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Why the World Needs a Kickstarter Veronica Mars Movie

If Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell can finance this project, it could expand the creative possibilities of movies and TV alike.

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Kristen Bell, in a scene from a video on the Veronica Mars Kickstarter page.

“Maybe there’ll be a movie!” It’s been the rallying cry of many a disappointed fan of a prematurely dead TV series. Deadwood fans have carried the hope of a wrap-up movie ever since the HBO Western was fed to the pigs. Arrested Development has teased fans with the promise of a Hollywood feature for years—and still is, even as it gets ready to release a new season on Netflix, which is intended as the prelude to a still-not-certain flick. Community pre-emptively raised the hope while it was still on the air with the slogan, “Six seasons and a movie!”

There has been similar talk about a Veronica Mars movie ever since the UPN/CW teen-noir drama slept the big sleep too soon, after three seasons in 2007. But it may actually happen—depending how badly its fans want it.

Creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell have launched a Kickstarter project to raise $2 million to pay for a Veronica Mars movie. You pay for it, they’ll make it. As with many Kickstarter projects, there are sweetener incentives for donors—everything from T-shirts and digital downloads of the movie (“within a few days” of the theatrical debut) to being cast as a background extra. But there’s also a catch. Because of schedule issues (particularly Bell’s commitment to House of Lies), they need to raise the funds in 30 days. If not, no one pays—they leave the pledges uncollected—and the chance to make the movie passes forever.

Now I’m not in the business of telling you what to do with your money. But I will say that this is an important experiment, not just for this particular movie but for the movies (and TV) in general. Yes, I’d like to see Veronica Mars get a chance to come back. (And I say this as someone who doesn’t always think movie versions of TV shows are a good idea; but Veronica Mars’ mystery format and unfinished business make it a good candidate.)

The bigger deal, though, is what a successful Mars mission could mean for supposedly lost causes, niche stories, and tough-to-finance projects in the future. Getting a movie (or a TV show) made successfully isn’t just about pleasing a home audience; it’s about crafting a pitch that convinces a smaller audience of studio executives or investors that the show is worth their money. You may really want a certain movie to be made, but you are only going to buy so many tickets (or, later, DVDs). In other words, in movies as in TV, there’s an assumption that you have to satisfy a broad audience to succeed.

The potential for projects like Kickstarter is that they provide a way to monetize depth, not just breadth, of interest—which is something that has helped creative diversity in the larger entertainment world. Netflix, HBO and Showtime make series that couldn’t be made 10 years ago, because they have a way of monetizing TV fans who like the shows so much they’ll pay. Likewise, established artists like Louis CK have been able to retail their art directly to fans.

In the same sense, the traditional movie business doesn’t really monetize intensity of interest. I mean, you can decide to see a favorite film ten times, but beyond that, the ticket of an intense fan generates no more money than that of a casual fan. Kickstarter can change that, even more than direct-pay models like iTunes or indirect-pay models like pay cable. Do you really want a Veronica Mars movie? Well, you can now literally set a price on how badly you want it. If this project fails, of course, others may think twice about trying again. If it succeeds, though, who’s to say we can’t pay for more non-TV-based movies, or iTunes-style downloads of entire TV seasons?

As I post this, hours after the drive went live, the pledges have just cracked $100,000. As I said, the call is yours, but my money is on expanding the opportunities for creative work to get made.

[Update: I should note, in the interest of somewhat complicated disclosure, that the movie would be made for Warner Brothers, which is currently a sister company of TIME in Time Warner--though, also in fairness, under the terms of Time Inc.'s spinoff plan, it will no longer be a sister company by next year when the movie is made and any profit realized. So consider that connection, or future lack of connection, accordingly.]

