‘Bridegroom’ Kickstarter Supporters Left in the Dust

Bridegroom

Towleroad readers should be familiar with Bridegroom, the documentary directed by Linda Bloodworth Thomason and produced by Shane Bitney Crone and Allen Crowe in response to the accidental death of Shane's boyfriend Tom Bridegroom.

After Shane's YouTube video, "It Could Happen To You", went viral, a producing team led by director Bloodworth Thomason sought funds on Kickstarter for a documentary about Tom's story, a Kickstarter which broke records at the time for the fundraising start-up, raising more than $384, 375. The project was funded on July 19, 2012.

The resulting film, Bridegroom, hit the festival circuit and screened on Oprah's OWN network.  But a large number of Kickstarter supporters, who were promised rewards ranging from DVDs to phone calls and dinners with the producers, have received nothing.

Writes one supporter to Towleroad:

I, along with many others who helped fund the movie, have yet to receive any sort of reward, or even contact, from the Bridegroom producers. Personally, I e-mailed them 4 times since February and even called once and not one person has replied to my requests to learn more about the status of the DVDs and other rewards we were promised when we helped to provide the money that got the film off the ground. You can see on the website that it's not just me, but a large number of supporters, including those who funded at the $500 and $1000 levels.

It's been nearly two years since the campaign for Bridegroom was funded by people like me who believed in the film and it's gone on to become one of the biggest gay documentaries that's been released, having won many festival awards, been put on Netflix, and even been promoted by Oprah. Thought it might be newsworthy that, in the midst of all the success they've had, the producers of this gay film can't seem to be bothered to even acknowledge their supporters.

A list of angry notes on the film's Kickstarter page from jilted supporters dating back to November backs up the claims.

Towleroad has reached out to Bloodworth Thomason and Bitney Crone for a response.

UPDATE: The Bridegroom producers have provided us with the following update, which is going out to backers of the Kickstarter project….

Dear Bridegroom supporters, We appreciate the patience and restraint you have shown us regarding the delay of your rewards.

While BRIDEGROOM's director Linda has moved on to other projects including one very important feature film concerning the LGBT community and Shane has been traveling non-stop to make sure other nations and cultures are exposed to his inspiring story, I have been trying to take care of the reward problems and frankly, not doing a very good job. The biggest part of the problem is that we have to balance the number of rewards we can send out in any given week with other commitments we have to pay to make sure we can get it in front of as many people and nations as possible, which I believe almost all of you agree is for the greater good.

As I have explained before we were able to raise only about 50% of the amount needed on Kickstarter to make this documentary. We were rushed to get the film out when we did to help the national push for equality. As a result, the distributor of the film had to first recover some of the funds they advanced to finish the picture. Also, it may come as a surprise that a lot of the venues where streaming rights, etc. are sold do not pay money up front but rather do it quarterly (sometimes up to 12 quarters – 3 years). We are still awaiting the first check for this film. We believe it will be remitted soon, but unfortunately we will probably still be meager for this quarter. Of course not one soul on our team made this film anticipating making a profit on the tragedy of BRIDEGROOM.

I want to thank the hundreds of you who have contacted us by email or phone to say you didn't want rewards, you just wanted to get the picture out. While we appreciate it, we want and will make sure you still get what we pledged to you.

We earlier posted a phone number, (xxx)xxx-xxxx, that you could call and contact me directly. To our knowledge, we have never purposely ignored a phone call from you – If someone doesn't answer, please call again and ask for me.

For weeks now there have been very few days that go by that we have not sent out rewards – a one man staff has sent out nearly three thousand packages to date and with the arrival of the other material we need over the next few days the pace to the finish will quicken. We have underestimated the time it would take to deliver your rewards before, so if you don't receive them within the next 4 weeks (at the latest), please call me.

Again, thank you for your tremendous help and dedication.

Harry Thomason

We appreciate the producers' quick response to us here at Towleroad. We've been longtime supporters of this film and it is nice to see a proactive response to those who have backed it.

Comments

  1. Fulton says

    I thought the whole point of Kickstart was to support a project you believe in, not recieve gifts and phone calls and dinners. Feel good about supporting a cause you believe in. Isn’t that reward enough?

  2. BobN says

    “Successful documentary” hardly ever equals $$$$. Maybe they can’t afford to send out a bunch of DVDs.

  3. dw says

    No, FULTON, it’s not. Not if they were PROMISED something in return for certain pledge amounts.

  4. Lymis says

    “”Successful documentary” hardly ever equals $$$$. Maybe they can’t afford to send out a bunch of DVDs.”

    Quite possibly true. However, it’s straining credibility that they wouldn’t be able to send out regular email updates explaining the situation and giving updates.

