Kickstarter keeps becoming more and more of a thing. It's only been a few weeks since I backed my first project on it (Obsidian's Project Eternity) and now I see a major anime company seeking crowd funding for a short film.
If you haven't heard, yesterday Production I.G. put up a Kickstarter page seeking $150,000 for a short film they want to make called Kick-Heart. It's only planned to be a 10 minute film, though they suggest that enough funding could extend this, but it has some big names attached. Namely, it's directed by Masaaki Yuasa, and Mamoru Oshii is listed as a Project Consultant, whatever that means. The film itself appears to be a fairly light affair about Romeo and Juliet as two pro-wrestlers, and the art-style looks very Yuasa.
It's a strange situation. It'd be the first time as far as I'm aware that an anime studio, let alone a major one, is appealing directly to the English-speaking market. They claim this is an experiment for them, and it's in response to the economic situation in Japan making it difficult to get funding for anything that carries a risk to it. The film, when completed, will be made available to backers as a DRM-free digital download or a region-free Bluray depending on how much each backer put in, so they're choosing reasonable distribution methods too.
And it's looking like it'll be successful. It's still too early to say for sure, but it's only the second day that it's been up and it's already raised over $40,000. If this gets funded it'll be interesting to see if any other anime companies try this approach.
The Kickstarter model in general is proving to be very popular, and it's not hard to see why. Developers/artists get to float their risky (from a sales perspective) ideas to a wide audience and directly gauge interest. Not only that, but they get to raise the income for their projects before they actually commit to them. Making ambitious projects in the traditional way carries the risk of the audience simply not liking it, leading to a huge loss for the makers if sales flop, and this is a big part of the reason why so much media panders to its audience.
Not only does Kickstarter let people propose their ideas in a way that doesn't expose them to crippling loss if they're unpopular, but it's a good way to get interest in general. If a big project gets put on Kickstarter then everyone hears about it, and the funding levels for a number of projects indicates that many people are overwhelmingly happy to buy into this model.
One concern I have is the pricing of the rewards for this particular project. $15 gets you a 480p download, $30 gets you a 720p download and $60 gets you a Bluray with a few extras. Compared to most other Kickstarter projects, and to most other media, that's pretty steep for a 10 minute short. Will they try to bring the Japanese pricing model to the west? Will people buy it anyway? A while back I'd have said no, but this is going strong so far. And when you consider, for example, that the US release of the Kara no Kyoukai box set sold out at a very high price, I'm just not sure.