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Cheer and Loathing in Animation: Episode XIV - And the Crowd Showed Up

Every Friday Chris Robinson unleashes improvised and hastily scribbled cheer or loathing on the animation community to be digested, swallowed or... expelled. Today: the ethics of crowdfunding.

I need your help.

You see it's the whole crowdfunding thing. It feels icky, like panhandling. It’s like the artist couldn't get funding for their project and refused to get a "real" job so they choose to hit the internet streets begging for change. They’ll even do tricks for you for the right amount. Actually…maybe street performers are a better comparison.

The thing is…it's unfair of me to think this way because all arts funding comes from you anyway…. it’s just more indirect and discreet, channeled via box office tickets or, in the case of Canada and some other countries, through an assortment of federal, provincial and local taxpayer supported art agencies. Whether it’s Pixar or the National Film Board of Canada, you are somehow contributing. The thing is, you don't get much input into deciding how those agencies use the money.

Ok…but then I think…well, just how do these crowdfunding businesses work? They must be taking a decent cut (money for nothing?) so even though you think and feel like you’re giving your $50 directly to the artist, you’re not (but maybe some animators with experience using crowdfunding devices can better explain the ins and outs for us in the comment section). On the surface, crowdfunding agencies seem pretty much like Pimps. Do they bring the street worker and customer together and then just take a big cut of the money?

Hold on…. Isn’t that what arts-funding agencies have always done?

How much of the funding they receive from the government goes towards administration, marketing, technicians, upper management, maybe travel and hotels to events (you know…let’s say …just for fun… like sending a whole team of people to the Oscars) …or maybe it goes into expanding existing arts buildings to accommodate new hotels and condos.  Clearly the artists aren’t seeing all the money being assigned to these government funding organizations either.

Regardless, these arts agencies have limited amounts of funding to begin with. Just as festivals (who have limited screening space) can only show about 5-15% of the submissions they receive, arts agencies can’t possibly fund every worthy project (and yes, who gets to decide what is worthy is a topic for another day). Those filmmakers who don’t get into festivals have options: other festivals (there are more than ever today) or the many online exhibition options. Crowdfunding then is just another funding option for those artists who didn’t fit the bill (a topic worthy of discussion for the day after the other day noted above) of traditional funding agencies. And you get to decide what you want to support. Plus, it beats blowing your cash on lottery tickets and smokes.

So…yeah… once I think this all through…well... crowdfunding seems perfectly reasonable and justifiable.

Chris Robinson's picture

A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.