Lately there has become a huge controversy about actors buying roles, thanks to certain perks on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. I understand the perspective of people who are against this sort of thing, but I can also understand the perspective of people who don’t think it’s a big deal. Like me.
As an independent filmmaker (Happy INDEPENDENCE day, btw), I need funding in order to make a movie. The amount of funding is irrelevant. Even if you plan to shoot a movie for no money, or you aren’t paying anyone, you’ll still have to buy hard drives to store footage, and put gasoline in your car to move from one location to the next. So when someone comes along and says, “hey, I can give you some money, but will you put me in the movie,” my response is, “Of course!” If I said, “No, I’m morally against that sort of thing,” chances are I won’t be able to make my movie. Or it’ll take longer to find the funding needed, and I’ll be wasting time.
I make sense of it by thinking about it as an investment. Even if the person giving (ie. donating) money on a crowd funding website isn’t “investing” per se, they are investing in their careers. How it is any different to spend $2,000 on headshots and acting classes when you can skip all that and just buy a role with it?
And in that same thinking, what’s the difference between that activity and someone like Jodie Foster creating a script for herself to star in? I can’t think of one.
I know that if Stanley Kubrick was still alive and running an Indiegogo campaign, and for a $10,000 donation, I could go and be his script supervisor for two months on his latest movie, without being paid, fed, or housed, I’d jump at the chance. And if I couldn’t afford it, I’d encourage any other filmmaker who could, to do it. One would learn more than the best film schools combined, and it would cost a lot less.
If that scenario were true, some would say it’s unfair because all the script supervisors are out of work because I bought the job away from them. I don’t feel badly about it. After all, only one of them would’ve been hired to begin with. A production doesn’t need to hire ALL of them. So what difference does it make?
Likewise, when an actor buys a role, all the other actors out there who could’ve auditioned are now out an opportunity for work because somebody else bought their part.
I think it was the magnificent Rosanne who said, “Success isn’t something you’re given, it’s something you take.”
Going back to the Jodie Foster scenario. Same thing. Was she waiting around for someone else to develop and produce, and then cast herself as, NELL? Nope. She took the initiative and did it herself. There are people out there who blame her because she has “privilege” because she’s a superstar, and all that. How is her kind of privilege any different than someone who could afford to buy a job as script supervisor, or an actor who can afford to buy a role? None so far as I can see. Yet, why is it okay for celebrities to develop and cast themselves in parts, and it’s not okay for an unknown person to buy one as a perk?
Is the backlash directed towards the moral integrity of the person making these crowd funded movies? Take me, for instance. If I did a Kickstarter campaign, and offered a perk that for $2,000 you could be my script supervisor, would you call me a villain? Would you say I’m out to take advantage of people? I understand I’m not Kubrick, which is why my perk would cost a donation considerably less than his. But I can assure you that the person who bought that perk would learn more on my set than spending $2,000 on seminars, books, classes, or anything else. So isn’t that actually fair? They’re helping me, and I’m helping them. It’s a mutual arrangement, and one that I think is just fine.