Michael Wilson (@GodlessAtheist) Crowdsources Nearly $12,000 for a documentary then disappears

Indiegogoiimage

Update 17 Feb 2015: I have now received a statement from Michael Wilson via email – you can read it here.

In 2012, when I first decided to dip my toe into the sea of anti-atheist (or athiest) sentiment on Twitter, it was a surprise to note how few people had taken on a similar hobby. Happily, that’s changed over the years – but at the time certain atheist Twitter accounts stood out for their ubiquity and high follower count.

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

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

One such account was @GodlessAtheist, run by a New Zealander named Michael Wilson1. I don’t recall ever interacting with him directly, but given the similar focus our tweets often overlapped.

Sometime around March 2012, Michael announced he would be making a documentary film titled ‘God Is Incredible’ and set up an INDIEGOGO page to finance the film via crowdfunding.  This is a system whereby you ask people to fund your planned project with the promise of perks in return for their investment (often upon completion of the project) – a sort of rewards system that can earn contributors anything from a named credit on the project, to related merchandise & exclusive content etc.

A target goal of $10,000 USD was set with various perks and rewards outlined – the greater the cash amount, the more lucrative your reward would be.

A teaser trailer followed and the now expired website godisincredible.com was created.

 

 

As you can see via the project’s description on INDIEGOGO, this was to be an ambitious undertaking. The page promises that the film would be distributed via prominent digital platforms such as Netflix & iTunes, not to mention a theatrical release – advertising to potential contributors that this was to be a professional endeavour with a global reach. The funding period ended on June 2012, making $83 dollars over the $10,000 target amount thanks to the generosity of 152 funders.

A couple of sporadic updates followed via Twitter and the INDIEGOGO updates page – then Michael dropped off the face of the earth. Not a single second of footage has been released. It’s been over a year since anyone has heard anything about this project, leading to concerns over Michael’s health and how the money has been spent.

An update on the INDIEGOGO funding page from almost 2 years ago goes some way to explaining the now defunct website:

Looking at having filming finished by mid May for a July release for investors. I have pulled the site down as it was scarring off interviewees.

We have some great stuff in the can and all interviews to go are confirmed.

I will have the a few videos for you shortly.

Thanks for your support and patience. It will be worth it.

Michael was a heavy user of Twitter, sending over 55,000 tweets in just 3 years. These ceased without explanation along with updates on the project around April 2013, until this ambiguous tweet in Jan 2014 after 9 months of silence:

And this from the INDIEGOGO updates page over a year ago (UPDATE: Entry deleted from INDIEGOGO page on 14 June 2015):

Hello All,     3 more interviews in the can.       I have been in hospital over the last week and now have two weeks off work so will be editing up a preview for everyone. I am looking at a release for supporters in July and the general public in August.       Thanks for all your support.       MIchael

July 2014 came and went, as did August without previews or indication of whether the film would be released, or when contributors’ perks would be fulfilled.  Where did Michael and the money go? Is he ok? What is the status of this project?  Why so few updates? I spoke to Twitter user @MrOzAtheist via email, who contributed funds to the project:

I followed @godlessatheist very early on as MrOz. I think it was one of the first 10 people I followed. He was big on the quoting a tweet and adding a reply which is a style I like, and adapted for myself.
After a while he started mentioning his film project and set up an Indiegogo account for people to help pay for it.
From memory the idea was to travel around NZ asking people why they believed in god and then discussing it with them. I thought it sounded like a good idea and I liked what he did on twitter so I contributed $50 Australian.
I do remember some tweets about him travelling and interviewing and suddenly…nothing

I’ve also managed to confirm that another Twitter user (whom I’m in the process of contacting for further info) contributed a staggering sum of $5,000 to the project. As promised by the perk system, this would entitle them to have their name displayed above the film’s title card during cinema and online screenings and on all the promotional material – not to mention ’20 tickets to the world premiere’.   They are yet to receive any such perk, or update as to how their $5,000 has been spent. They are now completely in the dark as to the status of a project they contributed $5k to nearly 3 years ago. I attempted to contact Michael Wilson via the email listed on his INDIEGOGO2 page before publishing this piece, but as of yet no response has been received. Another contributor also tried to contact Michael via email recently – to learn that the email account (possibly a different one to above) no longer exists.


 

Hopefully by drawing some attention to this mystery we will hear from someone who knows what has happened, and ultimately get some deserved and overdue updates for those individuals who’ve parted with their cash in good faith.

Does anyone know Michael Wilson personally? Is that his real name? Is he ok? Have you also contributed to this project? Have you initiated a resolution process with INDIEGOGO?

Please email me or post in the comments with any information you may have and I shall update this blog post accordingly. Fingers crossed there’s an understandable, rather than tragic or indeed cynical explanation for this situation.

Initial updates 16/02/15

  • I’ve located Michael Wilson’s Linkedin profile. If authentic and accurate it notes new employment from June 2014, several months after the last project update.
  • I’ve located what appears to be Wilson’s Facebook profile. If belonging to him, he has updated his cover photo with a new image of himself as recently as Jan 2015.
  • Michael Wilson took a holiday to Japan in October 2012 – evidenced by tourist photos on his Instagram page.
  • I’ve been in touch with a funder who says they contributed $2,000 NZD ($1500 USD at 2012 conversion rates) which Wilson requested to be wired to his wife’s business account.  They were promised the credit of “Executive Producer” for their contribution. This funder does not appear to be listed among the contributors on the INDIEGOGO funders page, suggesting the money is in addition to the $10,000 raised – which if correct, would leave a total of over $11,500k unaccounted for.
  • I have good reason to believe I have located Wilson’s place of employment and home address.
  • A New Zealand Telephone number registered to the GodIsIncredible.com domain has been disconnected.
  • The telephone number listed to the business receiving the wired amount of $2,000 has been disconnected.

Details and further updates to follow

You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.

  1. Michael Wilson listed as ‘producer’ on the funding page for ‘God Is Incredible’ – https://www.indiegogo.com/individuals/445455
  2. Michael Wilson’s email address listed on the INDIEGOGO updates page – https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/god-is-incredible–2#activity

4 comments

Leave a Reply to Heather Hastie Cancel reply