Back at Anime Expo 2018, members of Studio Trigger (Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia, Promare) announced they’d be opening a Patreon for the animation studio. Not for specific individual creators at the studio, but the studio itself. Patreon is generally used by independent creators and small teams, which made the announcement a little odd. Now in July 2019, the Trigger’s Patreon has over 2,500 patrons and is making about $7,000 USD a month. IGN sat down with members of Studio Trigger during a visit in May to discuss their collaboration for Kill la Kill the Game: IF and also got an update on Trigger’s Patreon project.
The Patreon was initially positioned as a way to potentially fundraise money for merchandise that wouldn’t be funded otherwise. That’s not what the Patreon money has been used for, though.
“Nothing goes into the company,” Trigger’s Hiromi Wakabayashi said. “It all goes to the creators that are making the content that goes to the Patreon supporters, as well as the equipment that we need to fulfill the streams.”
Trigger has been rewarding its patrons with Twitch streams that feature staff members doing live drawings, along with digital files of those drawing and surveys for the streams. Wakabayashi explained that the monthly Patreon earnings not used for streaming equipment are equally split between all creators who participate in these streams, regardless of their level within the company.
“So it doesn’t matter if you’re like a director level or an experienced artist or some who just joined the company or really new artists. I think if we start reallocating that income based on their experience or anything, that would kind of go against the original philosophy of what Patreon is all about and what we wanted to do. So of course we try to treat every creator in this context equally,” Wakabayashi said.
Even though the intent for where the money would go has changed since the Patreon was first announced, Wakabayashi and Trigger’s Tatsuru Tatemoto said it’s still a difficult project to manage in addition to everything else they do, but it’s one they wanted to do because fans requested it.
“Initially, the whole Patreon project was a request by the fans. There was also a lot of requests to make certain merchandise and we just simply thought that just not going to work out, but we found maybe it can help satisfy both parts of the fan base. But the progress with Patreon is so sluggish that we have even got to that point of even trying to consider some kind of those niche merchandise at this point.”
This isn’t Trigger’s first time working with crowdfunding projects either. Trigger’s Little Witch Academia original short sequel, Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade, was partially funded through Kickstarter. Wakabayashi said that they don’t have plans to do other crowdfunding campaigns through Kickstarter anytime soon, but they’re trying to increase the amount of communication they have with fans wherever they can. And, he said that as a relatively smaller studio than others in Japan, they’re able to explore things like Patreon and Kickstarter without worrying too much if it doesn’t work out and use them as learning experiences.
Trigger briefly put a hiatus on hosting Patreon streams until their first film, Promare, was completed. They’ve since held a stream for their patrons. Promare is debuting in North America at Anime Expo 2019 and will get a wider U.S. theatrical release through GKIDS starting on September 17. Stay tuned for IGN’s review of Promare, and for even more on Trigger’s latest projects, be sure to read how Kill la Kill the Game: IF was developed through an intense collaboration between three teams.
Miranda Sanchez is an executive editor at IGN. You can chat with her about video games and anime on Twitter.