According to Penn Jillette, the famous Las Vegas performer and the bigger half of Penn & Teller, to make a movie in Hollywood requires you to kiss a lot of ass. He’s turned to the fundraising website FundAnything to raise money for his next film project, Director’s Cut, because he says, “I just want to choose the ass I kiss.”
On a recent episode of Penn’s Sunday School podcast, Jillette did something unusual. He pitched his movie to the listeners as if they were Hollywood producers. He described his movie from beginning to end and tried to tell us why we should invest.
Jillette wrote a horror script called Director’s Cut and pitched it around Hollywood. He found some people that liked it, but they told him he needed to make some changes. First, he couldn’t play the “bad guy” in the movie. Second, they weren’t one hundred percent sold on the strange and multi-layered concept. So Jillette decided he had an opportunity to get his fans involved and take the same route Adam Carolla did with his new movie project Road Hard.
So far, Director’s Cut has earned almost $400,000 on FundAnything from contributors. In typical illusionist fashion, Jillette has offered goodies that have surprised. Prizes include everything from playing a dead body in the movie to having Jillette marry you and your future spouse.
On his podcast, Jillette slightly railed Hollywood by saying the movies they make have become so boring and typical, we’d all rather give our money to kids movies (which explains surprise monster hits like Despicable Me 2). He explained that he wanted to get fans involved because he could make the movie he wanted to make without having to succumb to pressure from the higher ups with the money.
Jillette explained that he was a very big movie fan growing up and even spent an arm and a leg just to get his hands on the script for George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Jillette says he approached the crowdfunding by “trying to say if I were not in show business and George Romero were making Dawn of the Dead, what would I want for a hundred bucks?”
Jillette then praised “new technology” and the opportunities it gives us and he praised funding through fans as much better than funding through Hollywood executives.
As for the movie, it’s wild. I can’t really do the film’s concept justice because it’s a multi-layered story that involves the found footage genre and working in the actual making of the movie. The concept is based off of the special feature known as the director’s cut. It’s something that you can truly say hasn’t been done yet and Hollywood probably never would have done it the right way. If you really want to know the details of the film and what movies Jillette is looking to for inspiration, then check out the episode of his podcast where he pitches it or the upcoming episode where he’ll speak to director Adam Rifkin of Detroit Rock City fame.
Crowdfunding is one of the avenues the American arts is going, and it’s wonderful. We are cutting out the executives and people who insult us and moving towards a future where filmmakers ask us for money and we choose whether to invest or not. That doesn’t mean we donate. We decide based upon the merit of the project and the goods and services offered in return. When you think about it, it’s a very capitalist notion because it is all about choice and men and women exchanging services and talents.
Let other countries embrace public funding and doom their arts and corrupt their artists. Let China take over the failing concept of a big Hollywood system. We will go the route of capitalism with our arts. Crowdfunding will open up consumer choice about what they support and see as well as keep storytelling more pure and out of the hands of people that insist on insulting half the American population and corrupting storytelling with sad gimmicks. It also gets fans involved in a completely new way.
The same goes for other art fields as well. Look at publishing. It’s two breaths away from death. Self publishing has offered people the opportunity to choose between far more than ever before and has taken out the middle man that controls what we want to read and what we want to support.
Then there’s podcasting which is growing more and more every year and killing radio as people listen to what they choose for free without the limits put out by radio stations and government entities.
I commend artists like Carolla and Jillette for being pioneers in this new way of financing their films and awarding fans and investors. Crowdfunding, self publishing and other capitalist ideas are what make the American concept unique. Oh, and Director’s Cut sounds like one hell of a ride. Can’t wait.