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Blur’s Tim Miller Responds To “The Goon” Kickstarter Controversy

The commentary I posted a couple days ago about The Goon Kickstarter project generated a lot of heated debate, both on Cartoon Brew and elsewhere.

A couple nights ago, I had a lengthy phone conversation with Tim Miller, who is the creative director and co-owner of Blur Studio, the studio that will produce The Goon. It was an intense but respectful discussion.

I like Blur and sincerely hope they’re able to make The Goon, but the core issue of whether it’s appropriate to use Kickstarter to fund pre-production for a feature film that has no guarantee of completion is problematic. On that issue, we weren’t able to come to any conclusion. However, I offered Tim the opportunity to respond in any way that he sees fit. You can read his side of the argument below—uncut and unedited.

Response from Tim Miller

Many of the animators here at Blur are regular readers of Cartoon Brew and we were all disturbed to see this post. We really care what the animation community thinks and we care about our reputation so I felt the need to respond. I love a healthy debate and some of his issues are worthy of discussion but what I DIDN’T love was the tone of the article and the implication that Blur and David Fincher were somehow being deceptive and that we’d broken the rules of Kickstarter.

I called Amid and we discussed some of his issues and—though I didn’t change his mind—he did offer me a forum for rebuttal—so here I am rebutting! Let’s start with this one:

“Kickstarter launched with the promise of helping independent artists raise funding for projects that otherwise couldn’t easily be financed.”

At 110 fulltime artists and production folk and NO studio or corporate backing, Blur is—by any industry definition I know—an independent studio. Blur is owned by 2 artists and a programmer (I’m one of the artists)–not wealthy corporate CEO types. Amid’s statement here describes our studio and our Goon project perfectly; we’re an independent studio that couldn’t get our project easily financed.

“….those projects have been drowned out by the established creators who are grabbing much of the attention nowadays.”

He may have a point there but that’s not really a reason to put down our project. And for a positive spin it could be looked at another way; if a big named “established creator” brings attention to Kickstarter it CAN draw eyeballs and traffic to the site that otherwise might not show up there. More traffic means more attention; more light that can shine on ALL Kickstarter projects. I’m not painting our Goon project as some sort of altruistic endeavor or even a big draw—I’m just positing the more attention Kickstarter gets the better it COULD be for everyone.

“Curiously, the story reel that will be produced won’t be made available to the backers of the campaign.”

Not true, it will be available to SOME—though—granted only at insanely high donation levels. The reason for this is simply we have to keep story under wraps and can’t have copies floating around. A fair number of people have complained and we agree it’s not optimal so we’re working on ideas to show the final product to more people. Ideas that simply didn’t occur to us before as we (naively) didn’t think it was such a big deal; live and learn.

“Should the film be made by a corporate film studio, that company just saved themselves half a million dollars on the backs of dedicated animation fans who believe they’re funding an indie project, when in reality they’re funding a mainstream Hollywood feature.”

Let me first reiterate that we aren’t some big film corporation and any money “saved” will be put right back into the film, not our pocket. But let’s look at a current Kickstarter project to invent and prototype a new type of light bulb. Let’s say the inventor reaches his funding goal and it pays for the R&D and prototype development of a new energy saving bulb, which he then takes to, say… G.E., who buys the design, makes the bulbs and distributes them around the world. Is that evil or wrong? Does that violate “the spirit” of Kickstarter? I don’t think so—I think it’s great that something got made that’s good for the world that otherwise might not have.

“There is nothing “indie” about the way Fincher and Blur are setting up the film, and they have a responsibility to be upfront about the reality of what they’re creating.”

This implies that we are somehow being deceptive about our goals when we say clearly, in bold and all caps several times on the Kickstarter’s front page that we are creating a STORYREEL. Implying we’re deliberately attempting to fool people is not only insulting but completely false. Neither Blur nor David Fincher have ever or WOULD ever try to “cheat” fans or anyone else—this is the comment that bothered us most and made me call Amid to defend our honor, something we take very seriously here at Blur.

“A number of backers have expressed their concerns on the campaign’s comments page:”

True, a few backers have issues, but one look at the comments page will show you 20 positive and excited fans for every doubter.

“The problem with The Goon Kickstarter boils down to this: They’re not producing a story reel that will be made available to the project’s backers. That means it’s an open-ended project, and if that’s the case, then it’s a clear violation of Kickstarter’s policies.”

First of all, this is a false statement. We are producing a product: The Goon Storyreel. Secondly, this project was thoroughly vetted and approved by the Kickstarter folks who have been EXTREMELY helpful and supportive and done their best to give advice and encouragement. So my question is this: Who is a better judge of the Kickstarter policies and philosophy–the people that created and operate the site or Mr. Amidi?

What really bothers me here boils down to this: Blur is trying to make an animated film that is outside the box of the usual animated films and in so doing bring joy to our artists, bring Eric Powell’s great characters to life and maybe—if we’re lucky—make enough money to keep the aforementioned joyful artists employed on future films. We’re not greedy and we’re no shills for some mega-corp—we’re just creators who want to make something different. We’ve tried the traditional routes to get this film made and they haven’t worked—so we’re trying something new that MAY help move the needle and get our project made.

And one last thing on the “David Fincher” of it all. Believe me when I say this guy has many, many, many project opportunities he could spend his time and money on. Opportunities that I’m sure have a greater profit potential if that’s what he was interested in. But truth is I know David well and I know he’s involved because he loves the project and loves animation, NOT because he needs to trick any Goon fans out of their 10 bucks.

Thanks for posting this Amid, we may not agree but appreciate you giving us our day in court.