NEW YORK – After years of hope, stalled efforts and studio frustration, Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas watched a long-held dream come to fruition in a sudden digital rush.
There were a few minutes of nothing happening, he says. Then in an hour, watching that ticker go was mesmerizing. I had an attention span of, like, four seconds because everything on my computer screen I wanted to look at at the same time. The Twitter feed was going crazy, the emails were going crazy and then watching that Kickstarter total go up.
Thomas last week launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a movie of his cult TV show, which was canceled after three seasons in 2007. It met its stated goal of raising $2 million in less than 11 hours, meaning it would be greenlit to begin shooting this summer. It’s surpassed $3.7 million with more than two weeks still to go.
The resounding, immediate success of the crowd-funding campaign sent shockwaves through the movie business. Films had found much-needed financial support on Kickstarter before, but Veronica Mars is different. It’s a studio project, owned by Warner Bros., which produced the show.
The money given by the fervent fans of Veronica Mars, which starred Kristen Bell as a teenage private eye, will go not to a filmmaker operating on his own, but one with the distribution and marketing muscle of a very large corporation – just one that hadn’t previously been convinced to bankroll a Veronica Mars film.
Were donating fans spurring a goliath to action, or its unwitting pawns?
The wide majority of Veronica Mars fans couldn’t care less. They will get the movie they craved, as well as the proud feeling of having played an essential role in the show’s resurrection.
Joss Whedon, whose devoted fanboy following is similar, if larger, than Thomas’, said that he reacted in unfettered joy at the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign. But Whedon, who realizes he’ll now be hounded to follow suit with another movie of his canceled cult TV series Firefly, acknowledged some trepidation about the financial arrangement for fans.
I understand that it feels not as pure, and that the presence of a studio makes it disingenuous somehow, Whedon told BuzzFeed. But people clearly understood what was happening and just wanted to see more of the thing they love. To give them that opportunity doesn’t feel wrong. If it was a truly wrong move, I don’t think it would have worked.
Many are already seeing new potential to capitalize on small but dedicated fan support. Shawn Ryan, whose FX drama Terriers was canceled in 2010 after one season, tweeted that he was very interested in the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign. Could be a model for a Terriers’ wrap up film, he said.
Thomas also co-created another canceled show – the Starz cult comedy Party Down – that may be reborn as a film. He’s still hopeful that will happen, but says funding is already lining up more traditionally.
In the meantime, he’s hoping the Kickstarter contributions keep coming. More money means being able to shoot in Southern California (where the show was set) and gradual boosts in production value. The screenplay, of which he has 37 pages written, features a 10-year high school reunion for Mars’ Neptune High – a gathering that will include inevitable strife.
It already promises to be a different kind of filmmaking experience. He’ll have 100-plus Kickstarter contributors to use as extras. A documentary on the making of the movie has begun tracking Thomas with cameras. And the production schedule has been built to include two days purely for Thomas, Bell and others to sign the thousands of movie posters and other items they’ve promised their Kickstarter backers.