This Kickstarter Campaign Wants You To Hate It

By  · Published on September 24th, 2013

This one might be taken down since Kickstarter forbids projects to use it strictly for publicity, but while it’s up, the campaign for Atlas Shrugged Part 3 provides a lot of ironic joy.

Although I can’t really tell if it’s ironic or not. Is it unintentional symmetry when a movie about self-reliance goes asking for handouts? Or is it merely straight-forward comedy when a film series about trusting the marketplace is fiercely batted down into tax write-off zone yet continues not to hear the message?

Those are difficult questions to parse, but the one sure thing is that it’s fascinating to watch a movie production admit to trolling its detractors while trolling its detractors. They are aching to be aggressively, negatively supported all the way to the bank. I’m curious to see if it works (even though it won’t).

To wit, here’s why the team behind Atlas Shrugged Part 3 says they need crowdfunding:

The Atlas Shrugged Movie Kickstarter campaign is not so much about money as it is about marketing.

There are two facets to that:

1. We know that fans of the book are going to LOVE getting involved in the production at this level – with rewards ranging from having your name forever etched on a “Producers Wall” at the Atlas Shrugged Movie web site, to actually being in the movie, we know they’re going to have a fantastic time. Being part of Atlas Shrugged history is something we’re all extremely proud of and having the opportunity to open the doors and let other Atlas fans in to be a part of that same history is really very special for us.

2. We’re very aware that we have a built-in “anti-Atlas” audience as well. 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. As 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.

That first line is enough to get it flagged (although they also say without detail that the money will go toward production and distribution), but if it doesn’t get taken down, I have no doubt that it will reach its $250,000. Beyond some solid enticements for fans, the production has done well to cultivate a following that is passionate about the message and more than willing to feel as if they are contributing to what they see as a cause. The question is whether creating more entries in a cult franchise is also spreading your desired message. One more existential question for producers John Aglialoro and Scott DeSapio to wrestle with.

Regardless, it’s unsurprising but absolutely thrilling to see the production so baldly stand by their trolling efforts here.

On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if that kind of self-aware need for mass negativity is a sign of desperation. Not in a thousand-yard psychoanalysis kind of way, or anything. It’s a conclusion sown directly from their box office returns; $4.6M on a $20M budget for the first, $3.3M on a $10M budget for the second and a big question mark on a $10M for the third. Considering that new viewers usually don’t hop on for the third installment of a franchise, it’s not hard to imagine that this all-too-clever Kickstarter campaign is really a means of saying, “Please make us relevant!” through grinding teeth.

And when your enemies are the only ones that can make you relevant, when you have to troll for publicity, it’s probably a bad sign.

Naturally it’ll be interesting to see if this campaign really does warrant the amount of negativity they want. Obviously it worked on me, but will the resulting response really add up to an “onslaught”? Pins and needles go here.

The thing is, I could easily be listed among the franchises detractors, not because of any philosophical angst, but because the first movie was absolutely horrendous. (As you can see by the link, Atlas fans also “come ALIVE” to rant and provide fantastic publicity so to them I say thank you.)

However, it’s more than likely that this crowdfunding nudge in the ribs is a direct reaction to all the critics/detractors/haters out there who responded, as I did, to the second entry the only way they could: by simply ignoring it.

Clearly I’m not ignoring this shot across the bow, and why not? The movie is already being funded as a red ink vanity exercise, it’s definitely going to come out in 2014, and nothing I say (or don’t say) can keep fans from seeing it and non-fans from not. The Atlas Shrugged team wants to rile up those who still have energy to scream, and that’s led (at least) to a very interesting little cultural artifact.

The final question is this: if I respond to their trolling by covering their campaign, but tell you to Google “Atlas Shrugged Kickstarter” instead of linking to it, am I trolling back?

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.