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Zach Braff, rich with ‘Scrubs’ money, pushes the limits of Kickstarter

Updated: May 12, 2013 7:23PM

Zach Braff is a rich guy asking us for money.

That’s the 10-word summation of why there was such a backlash against the actor best known for starring in the hit TV show “Scrubs.”

Let’s click back to the beginning of the timeline.

As you probably know, Kickstarter is the most prominent of the “crowdfunding” enterprises — websites where you can announce your project and set a deadline and a minimum funding goal, after which the public can send you money via Amazon payments. (Kickstarter makes its money by taking a little off the top, as does Amazon.)

You know the old tradition of a street entertainer or a fledgling performance troupe passing the hat around during a show? Kickstarter is the gigantic, web-based version of that, only everyone is asking for money to fund a movie or a music project or a game or an invention.

In 2012, more than 2.2 million people from 177 countries pledged $319 million and change to fund more than 18,000 projects. That’s a lot of Kickstarting right there.

A lot of cool stuff is launched thanks to Kickstarter. films that play at Sundance, school art and science projects, operas, graphic novels and some terrific inventions, like “Revolights,” thin LED lights that illuminate bicycle tires. Or how about the Pebble Watch, which you can sync to your iPhone or Android so the watch can display calls, SMS, emails and apps?

We’re also getting a “Veronica Mars” movie thanks to Kickstarter. Showrunner Rob Thomas took to Kickstarter to raise funds for a big-screen edition of the TV show that starred Kristen Bell as student and private investigator — and with the help of more than 91,000 backers who contributed more than $5.7 million in pledges, the “Veronica Mars” movie is a go.

Inspired by that astonishing success, Braff launched a Kickstarter campaign to make a “tonal sequel” to “Garden State,” the 2004 hit directed, written by and starring Braff.

Braff said he’s going the Kickstarter route because he wants creative control over “Wish I Was Here,” in which he’ll play “Aidan Bloom, a struggling actor, father and husband, who at 35 is still trying to find his identity. … He and his wife are barely getting by financially, and Aidan passes his time by fantasizing about the great futuristic Space Knight he’d always dreamed he’d be as a little kid.” Further plot developments will yield “some funny chaos,” promises Braff.

One can picture studio execs saying, “OK, what else you got?” but it’s all in the execution, and Braff proved with “Garden State” he could deliver a charming, offbeat indie film.

But why should we send money to a guy who made as much as $350,000 an episode for “Scrubs” (according to Entertainment Weekly)? Talk about having some brass, um, brass.

Little surprise Braff was slammed on Twitter and elsewhere, even as the “Wish I Was Here” campaign racked up nearly $2 million in pledges in just two days. (As of this writing, more than 37,400 backers have pledged more than $2.5 million.)

In media interviews and in a 17-minute clip from an upcoming documentary titled “Kickstarted,” Braff has done a good job of defending himself, pointing out that yes, he is sinking some of his own money into the project; no, he isn’t as rich as you think he is; and the analytics show his project isn’t taking money away from lesser-known, struggling filmmakers.

Kickstarter released its own statement last Friday, which read, in part: “The ‘Veronica Mars’ and Zach Braff projects have brought tens of thousands of new people to Kickstarter. Sixty-three percent of those people had never backed a project before. Thousands of them have since gone on to back other projects.”

Obviously there are thousands of Zach Braff and “Veronica Mars” fans willing to contribute their hard-earned dough to the cause, knowing they’re not eligible for profit participation. (If you pledge a certain amount, you get signed souvenirs, a chance to attend a premiere, etc. Someone pledged $10,000 for a one-line walk-on role in Braff’s movie.) You might think they’re all suckers — but isn’t there some TV show you’d like to see become a movie? I’m not sending any money Zach Braff’s way, but I’d kick in a few bucks for a “Friday Night Lights” movie.

Not that being a TV celebrity with a dream automatically ensures success. Melissa Joan Hart is trying to raise funds to launch “Darci’s Walk of Shame,” the story of “Darci Baker … a thirty-something ex-schoolteacher, with an ex-boyfriend, who’s not really looking forward to traveling alone to attend her sister’s wedding in Thailand.”

The goal: $2 million by May 26.

Funds raised so far: $51,593.

Odds “Darci’s Walk of Shame” will get made: Not good.

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