31 comments
movietempest24
movietempest24

I agree, a Veronica Mars movie is a great idea that should definitely happen. I first heard about the idea while I was at work at DISH, when a few of my coworkers mentioned it. So I checked Kickstarter, and the project has already raised well over the two million dollars it originally wanted, so I’m looking forward to seeing the movie when it comes out. I want to re-watch the TV show first, though. All the seasons are available for rent from Blockbuster @Home through DISH, which has over 100,000 titles to choose from, so it’s always easy for me to find what I’m looking for.

kevinchiat
kevinchiat

@LunaCinemas Really hoping I'll be able to see the Veronica Mars movie at Luna sometime next year.

Dawn Chapman
Dawn Chapman

Do it ! Do it! This would make my year!!!

Ana Dorogan
Ana Dorogan

YES Please please please! bring her back!!!!!!!!!!

bskott
bskott

It's already at $1.5 million. Can't wait to see the movie!

Chris_Kw
Chris_Kw

Just saw a picture of a very pregnant Kristen Bell yesterday. I guess she's going to be giving birth anyday now because Kristen will need a few weeks to rest and prepare for the shoot. At least that's what I would assume.

Okay. Posting on this blog is difficult for me. I keep in posting comments to the wrong articles. But I think I finally got it figured out.

rubypearl
rubypearl

well, for $50 you get shirt and dvd, plus script and updates, i would say that paid for itself..

Wallace92620
Wallace92620

@poniewozik OMG, what kind of piece of crap movie can be made for $2,000,000? Nothing against VM, just not enuf $ to even pay the caterers.

bill_nottingham
bill_nottingham

@poniewozik So, it's not 100% clear - is the kickstarter for full funding, or just seed funding at which point WB takes over?

ArtSwift
ArtSwift

I just donated $750 to the project and I'm going to the premiere in LA! At the rate the pledges are going, Jamie, this will be fully funded by the end of the day. The counter is at $650,000 as I type this. That's in one day.

OhPlease
OhPlease

America does not need billion dollar corporations exploiting fans to finance their movies. Particularly not the corporation which blew $200 million on Green Lantern, yet cannot pony up the money for a TV movie which will most certainly sell for a profit by the usual channels. Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell may think this is for the fans, but it's really about enabling Warner to exploit them. Have they considered the impact on actual independent Kickstarter projects when projects by corporations and famous wealthy people take over the site? I suspect not. And while I enjoyed you back in the Salon days, James, this post is amazingly out of touch, plus a bit suspect as the force behind this was your employer up until recently .

TabbyFlatt
TabbyFlatt

I disagree wholeheartedly. Rob has been campaigning and talking with WB for YEARS to get this movie done. When they had no interest, he asked them to release the rights to it so he could do it on his own. It's his (and Kristen Bell's) determination and committment to the idea of this movie that even enabled this opportunity. It's a shame WB wouldn't just release the rights when they wouldn't greenlight it, but it also isn't expected to be a profitcenter. I would guess it will have a very limited theater release, like an indie flick, especially given that most kickstarter backers will be able to download the digital film within days of release.

James isn't out of touch, but has broader context on the show and key players as well as what this could mean for other efforts without large studio affiliation. It expands the conversations started by Netflix and Hulu original series, new episodes of Arrested Development on Netflix and the power of social media and consumers. Further, James was more skeptical about the possible success of the kickstarter project (and not driven by the force of a recent employer) as is evident by the shattered records (Veronica Mars Movie raised $1million in about 4 hours, breaking a prior record of 7-8 hours).

jponiewozik
jponiewozik moderator

@OhPlease I disagree with the idea that one class of Kickstarter applicant is more morally deserving of support or another. Any donor has the right to decide whether a particular project meets their definition of need--and it's entirely valid for you or anyone to make that call. To me, the larger good is to create funding paths that can harness intense interest rather than just broad casual interest. That said, I should (and did) add the disclosure of soon-to-be-former connection above. (As I say, it's complicated. The spinoff means my employer would not benefit from any future profit, and if anything I could be motivated by spite against Warner Brothers!)

Anyway, glad to see a reader from the Salon days. I will say over the years I have found I can express the exact same opinion in Salon and Time and people will assume the latter is corporatist because of where it was published. Nothing I can do about that.