Sundance: Zach Braff’s Starry, Kickstarter-Fueled ‘Wish I Was Here’ Rapturously Applauded, Sure to Sell

The “Garden State” director is back in Park City with no regrets about his crowdfunding gambit

Last Updated: July 10, 2014 @ 7:14 PM

Zach Braff loves Sundance, and Sundance loves him back.

It’s been 10 years since Braff made a big Sundance splash with “Garden State,” and now the “Scrubs” star is back with “Wish I Was Here,” which earned rapturous applause following its Saturday premiere at the Marc, and a standing ovation for Braff as he took the stage for the trailing Q&A.

It was an auspicious start for the first Kickstarter-backed project made by a known Hollywood star to play in front of an audience — Rob Thomas’ “Veronica Mars” won’t premiere until March — and bodes well for a quick sale in Park City. “Garden State” was picked up by Fox Searchlight and Miramax for $5 million in 2004, and went on to gross $35 million worldwide.

Braff also stars in his return to directing — he’s spent the past 10 years focused on his acting career — and has drawn both applause and ire for his use of Kickstarter, where he raised more than $3 million of the film’s $5 million budget. Braff thanked producer Stacey Sher for encouraging him to mount the crowdfunding campaign.

Also read: New Zach Braff Movie Hits Kickstarter Goal, Could It Threaten ‘Veronica Mars’ Record?

“The goal was a month — and in 48 hours it was funded by my fans, 47,000 people,” Braff said. “I’ll thank Stacey ’til the day I die.”

Many of those fans were in attendance — though some were left out in the cold, and reportedly vocally grumbled about helping pay for a film they didn’t get to see premiere. But there was no grumbling inside: the crowd at the Marc cheered the contributors when their names showed up in the credits.

In “Wish I Was Here,” Braff plays a 35-year-old struggling actor, father, and husband still trying to find purpose in his life. Braff assembled a starry ensemble for his movie, including Kate Hudson — who’s already drawing rave reviews, including from mom Goldie Hawn, also in attendance — Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Ashley Greene and Joey King. Jim Parsons and the late James Avery both have cameos.

Also read: Sundance Day 2: Guantanamo, Somali Pirates Steal the Stage from Kristen Stewart

Braff acknowledged onstage that he knew people might have gone “apeshit” over his decision to crowdfund the film — but said it was worth it to make the exact movie he had in mind. That included helping to pay for the film’s sparkling soundtrack — another trademark of “Garden State” — including original music from Bon Iver and James Mercer of the Shins. 

It helped that the “Garden State” soundtrack was itself a hit.

“People called me back quicker,” Braff joked.

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