2 Amazing Things, and 5 Troublesome Things About This Kickstarter-funded Veronica Mars Movie

03/15/2013 12:17 PM |

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Weirdly, the biggest entertainment news of the moment is that Veronica Mars, a cult-beloved but long cancelled teen detective show, has been resurrected on the strength of fan base devotion and is now destined for a major motion picture, which will shoot this summer and be released in early 2014. Show creator Rob Thomas (not the terrible Matchbox 20/Santana song Rob Thomas, it should always be noted) put up a Kickstarter funding page a couple days ago, hoping to gain the movie-modest sum of $2 million dollars. At this point, 2 days in to a 30-day project window, they’ve got 50,000 backers and $3.3 million dollars. Holy shit! Despite throwing money at all sorts of things, Kickstarter, the website founded in 2009 to provide crowd-sourced funding, has never funded a project on this scale before, and as a magic cash sponge for other seemingly marginal projects, it’s obviously drawing a lot of attention.

But is this a brand new day in film financing that has the potential to change how Hollywood works? Probably not! But it’s still cool! Except when it’s really troubling! A breakdown…

3 Comment

  • I agree that this raises a ton of questions and I understand people feeling like a big-studio project just elbowed into Kickstarter and got a bunch of attention like it’s some grassroots start-up, not a major(ish)-network TV show that already logged about 60 episodes and will now get a bunch of fans to spend upwards of forty or fifty bucks just to watch the equivalent of two or three more.

    THAT SAID, the release they’ve described on the Kickstarter page (and I’m sure this could change — as could the supposed “fans pay the production budget, WB just pays for releasing it” arrangement) sounds like the releases the Kids in the Hall or Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies got back in ’96 — major cities, wider than a lot of arthouse movies, but probably not even 1,000 screens, likely far fewer. This is not being set up as a big hit movie; this is being set up as the kind of mini-movie WB doesn’t often bother with. That brings up a whole other issue, which is that a company like WB (which shuttered its arthouse division a bunch of years ago) not being interested in movies that can’t play on at least 2,000 screens (even Sony and Universal and Fox have their arthouse divisions) is pretty sad and stupid.

    V-Mars also stands out because yes, it’s wildly more popular than most things that try to get a Kickstarter campaign going, but it is also a very low-budget exercise. When the show was airing, it was, if I recall correctly, one of the lowest-budget shows in prime-time. I imagine this helped get it to three seasons largely because it did not cost a lot to produce (and as a sidenote to the bottom-dropping game of network ratings: just six years after VM left the air, a show on the CW posting similar ratings would be a near-lock for renewal). So you can make a Veronica Mars feature that looks WAY more expensive than the show for far, far less than the budget of any major WB movie this year. People talked about Pushing Daisies or Firefly in the wake of this project’s success, and I’m like, hold up: a decent-looking Firefly movie cannot be made for $3 million or even $10 million. Given that, it does seem kind of weird that WB would deem the P&A costs to be worthwhile “if” other people put up the $3 million (or where-ever this lands at the end of the month) budget, because $3 million is, as you point out, pretty much nothing to a company this huge.

    But that also sort of dings the argument that WB is going to make a ton of money off the backs of the fans. Obviously they think they can make money or they wouldn’t agree to do it. But most likely, the amount of money this will make would normally fall into the “sorry, not worth it” column for them. I mean, if they thought this movie could make even as much as Whedon’s Serenity movie, they might have considered fronting the $2-3 million budget themselves.

    And it’s also a rights issue: they own the rights to the show, so whether you’re raising money to buy those rights back so Rob Thomas can do an indie feature or actually involving WB to basically distribute an indie feature… seems like more or less the same thing.

    I also take exception to the idea that it will become easy for fans to become “bilked” into underwriting crap like a Big Bang Theory movie or whatever. As popular as The Big Bang Theory is, I don’t imagine a lot of its fans would pony up $25-50 or more for promise of a movie. The demand isn’t there because the show has been on for years, will be on for more years, and is a big hit precisely because it appeals casually to a lot of people (rather than fanatically to a few). And if they did, would that be bilking? Or would that just be people throwing away their money on something stupid? I do think there’s a difference.

    Anyway, I guess my point is that this kind of thing is sort of self-selecting, at least right now.

  • Yeah, it might very well be a one-off, unique situation, but I guess the take away is that the possibility of crowd-sourcing major things is still in its infant stages as an idea, and right now truly funding unknown, worthy projects still seems elusive?

  • Really good, smart article from this young man… very thoughtful. Now… what did you guys do with Nate, for Chrissakes?