    Whether or not you “should” want to donate money to support a project you believe in, if the actual legal arrangement is that you’re buying a $500 DVD and a mention in the credits, it’s as much fraud to fail to meet those obligations as it is to sell swampland in Florida as a retirement home.

    If you went to a restaurant and ordered food, should you be happy to support a small business, whether they actually give you the food you paid for or not?

  5. Fulton says

    All good points, everyone. Just seems wrong to me that Kickstart has become a market place rather than crowd funding tool, a pledge center rather than a support center. I accept that I am naive.

  6. Profe Sancho Panza says

    I’ve supported a fair number of projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. I don’t do it in order to purchase the incentives; I do it to support projects I like the look of. But I don’t think it’s greedy or selfish to look forward to receiving the incentives promised on the page, or to expect that to actually happen. And not even keeping the people who made your project possible up to date is wrong.

  7. Profe Sancho Panza says

    I’ve supported a fair number of projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. I don’t do it in order to purchase the incentives; I do it to support projects I like the look of (or that friends are involved with). But I don’t think it’s greedy or selfish to look forward to receiving the incentives promised on the page, or to expect them to actually arrive someday. And not even keeping the people who made your project possible up to date is ungrateful.

  8. GeoffreyPS says

    Wonder if any of them live in Washington. Our Attorney General just filed suit against another Kickstarter who failed to deliver. But, in that case it looks like it was a completely fraudulent product.

  9. Robert H. says

    Curiously, my husband and I received our DVD as promised, within the time frame promised. Watched it, liked it…didn’t LOVE it. Not quite as powerful as the initial YouTube video. We then donated our copy to our local library.

  10. Paaat says

    Yes, people should receive rewards that were promised, but the biggest promise was that a movie would be made if the project was funded. And it was.

    I did receive a DVD, and my name in the credits, but I did not get dinner, a t-shirt, or a movie poster. And that does not bother me, because the documentary did get made.

    The poor communication has been disappointing, but does not make me regret my donation.

  11. Bryan says

    There are multiple problems here
    1. The DVD has already been released, so there is literally zero excuse to not have delivered them to all of the backers since Redbox requires a sizable order (way more than the backer total)
    2. They clearly went over budget and are holding that against the non equity backers
    3. They never actually thought about the logistics of deliverables when they had the campaign. If they did they wouldn’t have scheduled them to be ready 3 months they even world premiered
    4. Kickstarter makes it clear it’s the campaign’s responsibility. For the higher level backers they can reach out to their state’s attorney general

  12. oncemorewithreeling says

    The whole point of Kickstarter is to support projects you believe in and for those projects to do exactly what they promised to do in return for your support.

    That is exactly the whole point of Kickstarter.

    Every time a project screws over its supporters it hurts every single project on Kickstarter. It’s already an odd choice when professional filmmakers ask the public for free money instead of raising it the usual way, but when the professionals behave unprofessionally towards their supporters it’s even worse.

  13. TGD says

    I’m very weary of investing any money in to any kickstarter type of thing any more. The last thing I donated a very, very large amount of money to was Reed Cowen’s film: “8: The Mormon Proposition”. All they were promising was name in credit as a financial support. That never happened. I was disappointed but I let it go, I never said anything, I never brought it up. Then a few months later after the release of the film, he un-friends me on Facebook and accused me and several others of harassment. Again, I never said anything about it to him or anyone. But now, I am. I think, he is totally unhinged. Not going to put money into anything any more. So when I hear stores like this I’m not the least bit surprised.

  14. Bobby says

    If you promise someone something for a donation, you better follow thru with fulfilling your obligation or you can forget about future donations.

  15. Scott says

    Weird. I’ve gotten plenty of communication from them..via Kickstarter. I also got my DVD months ago. Seems to be some kind of snafu here.

  16. says

    I actually received my DVD a few months ago, I think they are just really backed up, I know Shane and he won’t flake out on this.

  17. Sam says

    Whether this or other Kickstarter projects honor their promises large or small, the proverbial saying goes: ‘If its too good to be true…well it is’.

  18. steve says

    just to play cynic for a moment, but if either of these people hadn’t been attractive this documentary would have never been made in the first place. It reminds me how wildlife conservation efforts have an easier time fundraising for “cute” animals like pandas and stuff. The poster of the film features their two faces quite prominently – and they’re obviously good-looking. Either way it’s a step in the right direction, and this whole kickstarter thing is just classic “bait and switch.”

  19. James says

    Communication is key. I suspect the producers could have avoided all this with a simple email apology. If they didn’t have the money to send DVDs or dinner or whatever, a heartfelt thanks & sorry would most likely have been accepted by the majority of the investors.

  20. Tam says

    Two problems with Kickstarter:

    1. It takes a hefty fee for itself. Kickstarter is a for-profit company, not a non-profit. It skims money off of all these good causes in order to enrich venture capitalists and the corporate execs. There are other platforms which do exactly the same thing as Kickstarter which charge no fee.

