“Studios are stupid,” says Duke Johnson, executive producer of Anomalisa, an upcoming stop-motion animated film written by Charlie Kaufman. “They’re looking to make money, and the types of movies that make money are big franchise films like Twilight or Harry Potter.” So a 40-minute animated film about a man who is crippled by the mundanity of his life—even if it is written by the Oscar winning screenwriter of Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind—doesn’t exactly fit that bill.
After being turned down by studios for backing, Johnson and executive producer Dan Harmon opted for the crowdfunding route. But while the short film blew past its initial $200,000 goal in September 2012, convincing the star writer to attach his name to the campaign wasn’t as easy. “It is very important to be clear that Charlie didn’t ask for any money,” says Johnson, who adds, “He was certainly concerned that people thought he was asking for money.” Among the first high-profile film projects to be crowdfunded at the time, the campaign faced “a little bit of a backlash,” says Johnson, from people who wondered why Kaufman didn’t just pay for the movie himself.
A few details about the film have leaked out since September. It will star Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan, and David Thewlis. It’s currently in production and should be released later this year. (Just don’t expect to see it at your local megaplex.)