Veronica Mars: A Kickstarter Phenomenon
Friday, March 14, 2014 is the day the public and the entertainment industry will find out the true power of the digital age.
The Veronica Mars Movie could be called a risk from the studio perspective but incredible from a fan perspective. P.I. Day—3/14/14—is the culmination of a year long drive to raise funds and make a movie! It's easy to understand why this news may seem like a bit of sudden overexposure and hype for a show/movie that most have never heard of and was cancelled during its' original run (circa 2004-2007). On the other hand, for a fan (and official Kickstarter backer!), it has been a long and tedious seven-year trek to revisit characters long missed and get some sort of closure to the series as we knew it.
I have been counting down the days until the film's official release. Many of those days were spent scouring the internet for new set images and interviews as they would pop up. It has certainly helped that this digital age that we live in truly lends itself to the power of pop culture and its fans. Veronica Mars has inspired a legion of followers:
- There is fan fiction (even Amazon has created an official paying outlet for this medium)
- Twitter accounts related to the show's fictional characters,
- YouTube videos and channels providing reviews and reactions to content, and even the shows/films themselves uploading behind the scenes content and exclusives.
Technology has opened many doors and challenged the corporate structure of control for what content we get to experience. After all, MyFutprint and Saturday AM would not exist at all with out the power of the internet and it's ability to bring together talented amateurs and produce quality content without a major publisher. Technology is indeed breaking down barriers but I can't help but feel that some may be taking advantage of crowd-funding sites.
Hollywood used to be easily—not really but for argument sake—broken into two main divisions. Films were either studio features or independents, which were separated by budget and ultimately support from a big studio. Television was broken down into network and cable. Now, true indies barely exist; a movie pretty much can’t get made for less than $5 million, period. Premium television and cable far outshines network TV nowadays both for content, actors, and even viewership. The system is no longer what it used to be and content, especially original content, is paying the price.
Crowd-funding sites, like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, have opened the doors to creators that don’t have access to a studio or money to raise a budget and even possible recognition for distribution. Warner Bros cancelled Veronica Mars in 2007 and continued to own the rights to any future projects. Kristen Bell became a household name and garnered success in films and TV. But if you watch almost any interview for any of her projects, especially at Comic Con, the question that popped up was “When is there gonna be a Veronica Mars movie?” Bell, Rob Thomas, and other cast members would encounter this question over the years. Bell and Thomas tried consistently to show WB the power for the fans and the demand, but the studio didn’t believe it could materialize into actual fans paying actual money at a theatre and having a return on their money. I don’t blame them, the show started on UPN and then 1 year at the new CW with maybe 3 million viewers. The Kickstarter campaign was the only way to prove fans truly wanted a movie by putting their money to show fandom and support. This campaign was the only true measure to show Warner Bros Veronica Mars had an audience willing to pay. The studio did not have to risk their money and agreed to pay for distribution over production. The Veronica Mars campaign broke records left and right culminating in the release for Friday, March 14—3/14 P.I. Day.
In this scenario, Kickstarter was essential to prove the concept that a cancelled TV show's fans could and would support a feature film. My problem begins with the people seeing the success of Veronica Mars and trying to crowd fund vanity projects that some (including me!) would deem unnecessary. Zach Braff and Spike Lee have enough clout, money, and studio connections to not have to turn to strangers and ask for money to make a project. Their reasoning is to maintain an artistic vision and not have to answer to a studio executive type. I agree that studios can be demanding and negatively influence a final cut; however, it seems like a good contract or smaller studio would facilitate the same creative idea. By using crowd-funding sites, it seems desperate or lazy for well connected people. It also could be taking away from unknown middle America creators with no connections but the same type of projects. Backers make a choice to donate to these projects but I’m sure with limited funds. Is a household name taking money away from a possibly better project that needs more help?
I wish and hope beyond hope that Veronica Mars is a success at the box office and proves Warner Bros wrong and shows all other networks how upset and passionate fans are about their cancelled too soon television shows—Firefly, Freaks and Geeks, Pushing Daisies, V, and Moonlight.
This Friday is the ultimate test for the possible future of crowd-funding and fan power. Veronica Mars has shown enough support to get greenlit, but box office will show provide studios with a digital example—not to mention to possibility of sequels!
What will you do?
We will publish a Veronica Mars review this weekend--so check back!
By Kasey Michael--a lover of all things entertainment. Born and bred in North Carolina, she has a degree in Film Studies and can usually be found in front of a screen.