Big news for fans of cult television has continued to blossom over nearly the past week. Showrunner Rob Thomas and actress Kristen Bell opened a kickstarter campaign to fund their big screen resurrection of the three season-long UPN series, Veronica Mars, after Warner Brothers refused to financially support a project that they deemed fan-less (WB owns the rights to Thomas’ Mars). The duo set the bar at a relatively small $2 million – this is obviously very large within the realm of kickstarter, but when compared to the average cost of a feature-length film at the multiplex, this is cheap – and set a kickstarter record when it passed the $1 million mark in under five hours. This was the first film project funded through the site to ever reach a mark that high, and after just five more hours, the $2 million goal was reached. So now, as promised, the Veronica Mars movie will now go into production this summer during Kristen Bell’s shooting hiatus from Showtime’s House of Lies with a proposed release date during early 2014.
Kickstarter is a funding program for creative projects where backers can support various productions, operations, innovations and directly contribute to their fruition. As of this article’s creation, the Veronica Mars kickstarter has amassed a highly triumphant take of $3,708,608 thanks to a registered 56,616 backers. There’s no questioning it, the fans have spoken!
And I will as well.
So now, kickstarter…
There have been editorials popping up all over the Internet regarding the Veronica Mars kickstarter because this event is making waves in the trades and within the film community. The reaction is mixed: Just as many people are opposing the kickstarter production of a Veronica Mars movie as there are people in favor of it. Yet, they have all raised one major question that has ushered in numerous responses and that is, “What show will be resurrected next through kickstarter?” If something as beloved as Veronica Mars, a UPN program that I only know because I remember seeing it promoted during episodes of Enterprise [throws up “live long and prosper” hand gesture confidently in dorm room] and it provided Kristen Bell with a career, what other cancelled, fan favorites can be brought the big screen due to Mars’ triumph? Obvious answers have been Terriers, Chuck, Freaks & Geeks, Firely, even others pushing for an Arrested Development movie, even though Hurwitz is taking that step following the Netflix-only fourth season debuting this year. People with high hopes are pushing for a film version of The Sopranos. Optimism is a free drug and everybody is high off of Rob Thomas’ stunning kickstarter success.
But, like I said, this optimism is being met with strong negativity. Collider writer Matt Goldberg posted an editorial arguing against the Mars kickstarted budget. Most of it refuted and bashed Film School Rejects’ Scott Beggs, who was gaga over Thomas’ success and what kickstarter could mean for the future of film production. Still, Goldberg’s and Beggs’ strong opinions show the level of importance the film community is bestowing upon the paid-for-by-fans Veronica Mars movie. Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall (who also writes for my native Jerseyan newspaper, The Star Ledger) is clearer in his buzzing thoughts about big budget kickstarters. If any movie was to be made via kickstarter, Veronica Mars makes the most sense. During its time on the air, it was one of the cheapest produced shows – that is what comes with being a high school drama sprinkled with film noir. Once special effects start to get involved, things get pricey. Once high-level actors are asked to come in during the breaks in their schedule and work for cheap, if anything, things start to get complicated.
Joss Whedon commented about how another Serenity movie would be impossible to fund through kickstarter and he’s absolutely right (despite the millions of hearts he broke simultaneously across the geek pantheon). The first Firefly-based movie, Serenity, cost $40 million. Kickstarter can’t raise that kind of money. Even as much as it pains me to say that I will never, ever get to see some kind of conclusion for the late HBO program, Luck, I know that a kickstarter campaign to resurrect Milch’s horseracing drama would be a failed venture – Sepinwall makes a similar point about Milch’s Deadwood. Shows like Bryan Fuller’s Pushing Daisies, which has been rumored to consider a kickstarter campaign, or even Rob Thomas’ Party Down stand a much better chance because of their low financial deamnd, but even then, where’s the novelty in these copycat kickstarters? The satisfaction of seeing a Veronica Mars on the big screen as a result of fanbase finance will be very, very fulfilling. To see it three more times isn’t nearly as exciting. I urge everyone to read the rest of Sepinwall’s editorial here, as well as his interview with Rob Thomas regarding the success of the kickstarter campaign here.
I’ll be the first to say that even as a film student here at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, I have yet to take part in the benefits of kickstarter myself. I’ve participated on film projects around my campus but nothing that required such budgetary support that only something like kickstarter would provide. However, I have a group of friends who have only recently begun shooting a film project financed by kickstarter (shoutout to Rat Cave Productions, LCC). The large crew worked endlessly to reach their goal and so they could begin production on a personal project and the joy I feel for them is incalculable. I even got to see them briefly shoot this past weekend and it’s reassuring, comforting, and exciting to know that they were filming something that was their own project, through and through. It gave me extreme hope watching them work; the world I’m preparing to enter and hopefully work in is made up of pathways carved by others like my friends and myself, so we might as well start paving the way now.
Observing this Veronica Mars phenomenon as a student just about halfway through his time at film school gives me a unique perspective. Mars’ kickstarter success proves that kickstarter really does work, in more ways than many of us originally thought. A major motion picture, with Hollywood hands all over it, is now being funded because of fan support through a kickstarter campaign. Rob Thomas is hardly different from my friends in that he wanted to make something that was wholly his own but he lacked the financial support. Warner Brothers made a tactical error in thinking that Thomas’ show didn’t possess the fanbase to make a Veronica Mars movie worthwhile, but Thomas proved them wrong 100%. I’ve read comments about how this kickstarter campaign is a step backwards for Hollywood because the studios are refusing to provide money that they have and are forcing fans to pay for movies that they want to see made. I disagree, I think this not only shows the obvious power of kickstarter, but it shows the power of the individual and the momentum that can be created to get something made, especially something that is going to mean a great deal to every single person who contributed to the film’s making as well as Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell. This is a motivational development and should inspire people to utilize kickstarter. This is an enriching period in film history, whether you like it or not.
Collider’s Goldberg called Thomas’ kickstarter a “multiplex invasion of the art house.” Really? Well, I’ll remember not to support your dream when you turn to kickstarter for support, Matt.
Making a movie is no easy task and making a movie the way you want to make it is exponentially more difficult. Money is a make-it-or-break-it component of filmmaking, and until now the Veronica Mars movie didn’t seem to have a prayer. Cheers to Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell for making there goal and lets hope that other artists, young and old, find similar success with their kickstarter projects. Click here to visit the official kickstarter page for the Veronica Mars movie. Read the personal introductions from both Bell and Thomas and view their wicked funny kickstarter launch video. Consider contributing and receiving a number of nifty goodies from the movie as the months continue and the movie begins production (for $10,000 one very wealthy kickstarter devotee purchased a speaking part in the movie, as well as some other really cool Veronica Mars products).
I have never watched Veronica Mars, but the first two seasons are available to stream directly on theWB.com. Let’s make Rob Thomas’ movie into a game changer and turn Thomas’ dream into something truly fantastic. We’re in the business of making dreams come true, aren’t we?
That’s what the movies are.
Article by Mike Murphy