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HOW MUCH would you pay to get a couple more seasons of Netflix’s awesome The Queen’s Gambit? Or, if that show wasn’t your thing, some other favorite? So often they give us a season or two and then the network or platform decides not to continue… leaving fans all like, “Hey! You can’t cancel! I’m too emotionally invested in this show!” There is now, however, an interesting model that takes the idea of being invested in a very literal way. If we were to follow the example of The Chosen, fans (who would be called ‘investors’) could each purchase a bit of stock in the show and keep it running. The amounts of investments would vary greatly, which is fine. And, while stockholders would hope for a return on their financial backings, the overriding motive would be the love of the show.

It’s not exactly a completely new concept but The Chosen, a Bible TV show and app that depicts the life of Christ and those around him – is now the largest crowdfunded film or movie series of all time. Impressive. Could secular entertainment channels copy this business model? – Sites such as the Hollywood Reporter don’t think it’s impossible. First, let’s take a look at how The Chosen pulled it off. The series – now about to enter season three and scheduled to run for seven – is using something called “equity crowdfunding.” This type of crowdfunding is a relatively new spin on the idea that allows a production company to issue equity to investors. It was made possible by a provision in President Barack Obama’s JOBS Act of 2016. Although highly regulated by the SEC, equity crowdfunding is allowed by the law, which in short, says that entities such as production companies can offer a share of profits to anyone – and that includes random strangers – who wish to financially support a project.

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Some in the media/entertainment industry got all excited as early as 2013. They were pretty sure that the legal creation of an allowance for equity crowdfunding would be a massive shot in the arm for independent films, and lead to the realization of all kinds of passion projects. So far, however, it really only is The Chosen that’s taken the ball and run with it. Veronica Mars (2014) was reportedly Kickstarter’s best-funded film project, taking in nearly US$6 million. It wasn’t a big hit, but earned a respectable 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. Mystery Science Theater 3000 reportedly also raised almost US$6 million on Kickstarter. The latter is a good example of a show that inspires the kind of passion needed to walk in the steps of The Chosen. For the uninitiated, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is basically a group of funny puppets who watch terrible movies and make sarcastic comments or do sketches mocking the films they watch. It’s a niche thing; either you love it or you don’t. But those who love it, really love it.

Moneywise, with The Chosen it was simple, US$1 invested equals one share. You cannot resell your shares (if or until the rules are changed). However, the production team behind The Chosen – including director Dallas Jenkins – promised investors that their team won’t earn a cent until all the investors make back all of their investment plus 20%. – A 120 percent return guarantee, or the production crew gets nothing. That’s not something you see every day. But Jenkins and team had the perfect pitch for their target demographic: support a show that’s about something you care devoutly and deeply about.

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It’s a fair bet that at least the initial folks who invested in The Chosen were pretty committed followers of their faith and likely didn’t really care that much if their investment ever saw a return. Having a goal to “spread the word,” is a powerful motivator. That could be the X factor that makes this work for them; and something that may not be that easy to replicate in the secular world. But The Chosen investors got lucky. Jenkins and team produced a rather good show, one that’s gotten very favorable reviews from both inside and outside his belief community.

Now that the series has turned into a smash hit (at least in Christian America and beyond) those initial investors and the ones that followed are almost guaranteed to see some payback. They aren’t allowed to sell the shares, but they also hold them forever, meaning if The Chosen is still being streamed or shown on some network in 20 years, they’ll be getting a cut. So far neither Kickstarter and Indiegogo – which raised funds for Super Troopers 2 – follow The Chosen’s share model. They mostly offer stuff like we just mentioned: T-shirts, signed scripts, or other trinkets. The “own a share in the show” idea isn’t without challenges but is extremely attractive. Because seriously, what would you rather own in exchange for financial support? Some DVDs with ‘extras,’ or maybe a signed T-shirt from the actors you like? Or, as in the case of The Chosen, an actual piece of the program? -Forever.