    2. Many of the projects on Kickstarter are essentially just businesses. You are investing in for-profit businesses but you get no equity and none of the upside potential in the investment. You get a t-shirt. And apparently, you may not even get that.

    One other thing to Fulton, Jamal49 and a few other dullards here who say that “the point” of Kickstarter is to help and not get incentives. There is no single “point” to a Kickstarter. Each project is different and each donor has different motives. I can assure you that the folks who donated millions for a new type of game console controller did so because they wanted the product shipped to them, not because they generically wanted to help. So the focus should be on the failure to keep promises, not on the motives of the donors.

  21. KEVIN says

    There have been updates, including thank yous and sorries and explanations of what’s going on. As other people have said, documentaries don’t make much money and the distribution right payments are slow. Here was an update from Shane on May 7:
    “I know how long it has taken for most of you to receive your rewards and for that I am truly, deeply sorry. I assure you, they will be sent eventually, and I appreciate your patience.”
    Unfortunately, not everyone has patience. I donated but didn’t do it for the rewards so it’s fine whenever they come. While I agree that the folks behind this should provide the rewards, I understand the challenges they face. I also don’t expect, as one of 6,500 backers, that I will get personal responses to e-mails. But whatever, people are going to complain, that’s the internet.

  22. Hdtex says

    Shane seems more than a little drunk with all the attention. I’m sure he’s just too busy hobnobbing with the Hollywood set and going to circuit parties.

  23. David says

    What. You mean this narcissistic film didn’t reciprocate your good will? No way. Get out of here.

  24. Randy says

    If you’re begging for money, and you promise something in exchange for it, you had better deliver.

    This is important if the filmmakers ever go begging for money again (from anyone) and also for the credibility of the Kickstarter platform, which is already pretty questionable.

  25. Rowan says

    Agree with the rest-bad call. Makes everyone not trust these and ends up making all the good serving businesses look bad.

    Kickstarter got greedy…didn’t do proper checks on the businesses…..same as usual.

  26. Wolfgang says

    The vast majority of backers seem to be waiting on DVDs and Blu Rays of the film. Only 7 backers get “the unforgettable dinner” which excludes travel to L.A. Not sure how many of them were ACTUALLY doing it to sit down with Shane & the producers.
    Talk about a storm in a teacup. Yes, the producers could communicate better- but watch the film for on Netflix until your free optical media and poster arrives.

  27. Michael says

    The DVD isn’t the issue here.

    The real issue is just how horrible the documentary was.

    Sure, the Youtube clip was great but probably only because it was about 5 minutes long.

  28. Joseph Singer says

    The problem really isn’t that they didn’t “receive” something the problem is that they just didn’t communicate with the people who believed in the project and made it appear that they just did not care.

  29. says

    Why are successful filmmakers going to Kickstarter for funding when they have access to studio money and banks? Kickstarter ought to be for indie film makers who don’t have the same kind of success history.

  30. says

    I worked with the Thomasons years ago on a film project. Nothing about this ugly episode surprises me. Don’t blame Kickstarter; Harry and Linda play folks based on her prior success as producer of “Delta Burke” success and their friendship with the Clintons.

  31. steve says

    Two white, good-looking, males living in Los Angeles who apparently had the income to travel all over the world had a documentary made about them. I don’t know – just seems a bit disingenuous to me. But, I do think better-looking gay men get a pass from straight society because it seems less gross to them.

  32. Buckie says

    I donate to kickstarter stuff ALL THE TIME.

    I would NEVER whine about not receiving anything back from a campaign that was only half-funded.

    The people complaining are just plain STUPID.

    The only “story” here is that a bunch of queens are whinny. What a newsflash.

  33. SIM says

    I agree with Fulton. And more than that – as was stated in the article – this project broke records with Kickstarter at the time. I think they expected some support but not the groundswell they expected. While that’s a great thing in terms of financing the product, it probably made it difficult to follow through on those promised rewards.

    That said, if I ever give to a Kickstarter project, it’s not for anything that gets promised to me but because I truly believe in the project.

  34. SJ says

    BUCKIE, you must not donate to Kickstarter all the time because it’s clear you have no idea how it works. If a campaign is only half-funded, it receives NONE of the money. Literacy, how does it work?
    The Kickstarter campaign received all of the money it asked for. The moviemakers needed more money than what they asked for, and that’s on them. They received everything they asked for from Kickstarter, and those people deserve their rewards and better communication.

  35. Timothy Kincaid says

    Actually, “pro-active” means acting before you’ve pissed off a bunch of your supporters.

  36. Tre says

    People who donated need “rewards”? What are they – children? Stop whining, donate to what you believe in and feel good about that. I can’t even believe Towleroad acknowledged these spoiled brats.