Jason Cooper of Kickstarted: Documenting the Crowdfunding Revolution shares his thoughts on documentaries, crowdfunding, the Kobe Red scandal and more.
We at Kicktraq love crowdfunding. We know you do too or we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We love owning a piece of awesome for a few shekels and some online feedback, we love having things that aren’t even on the store shelves yet, and we love putting our dollars behind things and people and ideas that we believe in. I think it’s safe to say at this point that we’re willing take our chances funding innovation and awesomeness through one another (rather than ‘the man’), even at great risk. Recently, a bunch of us almost got taken, and whether you backed the Kobe Red project or not, it would have hurt – not just our wallets but our community as a whole.
Enter the project Kickstarted: Documenting the Crowdfunding Revolution and project owners Jason Cooper and Jay Armitage. If you don’t know it, this documentary project is about the crowdfunding revolution that we are all living day-to-day. Kickstarted just so happened to be live and, as part of their project, interviewing tons of other project owners for their stories at the same time that the Kobe Red project was active. And they are proof that the crowd, when working together, “can be an excellent filter for sussing out frauds, scams and even well-intentioned, but ultimately impossible projects. That’s a huge part of what makes crowdfunding work. The platforms can do due diligence up front to catch as much of that as they can. Ultimately though, it’s up to us (the crowd) to be the decides and criticizers. The more everyone begins to understand those dynamics, which are wholly unique to crowdfunding, the better this system works.” [Jason Cooper]
And while their involvement with the Kobe Red scandal isn’t necessarily what they’d like to be known and remembered for, it just so happens that Kickstarted played a large part in that crowd filter that caused the Kobe Red project to be cancelled before disaster struck. As a passionate crowdfunder, you owe them a read. And if you backed Kobe Red and didn’t get taken to the cleaners, quite frankly you may owe them more than that.
We reached out to the Kickstarted team and set up the following interview with Jason Cooper:
Kicktraq: Tell me a little bit about the project. What is your part in its creation, and what will Jay [Armitage] and Chris [Gartin] contribute?
Kickstarted is an original documentary feature film about the crowdfunding revolution. The film itself will focus on telling the stories of a few crowdfunding projects and their creators intimately all the way through the process – from prior to fundraising all the way through to product delivery/project completion. In that way, it’s really a timeless story about passionate people who are putting everything on the line (in this case in a very public way) to bring their dreams to life. Of course, this is reflective of our own story as crowdfunding filmmakers and hopefully, very relatable to anyone participating in this disruptive movement. In telling those stories, which will be interjected with clips from the many interviews we’ve done over the last year, we will hopefully capture this incredible moment in time and share the bigger picture of crowdfunding.
Lastly, we will be sharing our tons of crowdfunding content throughout our process. This stuff changes so fast and there are so many stories, that we want to be more than just the movie. Our backers will get exclusives: videos, how-tos, white papers, best practices, interactive panels with successful creators. We are also sharing tons of content through our YouTube channel.
I’m a producer and co-director of this project with Jay. I came to him with an idea to do this over a year ago and together we’ve turned it into something real. He and I have been filming for months and will be moving forward. Chris is a producer as well, but a more recent addition to the team. He’s brought an added creative vision not only to the film but to our larger project. I couldn’t be happier with our team. In fact, just today we are announcing that Oscar winning documentary filmmaker Fisher Stevens (The Cove) is joining us as an advisor.
Kicktraq: What about you? Tell us a little about what brought you to the point of wanting to create a crowfunding documentary. What inspired Kickstarted?
I moved to LA 8 years ago with the intention of producing documentary films. I had no idea how to do it, but in college I was a photojournalist and fell in love with docs. I watched hundreds of them and wrote a senior thesis on it – even though I was in the business program. I got sidetracked by other things (which have been amazing experiences), but my passion for documentary has never wained.
This project in particular was inspired by reading stories of a few early Kickstarter creators. I was astonished at the overwhelming success of projects like Diaspora, Pebble, etc. As a person who loves independent creativity, this was clearly something incredible. It wasn’t until I read about a project called “Elixirs of Pain” and “Kerfluffles Marshmallows” did I realize that this movie needed to tell not only the crowdfunding story, but the personal experiences of the creators.
Kicktraq: As I understand it, Kickstarted played a key part in exposing a recent Kickstarter fraud. Tell us a little bit about Kickstarted’s role in the Kobe Red scandal.
Yes. We wanted to interview those guys – not knowing that they were a fraud – because they had blown up. We’ve been interviewing dozens of other creators like this. Scheduling the interview was an issue, so they said they were just going to send us a few clips about themselves. They then posted a backer update saying that they would be in our movie – which was a lie. We only said we’d look at their footage. That prompted us to look into them, and we worked with a handful of other keen eyed backers to discover a number of inconsistencies and red flags. Our Reddit posts about them helped alert Kickstarter and the media that these guys were frauds.
Kicktraq: A lot of film makers offer only experiential rewards. What made you decide to offer tangible copies of the documentary as well?
I think we are offering both. Our base level reward is the digital backer kit. That’s an experience. We’ll be sharing content with and including our backers in every element of the process. That’s an experience and a big reason why I think people like to back projects in the first place. We wanted to offer the film because that’s only right. Your backers help you make it. They deserve to see it once it’s done.
Kicktraq: This looks like your first Kickstarter project. Is it? And how does it feel stepping through the looking glass from backer to owner?
It isn’t actually. I did a project a few years ago with my brother Oliver and our friend Joe Burke called the Lois Levine show. We sort of reconsidered it almost as soon as we put up the project. It was before I really knew what it took to run a campaign and the passion you needed for your project.
After interviewing so many successful creators, I’m starting to really understand why the crowdfunding experience effects them so much. It’s highly emotional, draining, and rewarding. Even in failure you learn a lot about yourself. This has been an experience I’ll never forget – and makes me want to share these stories even more.
Kicktraq: You’ve taken the “Kicking it Forward” pledge. What kind of project do you think you’d like to help support in the future if Kickstarted succeeds?
The creator must have passion. I will definitely start supporting more films, because I think they are harder to fundraise for – especially if you don’t have a star attached.
Kicktraq: Thanks again for taking the time to interview with us. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience about Kickstarted, the Kickstarter experience or crowdfunding in general?
I’d like to formally invite everyone to join us. This project will fully embrace the crowd. We want you to share your own projects and project stories with us. The movie is only the beginning. Please back us and grab a front row seat for the next creative revolution.
As of this writing, Kickstarted: Documenting the Crowdfunding Revolution currently has 560 backers and has obtained pledges for $44,196 of their $85,000 goal (51%), and is trending toward about $51k total (59%) with 3 days left to go. The minimum pledge required to livestream the completed film is $15 with a $25 level that gets you a digital download and some higher levels for more tangible crowdfunding swag. But really, for the going price of a movie ticket it’s yours to watch. And, as always, neither Adam (@Kicktraq) nor I (@MrsKicktraq) would recommend that you back projects we’re not willing to back ourselves.