The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Capital C

Even if you've never contributed to a crowdfunding campaign, you've probably been asked to, or at least seen people promoting them on social media. They've been used to fund everything from small personal projects to (somewhat controversially) big Hollywood movies, like Veronica Mars. There's no doubt that sites such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Indiegogo are opening doors for the creation of new and innovative products. The documentary Capital C looks at the power of crowdfunding and how it's changed the game.

There are three different subjects in the movie, all of whom used crowdfunding successfully and are now faced with following through on their promises. Jackson Robinson is an artist who's designed a new set of poker cards. Brian Fargo is a veteran videogame producer launching a sequel to one of his most popular titles. Zach Crain is a hippie who runs a company that manufactures knit covers for bottled drinks so your hands don't get wet when you hold them. Flush with other people's money, they each work to make their dream a reality, while also acknowledging that crowdfunding has allowed them to share that dream with the contributors. There's great pressure to deliver, as they don't want to let down the people who have believed in them.

Capital C, through interviews with these guys and other experts on the subject, illustrates that successful crowdfunding is about making something personal feel communal. Someone comes up with an idea, then has to make strangers excited about that idea so that they not only donate money, but also commit to supporting its completion. Handing over cash isn't enough; backers have to help spread the word and bring others into the fold. When done right, it turns into a group activity.

It sounds fairly easy, although the film strongly suggests it isn't without pitfalls. Fargo astutely observes that, after raising a record amount of money for the videogame, he really only has one chance. If the game doesn't work, no one will ever fund him again. Robinson's marriage is strained as he struggles to work a day job and do his elaborate card designs simultaneously. Crain faces one of the biggest perils, when a nationally known company (*cough*Urban Outfitters*cough*) steals the idea for his bottle koozies and begins selling them online, knowing he and his partners can't afford to take legal action to stop them.

Capital C very effectively shows both the upside of crowdfunding and the struggles of making good on a successful campaign. There are some troublesome holes in the way it tells the men's stories, though. Crain, for instance, goes on the TV show Shark Tank to further his company's goals, but there's no footage of his appearance in the documentary. Robinson, meanwhile, stresses about getting his cards done, yet it's not clear why he's on a deadline. Then there's the movie's somewhat frustrating tendency to avoid answering certain questions. What happens to people who collect money, then never actually produce what they say they're going to? Are there legal ramifications to that? And what happens if you exceed your funding goal? If you need $10,000 to complete your project but are funded for $18,000, what do you/can you do with the extra money? Can you keep it, or do you have to find some way to invest it in the project, even if you don't need it?

This would have been a stronger film had those issues been addressed. Still, Capital C is largely entertaining and informative. It captures an important paradigm shift in its relatively early stages, while also providing some insight into how crowdfunding will continue to shape the way ideas come into fruition for decades to come.

( out of four)

Capital C is unrated, but contains some adult language. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.

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