It worked for Zach Braff and "Veronica Mars" creator Rob Thomas. Now James Franco has turned to crowd-funding to bankroll a trilogy of movies.
Franco launched his campaign on June 17 to raise $500,000 through Indiegogo, a crowd-funding alternative to Kickstarter. Unlike Braff and Thomas, Franco doesn't plan on directing the films. He's raising the money so that a group of young filmmakers from New York University, where he attended the film program, can adapt his 2011 short story collection, "Palo Alto."
"Because of who I am, people often believe that it is easy to find investors and distributors for my films," Franco wrote on his campaign website. "Unfortunately, things aren't that easy. More times than not, I have put in my own money to produce my films and my student's films. However, this time it's different. We need more funding, I will still fund part of it but I need your help, filming three feature films back-to-back requires more funding than I can give."
Levels of contribution range from $10 for copies of the screenplays to $10,000, which earns you dinner with Franco and an executive producer credit. As of Wednesday afternoon, the campaign had taken in just shy of $50,000.
Crowd-funding started as a way for independent, mostly unknown artists to appeal directly to the public to fund their film, book album and more, but now a growing number of established celebrities are turning to crowd-funding for their next projects.
That's got some people crying foul. John Trigonis writes on the website Daily Crowdsource that stars are "saturating the pool with their somewhat unfair advantage -- celebrity."
By far, the biggest success comes from the creator of "Veronica Mars" who raised a record $2 million in a single day for a big-screen version of the TV series. Then again, being a cast member of the critically acclaimed TV series, "Girls," did not help Zosia Mamet reach her goal.
Click through to read about her campaign and others'.
The 25-year-old daughter of playwright David Mamet sought $32,000 in donations through Kickstarter to fund a music video for her band with 17-year-old sister Clara, but managed to only rake in $2,783 after 14 days. Perhaps Mamet was feeling the backlash that has been building against the celebrity Kickstarter bandwagon. "It's possible that people are getting tired of rich, young celebs asking for money on the Internet," Jordyn Taylor of the New York Observer wrote.
"Scrubs" star Zach Braff also faced criticism for his Kickstarter campaign to raise $2 million to direct the follow-up to his acclaimed film 2004's "Garden State." Even the The New York Times Magazine's ethicist column pondered whether Braff's use of crowd-funding was ethical. Despite his detractors, Braff reached his goal in just two days with 46,520 supporters, who ultimately pledged $3.1 million in donations.
The remainder of the film's funding will come from Worldview Entertainment, which agreed to cover the balance in a deal made at the Cannes Film Festival. In addition to Braff, the cast includes Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Anna Kendrick and fellow "Scrubs" star Donald Faison.
Celebrities are using crowd-funding for more than just for pet projects. Veteran actress Karen Black's husband turned to crowd-sourcing in March to raise money for his wife's cancer treatment.
"If you've ever enjoyed her work, now is your chance to reach back to Karen -- because Karen needs your help," the actress' husband Stephen Eckelberry wrote on the GoFundMe webpage titled "Help Karen Beat Cancer," launched on March 14. Within two weeks, the campaign had already surpassed its $32,000 goal.
Eckelberry turned to crowd-funding to pay for an experimental treatment for the 73-year-old actress, who was diagnosed with ampullary cancer -- at the point where the bile duct and pancreatic duct meet -- in November 2010.
After surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy, the star of over 40 movies, including "Five Easy Pieces," for which she received an Oscar nomination, and "Airport 1975," had run out of options. Eckelberry said Black had lost a third of her body weight and weighs just 96 pounds. "Karen has been confronting the fact that she would die soon if she didn't do something," Eckelberry wrote.
He said she needed the money to cover travel and living expenses for two months in addition to the treatment cost because "most of the high-paying work dwindled out many years ago" and, with their savings gone to medical bills and only her "modest pension," they don't have enough to cover the cost.
Series creator Rob Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this month and took the whole world by surprise after raising $2 million in less than 11 hours, greenlighting a "Veronica Mars" movie to begin shooting this summer.
With two weeks still to go, more than $3.7 million had already been raised. But the campaign was not without controversy. Unlike the majority of Kickstarter projects, this one is owned by a major studio, Warner Bros., which produced the show. Slate wrote that the "Veronica Mars" project sets a "terrible precedent."
But Thomas defended the strategy, saying "I don't think anyone's being taken advantage of. I feel like the rewards are worth it," referring to the incentives -- from a signed script to a role as an extra -- people received in return for donations.
Their film may be a bomb, but their Kickstarter campaign was a success. The team behind Lindsay Lohan's latest film, "The Canyons," including writer-director Paul Schrader ("American Gigolo" and "Taxi Driver") and author Bret Easton Ellis ("American Psycho" and "Less Than Zero"), raised just over $159,000 on Kickstarter.
"We all experienced the frustrations of financing and institutional censorship," Schrader said in his Kickstarter campaign. "But now, with advances in digital photography and distribution, we can tell a story in the manner we choose. Movies are changing and we're changing with it."