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Penn Jillette Turns To FundAnything To Become A Bad Guy

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Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller fame is about as nice as they come. And he’s super sick of it. So he wrote a movie called “Director’s Cut” in which he will no longer be the hero. His role is so bad, in fact, that he decided not to pitch the script to Hollywood execs, because he’s pretty certain they wouldn’t buy it. While he funded his last two movies The Aristocrats and Tim’s Vermeer himself, he says he doesn’t have enough money of his own to take this gamble a third time. So this time he turned to new crowdfunding player FundAnything where he currently is at $437,721 of his $999,972 goal with 32 days left in the campaign.

I spoke with Brad Wyman, chief crowdfunding officer of the five-month-old FundAnything to find out how it’s different from other platforms and how it plans to set themselves apart — other than by making Penn a super scary guy?

There are a lot of crowdfunding platforms out there to choose from — Kickstarter, Indiegogo, etc. They offer a wonderful marketplace for creators to fund their projects based on competitive fees, payment models (paid when funded, paid daily, paid by milestone), their payment processors (Amazon, PayPal etc.), marketing practices, social reach, etc.

Brad explained that FundAnything hopes to make its mark as a place where no idea is turned away and where celebrities help “uplift” those who don’t have a large audience of their own. Each section of the site has celebrity endorsements, and those celebrities help pick and choose projects they think are worthy of more attention.

For example, Donald Trump heads up the small business and foundations section of the site and he personally contributes to these campaigns. They also hinted that Pitbull is coming on board shortly. Aside from having celebrity sections of the site, they also actively seek campaigns they can fund with celebrities who have rabid fan bases, because their audiences also get in front of the other projects and everyone wins. In the first 100 days of business, they had their first successfully completed $1 million campaign with comedian/podcaster Adam Carolla.

However, when a celebrity hosts a crowdfunded campaign, people inevitably complain about how they shouldn’t ask their fans for money, as was the case with Amanda Palmer who raised $1 million on Kickstarter and Zach Braff who raised $3.1 million. But there is a difference between just simply asking for money and commerce. Zach sold an acting role in his film. Penn is selling access to his home, his personal things and his voice. You give money for something, or for nothing, but it is driven by choice. Nobody is forcing you to and not only is it a great way to give your favorite artist or creator complete control of their creation, but also feedback as a fan. If the project doesn’t get funded, then maybe it is a really shitty idea. If people are buying perks like mad and talking to you about what they want to see and are pre-buying their DVDs, I just don’t see what the fuss is about.

I signed up to be an executive producer of Penn’s film, because, just as badly as he’s wanted to be a bad guy, I’ve always wanted to be an executive producer. I also bought a perk where Penn will record a message for your voicemail. I plan on giving that away to the person who has the best comment or tweet by the time the campaign ends. I’ll announce the winner in the comments and I’ll contact you via Facebook. Obviously, I need to know who you are, so anonymous entries don’t count.

Penn announced yesterday that as soon as they reached 2,000 backers (which they just crossed) they would start production. That means they will be the first (as far as I know) project to start filming while the crowdfunding project is still running. It’s genius, because they will be able to cast the main characters in order to drum up more interest and get more people involved. I’m looking forward to seeing more campaigns like this.

The problem with Kickstarter, in my opinion, is that the project doesn’t get funded unless the goal is reached, which creates an artificial deadline and pressure that maybe works for some. But if you can actually pay out along the way in milestones, that seems like another approach in order to get fans really engaged with the projects. Regardless, I’m really excited that there’s a platform emerging for everyone and their needs and it will be interesting to see how FundAnything fares along the way.