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INTERVIEW: Zach Braff’s crowdsourced film Wish I Was Here may frighten Hollywood

In his new film, Zach Braff tackles more mature themes than in his previous film, Garden State, but continues to stick to his guns when it comes to keeping creative control, even if it means avoiding blockbusters.

There are so many delightful moments in this movie that Zach Braff is rightfully proud of, but we really wanted to know which scene was Braff’s favorite.

“The scene between Mandy Patinkin and Kate Hudson in the hospital room. I think of it as a chess match. I set up who Mandy is as a person, I set up who Kate as a person and it’s almost like you’re just waiting for them to have it out, and they finally have a scene and the scene is so simple.

“The movie has a lot of big moments — traveling moments, crane shots, all those surreal fantasies. Here you have two actors sitting still and the camera barely moves. I think it’s one of the most powerful scenes in the movie.”

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We also wanted to know why Braff was so passionate about making this movie on his own terms and avoiding the studio system.

Garden State worked so well. It was my first film but everyone in Hollywood passed on it. No one wanted to make it. I finally found this rich sugar daddy who bet on me and we made it and it was a ginormous hit. I thought, well, you’ve got to go with your gut even when everyone else says no. That was a giant lesson.

“When this [movie] happened and I couldn’t find a sugar daddy, obviously I invested my own money into it, but that wasn’t enough to pay for the whole movie. Then this innovation happened, the idea of crowdfunding.”

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Braff said he didn’t want to go against what worked the first time, but he didn’t want the creative decisions to be put into the hands of the investors who might edit the film according to test screenings.

“That’s not art to me. So, that’s why I rolled the dice and tried this experiment and if it didn’t work, I thought it [would] be humbling. I can handle that. But I didn’t know it would happen in 48 hours and that we’d have the response that we had. It’s been thrilling.”

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So, should Hollywood be frightened of other crowdsourced films? Only time will tell. It mostly depends on box-office success. But, as an indie filmmaker, Braff has very strong feelings about why he doesn’t want to work in the studio system.

“[Movie studios] are beholden to shareholders who want a sure thing. A Marvel movie is a sure thing, it’s going to make money. Granted, [Wish I Was Here] is for a smaller audience, it isn’t a blockbuster. Betting on smaller things is riskier than spending big bucks on more sure bets. Sadly, that’s just the way the movie industry is these days.”

Wish I Was Here opens in theaters on July 18.

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