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Multi-Millionaires Ron Howard & Brian Grazer Planning To Crowdfund 'Friday Night Lights' Movie

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by Oliver Lyttelton
May 16, 2013 11:31 AM
11 Comments
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For a few months now, the words 'crowdfunding' and 'Kickstarter' have been on the lips of producers and studio executives all over Hollywood. The tremendous success of the "Veronica Mars' movie on the crowd-funding platform has seemingly opened the way to all kinds of other projects, most notably Zach Braff and his second feature "Wish I Was Here." But we've always been a little worried that it could be a double-edged sword; that executives would stop rolling the dice on risky projects and simply go straight to the fans to root through their wallets.

And lo, it came to pass. Deadline reports that Ron Howard (estimated net worth: $140 million) and Brian Grazer (estimated net worth: $100 million) were in Cannes to introduce their slate for their company Imagine Entertainment, and among the news is that the duo are planning to use crowdfunding to raise money for the movie version of the TV series "Friday Night Lights" that's been talked about for some time. As Grazer points out, it's the latest twist for the property, based on the book by Buzz Bissinger, saying "We made a terrific feature with Pete Berg, turned it into a terrific TV series and will now make a movie from that series. I’m not sure such a thing has been done before.”

Now, "Friday Night Lights" is great stuff, maybe the last truly great network drama, but this is always what we've been afraid of; full-on, inside the system folks like Howard and Grazer turning to Kickstarter and its similar properties because, frankly, it's easier than getting a movie funded in a more traditional way. This isn't the first time the idea's been mentioned, but it feels pretty gross for Howard and Grazer to be so upfront about it here. When "Veronica Mars" did it, it was at least innovative; this just seems cynical, and if you're planning on giving to it, we have a bridge we'd like to sell you. Also: there's already a "Friday Night Lights" movie, and it was pretty good.

Away from that, the duo (whose latest film "Rush" hits in September) have plenty more in the works. Their long-planned, long-delayed adaptation of Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" is creaking forward; Media Rights Capital have committed to make a single film starring Russell Crowe, with the possibility of the additional movies and TV series that were originally planned if it's a success. But that said, Grazer's apparently had an offer from a single investor willing to back the original plan, so we'll see how that turns out.

Also in the genre department is a reboot of Anne Rice's Lestat series, produced by "Star Trek" writers Alex Kurtzman & Bob Orci, with an adaptation of the fourth novel in the series, "The Body Thief," while they also have Tate Taylor's James Brown biopic, a new comedy-drama called "The Most Wonderful Time," starring Diane Keaton, Alan Arkin, Annette Bening, Liam Hemsworth and Amanda Seyfried, a Pele biopic, and two Howard directorial efforts; Jay-Z concert movie "Made In America," and seafaring picture "In The Heart Of The Sea" with Chris Hemsworth. No news yet as to whether any of those will be Kickstarted too... 


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11 Comments

  • Alex P. Michaels | May 21, 2013 5:49 AMReply

    I remember there have been filmmakers who decided to open their own wallets to fund a movie. Years ago, Robert Duvall did so with "The Apostle" Recently Francis Ford Coppola opened his wallet for "Red Tails."

    As an indie filmmaker, I have put money into my own projects. If I was the net worth of Ron Howard & Brian Grazer my movies would have had bigger budget. The ideal that no one uses their own money is not true. You do with your first projects. Of course once you reach success, then others will back you. Still if you have a project that the studios don't think will be a blockbuster, then they won't back it.

    "Veronica Mars" has opened a can of worms where established filmmakers are now going to Fans wallets to fund their pet projects. When the studios fund a movie, they have input into its development. Here the fan may get some nice perks, but will have no say so in the project. We will have to accept whatever the filmmakers dish out.

    I think a few projects from name filmmakers are OK. I gave a few bucks to "Veronica Mars." Still, it seems like Hollywood may be taking advantage of crowdfunding and the truly indie filmmaker gets overlooked.

    Director Kevin Smith considered Kickstarter, but he decided not to.
    http://mashable.com/2013/05/16/kevin-smith-says-no-to-kickstarter-for-clerks-iii/

    Of course Kickstarter gets a percentage of all projects, so for them, this is fine. Still I don't know how some filmmakers can justify asking fans to back a movie. If the studio won't back it, does that mean it is a good project? And again, if a studio backs a movie, they get profits from its success. With Kickstarter, you get a perk.

