Here's a little experiment you probably don't want to run. Yeah, keep this one a thought experiment. It shouldn't be more than a gedanken. You might not want this experiment to get empirical. You might learn things you don't want to know.
Try this: Think about all your friends...
I want to be a bad guy in my next movie. I want to be a monster. I want to be the nightmare. That's my goal. It would be a sexier goal, I suppose, if I started out as a really good guy, but I've never been hero material. At 6'7" and north of 300 pounds, I don't look like a good guy. No one cheers for Goliath. I did a show called "Penn & Teller: Bullshit!" where the closest we had to a catchphrase was "Then there's THIS asshole." That's not something a good guy says. But recently on a bunch of TV "reality" shows I've tried to be nice and polite. I'm a dad. I'm a husband. I should be nice and polite. But, who gives a flying fuck about nice and polite in movies? Nice is not exciting. Polite is for douches. I want to be an evil fuck in my next movie, and my next movie is "Director's Cut."
I pitched "Director's Cut" around Hollywood and the suits seemed to like it. They had little tweaks and polishes and little dumbing down here and there and maybe... well... maybe... someone else should be the bad guy. Maybe a bigger star or someone who hadn't been so nice and polite on TV recently should be the bad guy. I guess I could have probably gotten the studio money to make some version of "Director's Cut." A studio version of "Director's Cut" would have satisfied my professional and financial goals - I would have written and produced another movie and gotten paid well for it. But what about my personal goals? What about me wanting to be a bad motherfucker?
I hear you ask: "Why don't you just take all your own dirty Vegas money and make your own Penn Bad Guy movie? Well, I did that with my last two movies: "The Aristocrats" about dirty jokes, and "Tim's Vermeer" about my buddy painting a Vermeer in a warehouse in Texas. There were no investors, there was no studio, there was no crowd-funding - we just made those movies with our own money. By "our own money," I mean money people gave us for doing our Penn & Teller magic show in Vegas. We paid for these projects with money we got from people paying for our last projects. That's a fine way to do it. "The Aristocrats" did well and "Tim's Vermeer" looks like it's going to do very well, but my money is still tied up in that. I don't have enough of my own money to make "Director's Cut" right now. It'll cost more than a documentary. I can't afford to do it by myself. Audiences paid for "The Penn & Teller Show" and "The Aristocrats" and "Tim's Vermeer," they just did it after the fact. Crowd-funding doesn't change who pays for a project, it just changes when they pay. It gives them the power of gatekeeping.
As I was writing and re-writing and re-writing "Director's Cut," I was getting interested in crowd-funding. I would throw a few bucks here and there into projects and I'd get really excited about them. I would have some emotion tied to other people's ideas and dreams and I enjoyed that. I liked having a little tiny bit of ownership, a little skin in someone else's game. I would get excited when my rewards came in the mail - like getting a special decoder ring from my secret inventor's club. I liked being a crowd-funder.
I loved the way "Blair Witch" used the emerging Web not just to sell their movie, but as part of the movie's experience. "Blair Witch" didn't just happened in the theater, it happened on the Web. The idea behind "Director's Cut" is a psychopath, a bad guy . . . me - uses modern technology to highjack filmmaking for his own sick, violent, sexual ends. It was about stealing fantasy and real power from Hollywood. It's the democratization of art gone bad. "Director's Cut" is about mash-ups and intellectual property. It's about that end run around the gatekeepers that crowd-funding promises.
"Director's Cut" has a movie within the movie, but that's not enough for me. I want the "Director's Cut" experience to bleed right into the crowd-funding. I want the ideas of the movie to start during the crowd-funding. I want that decoder ring t-shirt club to be part of the horror.
We're going to make "Director's Cut" no matter how much money we end up getting from FundAnything.com. The more money we raise, the more car chases we'll have in the movie and the bigger star we'll have in the lead, but Adam Rifkin and I will make "Director's Cut" even with just the money we've made so far. We have to. We promised. We'll give people who have contributed all the great rewards and great experiences they paid for. That's a done deal. But the crowd-funding must also be part of the art, part of the experience. "Director's Cut" has already started. I want to take the meta that's built into "Director's Cut" and add some crowd-funding meta on your ass. Being part of making this movie is being part of the movie and that's the idea of the movie. Get it? You will. Oh, you will. With crowd-funding the movie is happening now, and for a few bucks - you're in it, you're part of it. How creepy and groovy is that?
I talked to a bunch of my friends and asked them to do videos about me becoming a bad guy. I told them to do whatever they wanted, either celebrating, or lamenting me becoming a bad guy. My friends really came through, and we're going to be posting the videos here. I hope you like them; they make me laugh my evil ass off.
I think I'm going to like being a bad guy . . . so, fuck...
I first saw The Who on TV. I was watching with my parents, and when Pete, Roger, and Keith started smashing their instruments, my family was appalled. We were just barely middle class. My dad was a jail guard and we lived in a nice neat little house that my...