Well, those money-burning Randians behind the Jesus-Christ-is-this-thing-still-going Atlas Shrugged movies have struck again. Last March, the producers of the series posted a straight-up bizarre YouTube video wherein they contemplated, in moody black and white, how to “get it right” and “make this cinematic” — questions that perhaps should’ve been asked before blowing $30 million (and counting) on a pair of films that have grossed a laughable $7.9 million so far. Most real Galters would see those numbers as a pretty loud and clear rejection by the free market (and the free minds!), but they’ve come up with a solution: take it to Kickstarter! Yes, these purveyors of literature’s most notorious screed against parasites, looters, and moochers have gone panhandling on the Internet for funds to make Atlas Shrugged Part III: Who is John Galt?, which prompted the expected hoots of derision. But it’s actually more complicated than that — and more repulsive.
The very first commenter on the project asked the not-unreasonable question, “Why are you on Kickstarter? Surely you should be able to raise the funds either through investment from the Free Market or through your own hard work and determination. Coming here begging for charity funding will just encourage your dependency on others in the future, you lazy moocher.” In response, producer Scott DeSapio cut and pasted his own text from the FAQ section, clarifying that “What Ayn Rand had a problem with is altruism for the sake of altruism as a moral duty, or being compelled, or forced, to ‘give.’ The Atlas Shrugged Kickstarter campaign is of course a voluntary value-for-value exchange. You are not obligated to contribute.” (Thank God!)
But here’s where it gets gross: “The movie is actually already fully funded. The Kickstarter campaign is not so much about the money as it is about marketing.” Yes, that’s right — like true capitalists, they don’t actually need the $250,000 they’re gouging their ideological brethren for on Kickstarter. And for admitting as much, I’ll at least applaud their honesty; unlike, say, a Zach Braff, who fronts crowdfunding until all the attention miraculously lands support from the very money people he ostensibly went to Kickstarter to dodge, these guys are being upfront about the purpose of their campaign.
They’re doing this for the ink; not just from the expected allies at Brietbart (“crowdfunding opens up choice which is essential to freedom,” yes, seriously), but from jeering Socialist liberal media rags like this very site. “We’re very aware that we have a built-in ‘anti-Atlas’ audience as well,” writes DeSapio. “We know from our experience with the first two films that there is an incredible amount of vitriol out there and, we have every intention of capitalizing on it this time around. The day we launch the Kickstarter campaign, those haters are going to come ALIVE. They’re going to come after us in droves attacking us everywhere online. To them, we say thank you. Thank you for helping us spread the word. We’re looking forward to the onslaught of all those negative blogs, facebook posts, and tweets.” (Don’t believe them? Four minutes after I laughingly tweeted the above quote from Big Hollywood, I was retweeted by “Atlas Productions.”)
Over at Indiewire, Bryce J. Renninger laments, “giving the project this kind of attention is exactly what they want.” But their strategy is as woefully ill-advised and utterly removed from the moviemaking market (ha ha) as the entire notion of a three-part film adaptation of a dull, old, poorly written, sociologically repulsive book that’s only regarded with anything but contempt by repugnant politicians, odious “think-tank”ers, and their rapidly thinning followers. Everyone else will mock these movies, and either laugh at the “moochers” or shake their heads at multimillionaire fitness equipment manufacturer/Atlas producer John Aglialoro fleecing Fox News Tivo-ers into handing over what is, for him, pocket change.
But here’s the problem: bolstering theatrical grosses via hate-watching isn’t a thing. Anyone who would actually want to see Atlas Shrugged Part III: Who Is John Galt? (and I’m assured there are such people) doesn’t have to be made aware of it by either the positive or negative coverage of the Kickstarter campaign; they’ve seen the first two and are already in. The rest of us may point and chortle, but that doesn’t actually translate to money in the pockets of Atlas Productions; they can attempt whatever desperate means they’d like, but this trilogy remains a money pit they’re not pulling themselves out of.
Which leaves us at Kickstarter, once — and in many cases, still — a vital operation for independent film financing. But this is yet another blow for their image, already bruised by millionaires like Braff and Spike Lee reinventing them as a funding source for established filmmakers who don’t need it. To call up another example, there was once a time, decades ago, when conventions like the San Diego Comic-Con were powwows for fervid fans and a chance for long-forgotten actors and creators to connect with those to whom their work still meant something. Then the studios discovered and co-opted them, transforming fan gatherings into an opportunity for painless, easy marketing. If Kickstarter isn’t careful, they’re going to turn into the same damn thing.