Charlie Kaufman's Animated "Anomalisa" Hits Kickstarter Jackpot

Charlie Kaufman's Animated "Anomalisa" Hits Kickstarter Jackpot
Image from the "Anomalisa" pitch, with thanks to Leonardo da Vinci.
(Starburns Industries)

Who need Hollywood anyway? Charlie Kaufman’s scripts for “Being John Malkovich, “Adaptation,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” and “Synecdoche, NewYork” proved that the conventional mode of studio storytelling was not holy writ. With his next venture, the stop-motion animation picture “Anomalisa,” Kaufman is proving that traditional movie financing isn’t sacrosanct either.

According to Deadline, Kaufman, Don Harmon (creator and former showrunner on NBC’s cult series “Community”), Dino Stamatopoulous, and the Starburns Industries production team have raised $400,000 through the Kickstarter “crowdfunding” website. That’s twice what they needed to make. Secured from private investors, who contributed as little as $5 (for a mention on the film’s Facebook page) and as much as $10,000 (for an executive producer credit), the movie’s haul for its budget is a record for Kickstarter.

“Anomalisa”’s two-month Kickstarter video pitch to the public was delivered not by Kaufman (still less by a hustling screenwriter like the one portrayed by Richard E. Grant in “The Player”) but by an animated little guy with a grey beard, a bowtie, and a soothing voice, who steps from behind the table in a playful version of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper." He then says: “As many of you know, the entertainment industry is filled with incredible scripts, written by incredible talent, that have not or will never get made, or worse, they’ll be changed into something that is nowhere close to what the original creator envisioned.”

The low-key pitchman continued: “Starburns Industries does not want to compromise the original vision of Charlie Kaufman or any other artist. The only thing we want to change is the way artists are treated, and that’s why we need your help.”

"Anomalisa," which should start production in November, is about a famous motivational speaker whose transformative effect on others doesn't estend to himself, so he leads a meaningful existence

The Kickstarter model has enormous promise for independent filmmakers wary of going the studio route. Launched in 2009, the website had, by August 22 this year, launched 68,224 film, art, and media projects, of which 3,772 were in progress; the success rate is 44.01 per cent. Those that have been realized include the Oscar-nominated documentaries “Sun Come Up” and “Incident in New Baghdad,” Matt Porterfield’s well-received documentary “Putty Hill” (which was shown at the 2012 Whitney Biennial), and the 2011 MoMA contemporary art exhibits “EyeWriter” and “Hip-Hop Word Count.”

Duke Johnson, who will direct “Anomalisa,” told Deadline: “Right now there’s a little bit of hesitancy from people in the industry of using crowdfunding, because I know some people don’t like being seen asking for money in public. But as it gains momentum, and people see what it’s worth, and that they can do it on their own, that hesitancy is going to disappear.”