, Greg. (2014, Mar.). ‘Veronica Mars’ Reviews Agree It Is Kickstarter Money Well Spent. The Wrap. Retrieved from

Hamilton, J. F. (2014). Historical forms of user production. Media, Culture & Society, 36(4), 491-507.

Luka, M.E. (2012, Oct). Media production in flux: crowdfunding to the rescue. Retrieved from

Martinez-Canas, R., Ruiz-Palomino, P., & Pozo-Rubio, R. (2012). Crowdfunding and social networks in the music industry: Implications for entrepreneurship. The International Business & Economics Research Journal (Online), 11(13), 1471. Retrieved from

Mele, N. (2013, Apr). Why Kickstarter Can’t Usurp the Hollywood Entertainment-Industrial Complex. Retrieved from

Sørensen, I. (2012 Aug.). Crowdsourcing and outsourcing: The impact of online funding and distribution on the documentary film industry in the UK. Media, Culture & Society, (6), 726-743.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Introduction: How will crowdfunding change the traditional media production industry?

I'm pretty excited, because I get to turn in my first writing assignment in my first call at my new college, today. This is only the introduction to a research paper that I will have written by the end of the month. Please feel free to comment.

For the past 60 or so years, we have mostly gotten movies through large production companies, such as MGM, Paramount, or other companies associated with Hollywood. With the advent of crowdfunding in the last few years, movies are being produced at the same professional quality, but by independent producers in small companies or by the ‘big names’ without a large company backer. Crowdfunding gives the creator complete control over their project, but it does not take away the movie pitching: the creator has to pitch his movie to a broader audience. Also, crowdfunding can’t always get as much funding for a movie as traditional funding could get, as is pointed out in “Why Kickstarter Can’t Usurp the Hollywood Entertainment-Industrial Complex” from So the question is not, ‘will crowdfunding replace traditional Hollywood funding,’ but ‘how will crowdfunding change the traditional media production industry?’

Mele, N. (2013, Apr).  Why Kickstarter Can’t Usurp the Hollywood Entertainment-Industrial Complex. Retrieved from

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Exciting Things in Life

Well, today has been an exciting, new adventure. Not only have I started my first class in my new college, but I've also started a web comic. It's true that I only just transferred away from my junior college to a local 4 year university, but things got complicated at that university. Long story short: that university I was going to said I couldn't get my degree for another 4 years. My new university, National University, says they can get me out in less than two years. National is a weird and new experience for me since there's a class a month. It means that I can stay more focused and have less time to get distracted, like I would in a semester system.

My other new development in life is starting what I hope will be a regular web comic. I've been working on the comic on and off for a long time, something like 6 years. I had a bunch that I had posted to my website and found a stockpile that I had not yet scanned into my computer. So I've got a nice backlog of comics that will carry me through 'til the second week of October. I'm hoping this will give me enough bandwidth to focus on college in addition to the web comic.

Life is exciting! I'm hoping I don't get too overwhelmed.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Web Comic Dilemma

Well, guys, I have a problem. I have two web comic ideas that I really want to do. Both are very story-oriented. Both involve a fairly complicated style of drawing.

My 'Fahrenheit 451 and March of the Morons meets Smurfs with Syringes' story is a little less are intensive, but is story intensive. It's also more of a short story, so it would be hard to make a continuous web comic of it.

My second story, 'Power Suit Girls Solve a Mystery a Month' is *very* art intensive. I would want to do ink and water colour in a realistic style. Think of the better Marvel and DC comic. It isn't as story intensive as my smurfs comic would be, but I would still have to generate a sci-fi mystery story a month. And I would have to do more than 1 comic a week. You just can't have a good mystery in 4 pages.

I think I've settled on restarting my Mini Ninjas comic. It is not only easy to draw (pen on paper), the art style is supposed to be really crappy. Also, the comic is very much joke oriented. It'd be much easier for a first time reader to jump in and get instant entertainment.

Now for the self-promotion: check out my website! You can find my Mini Ninjas comic here:
I also have a selection of other stupid comics, the stupidest of which are my Harry Potter comics, found here:

Have fun and comment!