How Has Michael Wilson Spent Nearly $12,000? Time To Consider Legal Options. @GodlessAtheist

Michael Wilson (@GodlessAtheist).  Image uploaded to his Facebook account in Jan 2015

Michael Wilson (@GodlessAtheist). Image uploaded to his Facebook account in Jan 2015

UPDATE 21 June 2015 – Michael Wilson has offered to refund all funders who no longer wish to wait for this project to materialise. You can read full instructions on how to receive your refund here.

Back in February I blogged a piece about Michael Wilson (AKA @GodlessAtheist) and the $11,583 of crowd sourced funds he received in 2012 to make a documentary. Shortly after Michael received the funds, he made some sporadic updates, took a holiday to Japan, then appeared to drop off the face of the earth – going completely silent for over a year until I began investigating. I’ll summarise the timeline of events below, continue to update it with any new developments, and suggest some action for moving forward:

  • In March 2012, Michael Wilson announced a planned documentary film titled ‘God Is Incredible’ and created an INDIEGOGO page to crowd-source the funds – promising Netflix and theatrical distribution for the finished film. A target goal of $10,000 USD was set. Funders were promised rewards ranging from ‘executive producer credits’ to ’20 tickets to the world premiere’ for their money.
  • On 1st June 2012, the funding campaign came to a close – raising a total of $10,086 towards financing the proposed documentary.
  • Sometime before the funding ended, an individual offered to contribute $2,000 NZD ($1,500 USD in 2012 conversion rates) towards the project – which was then wired to Michael Wilson’s Wife’s business account at the request of Michael Wilson, bringing the total amount of funds received to $11,586.
  • October 2012 – Images shared on Michael Wilson’s Instagram account appear to show Michael took a holiday to Tokyo, Japan.
  • April 2013 – A total of 3 updates were provided between June 2012 and April 2013 until they ceased completely for a total of 9 months.
  • Jan 2014 – The last update on this movie promised a July 2014 screening for funders, and a release for the general public in August 2014. These dates passed without any updates, screenings or explanations. In fact, a year and one month went by without a single further update.
  • Feb 2015 – I reached out to Wilson for comment via email before publishing my initial piece. A response was received two days later which can be read in full here. In it he states: ‘My plan going forward is to release a short of each interview on a monthly basis with the final feature out towards the [end] of the year’. How this change in release strategy will effect fulfillment of contributor rewards remains unknown. Four months passed without the release of a single ‘short’ or any further update or explanation.
  • 2 June 2015 – I reached out yet again to Michael Wilson via email. The response can be read in full here. In it he states:

    ‘I will finish  editing up the first installment this weekend  and put it up on the site.

    So far interviews include the head of the xhx church, the shot gun preacher, several church leaders and topical vox pop

    I am tracking  the budget  as we go and have invested a considerable amount myself.’

    Another promise is made, this time that footage will be released the weekend of 6th June 2015. The ‘so far’ part is concerning, as it appears to indicate that all the planned filming and interviews have not yet been completed, after a total of 3 years production time. Wilson also states he has invested a ‘considerable amount’ of money himself – which appears to confirm that the full amount of crowd-sourced funds have in fact been spent, which begs the question; if this project has gone over budget, with not a single second of footage previewed –  how exactly has the $11,586 been spent? I would support further calls for Wilson to release details of his accounts and spending immediately.

  • 07 June 2015 – The weekend passed without any released footage, updates or explanations.
  • 13 June 2015 – After three years, multiple broken promises, unsatisfactory explanations and no released documentation of spending, I’ve decided to pass this over to any interested legal parties and press on the weekend of 20th June 2015 . I’ve informed Michael Wilson of these intentions via email which you can read in full here.
  • 14 June 2015 – After receiving my email, Michael Wilson sends his first tweet in over a year linking to a new update ‘apology’ on his INDIEGOGO page that you can read in full here. It is a collection of excuses already heard, with more promises without committing to a release date or providing requested documentation of his spending. Furthermore, two entries from the ‘Updates’ section, relating to past promises have now been deleted from the INDIEGOGO page.
  • 19 June 2015 – A new update post is made via the INDIEGOGO page promising a new clip ‘tomorrow’ and the offer of a refund for funders no long wishing to wait for the project. You can read it in full here.
  • 21 June 2015 – A promised ‘clip’ arrives online 2 days later, in the form of a new trailer promising yet more footage ‘next week’. You can view it on YouTube here. I also post details for those wishing to receive a refund here.
  • Summary– Michael Wilson received a total of $11,586 in June 2012 to make a documentary film. Since that time – the project has failed to materialise, with several promises being broken leaving funders completely in the dark as to where their money has gone, or if their promised rewards will be fulfilled. I provide instructions as to how to receive a refund here.

I feel the time for being charitable and patient has now passed, and it is now Michael’s immediate responsibility to provide documentation outlining exactly how the $11,586 has been spent.

Unfortunately, INDIEGOGO are only required to issue refunds directly if the project target amount is not met. As ‘God Is Incredible’ achieved its target amount, any disagreement from a legal standpoint now lies between Wilson and those who contributed the funds. Wilson is legally bound to honour his promises however, as per the INDIEGOGO terms and conditions (emphasis mine):

Campaign Owners are legally bound to perform on any promise and/or commitment to Contributors (including delivering any Perks). If a Campaign Owner is unable to perform on any promise and/or commitment to Contributors, the Campaign Owner will work with the Contributors to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution, which may include the issuance of a refund of Contributions by the Campaign Owner. Indiegogo is under no obligation to become involved in disputes between Campaign Owners and Contributors, or Users and any third party. In the event of any dispute, such as a Campaign Owner’s alleged failure to comply with the Terms or alleged failure in fulfillment of a Perk, we may provide the Campaign Owner’s contact information to the Contributor so that the two parties may resolve their dispute.

I would therefore suggest all those wishing to know where their money has gone to contact me. I think the next appropriate step would be to collect the details of all contributors who desire an explanation or refund, culminating in a legal letter on Wilson’s doormat. Which brings me to the most important part; are there any legal types reading this who would be interested in taking this on with my assistance? Please contact me and we shall work through the details together.

I will continue to monitor this situation, reach out to Wilson for updates, and record them on this page. If anyone has any further info, please contact me.

Stephen Knight is host of The #GSPodcast. You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.