    I hope if Mr. Howard and Mr. Grazer go through with this, they offer some Incredible Perks!

  • Kevin Klawitter | May 17, 2013 12:08 PMReply

    Of course, net worth isn't the same as disposable income, because it includes investments, property, businesses, and other things that can't be liquefied at a moment's notice to fund. But I'm sure you knew that... you just didn't want to mention it because it didn't make them look bad.

    There's a sound logic behind the Kickstarter thing. "Friday Night Lights" never truly lit up (sorry) the ratings when it was on TV. People who watched it loved it, but it was never more than a modest success ratings-wise. Obviously, then, the reason why a movie, despite being constantly mentioned, hasn't been made yet is because studio execs don't think there's a demand for it. Creating a Kickstarter is a way to prove there is.

  • Harless? | May 17, 2013 11:29 AMReply

    This is kind of like the Producers, the film, turning into a musical and then a film being produced based on the musical. Is there really enough in in Friday Night Lights to warrant another movie?

    The real shame is that there are probably a lot of really good projects on kickstarter, projects that could not get off the ground without crowd-sourcing funds, that will be neglected because people are turned off by recent slate celebrity's asking for money. Friday Night Lights was critically very well received and had a very loyal fan base. I find it very hard to believe their isn't an investor out there who would fund this project.

    Someone should start a kickstarter-esq site that treated the funders like investors and let's them share in the profit.

  • Alex P. Michaels | May 21, 2013 5:56 AM

    Actually crowdfunding and getting equity in a project is not legal but there is supposed to be a new law by the SEC that allows equity sharing in a project.

  • Ryan Sartor | May 16, 2013 12:44 PMReply

    I think this is great. People don't buy DVDs anymore. I'll pay $10 to fund the movie and another $10 for the ticket when it comes out in theatres, about the $20 I would have paid for a DVD ten years later. Sounds like a good trade-off. The argument that Brian Grazer and Ron Howard should fund it themselves doesn't hold much water. If you want to see the movie, pay for it. If you don't, don't.

  • Ryan Sartor | May 16, 2013 1:06 PM

    Yeah, I don't really need to see it in a theatre, either. That would be cool to show old episodes in a cinema. They've done that with Twin Peaks, would be nice to burn through a few episodes of The Wire in a cinema.

  • Ohil | May 16, 2013 12:59 PM

    That's fair enough. I see your point. But $20 for a double episode? That's $220 per season! (as applied to season one's 22 episode arc). But you do get to watch it in a cinema, which is always nice. I guess, looking at it like that -- ie. getting to watch the last ever two episodes of your favourite television shows in a cinema -- it's okay perhaps. I often thought, while watching The Wire or The Sopranos, how it might be nice watching this in a cinema. The atmosphere would be tremendous. But I don't think I would have paid $20 for a double episode.

  • SunPapushi | May 16, 2013 12:43 PMReply

    Talk about a complete lack of class.

  • Boetticher | May 16, 2013 12:31 PMReply

    Vile. Disgusting. Repugnant.

    It's one thing if Brian and Ron asked for investors, who would be justly rewarded should there be profits.

    But to ask for money - no strings attached - like beggars in the street, and then keep all the profits for themselves is diabolical.

    All the more so since they won't be spending a single cent of their combined $240,000,000 that currently line their pockets.

    Ronald, or Ron, or whatever, and Brian: come over here and take off your shoes so that I can throw them at your faces. Then spend your $240,000,000 reconstructing your faces with good surgery. And then you can hold out your hands like beggars for two more episodes of an excellent television show.

    See you in ten days.

  • JOHN | May 16, 2013 12:28 PMReply

    It's fantastic to see the US economy is back in full-force that film fans have the disposable income to throw at these projects.

    I'm really torn on this whole celebrities using crowd-funding thing. On the one hand I get that if a project can only exist by the support of those who want to see it most, that they can have a hand in making it happen. BUT when someone in the "system" invests in a film they get a return on the earnings of that product. Perhaps there should be a new tier of Kickstarter/Indiegogo where projects above $X Million pay back investors in % points for perks instead of a T-Shirt.

  • HG | May 16, 2013 12:02 PMReply

    So let me get this straight. The producers are taking money from fans to make a movie that they'll charge those fans to see even though the studio has hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal. Also, they want to make a movie inspired by a t.v. show that was inspired by a movie. That makes sense. Kickstarter is for people without a budget.

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