By now you've surly heard of the Kickstarter to fund a Veronica Mars movie, organized by the cast (including star Kristen Bell) and creator Rob Thomas. The campaign launched yesterday and by last night, had broken records at the fundraising service, reaching its $2 million goal in a matter of hours. As of this writing it's currently amassed around $2.6 million, with 29 days left to go.
Of course, with a move like this, there are bound to be widely differing opinions. Critics and fans began the merits of the Kickstarter plan since the moment it launched, and with good reason. The near-immediate success of the campaign raises fascinating questions about contemporary TV/movie production, fandom, and the relationship between the two.
I love me some VM, but I'm wary of the precedent of this Kickstarter.If you like it, then you fund it.....twice!— Anne Helen Petersen(@annehelen) March 13, 2013
There are a number of possible positives to come from this. The first being, well, there’s going to be a Veronica Mars movie. The rumors and rumblings about a potential film have been out there since The CW canceled the show and as the video on the Kickstarter page suggests, the cast (or at least a good chunk of the “important” ones) are totally committed to making the film work. The unbelievable speed at which Rob Thomas and company received donations suggests that there’s still a big—or at least dedicated—fan base out there for the show, so even though I tend to wish that “There will be a movie!” and “We’re doing another season on Netflix!” stories would just go away, I’m happy to know such fans exist for this good show.
To me: finding ways to leverage intense interest=more possibilities for creators. But totally get choice not to kick in for a studio movie— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) March 13, 2013
Furthermore, if the produced film ends up being successful (and it has to be the film, too, not just the Kickstarter campaign), it’s very likely that this presents a model for future canceled shows with diehard fan bases with disposable income. Fans and critics have knocked around the idea of fan-funded continuations of dead shows before, but a successful Veronica Mars film would lend major credence to that model. The success of the Veronica Mars crowd-sourcing campaign tells us (and Hollywood) that productions can come together in new ways based on what audiences already know that they want—not some property adaptation that’s test-marketed and workshopped dozens of times until it’s lifeless. We’ve already seen independent projects like Jane Espenson’s Husbands web series funded through Kickstarter, and while I hope this Veronica Mars situation inspires more independent television, it's a different animal altogether. It could open the floodgates for other canceled shows to get movies, shorter web series, or who knows, full seasons of television-length content. It’s a big moment for fan empowerment and intervention in traditional Hollywood production processes.
I don't see the downside of using Kickstarter for major-studio project. It helps support KS, which should help indies as well. (1/2)— Jason Mittell (@jmittell) March 13, 2013
As for fans as funders, we're basically just pre-buying merch, DVDs, or experiences. How is that unethical? (2/2) #VeronicaMarsMovie— Jason Mittell (@jmittell) March 13, 2013
However, there are other ways to look at this development and fan involvement within it. First, while VMars is a great test case for whether or not something like this can work financially (and we now know that it can), it’s also probably an exceptional example of how it would work production-wise. Not only is the cast already on-board and working together to figure out scheduling barriers, but the story is dominated by one character/actor. With Bell on-board, Thomas can alter the story and his use of other performers depending on finances and scheduling to fit any budgetary concerns. Conversely, it’d be tougher to make a similar project happen for a show like, say, Community: bigger, busier cast and a story that kind of needs them all (well, not Chang or Pierce, but you know what I mean). There are similar challenges for shows with higher concepts or budgets (imagine a Kickstarter-funded extension of Terra Nova).
@admiralchristy Except it's not for the fans' sake...? It's to help offset risk of return for the media conglom that didn't see $$$ upside— Noel Kirkpatrick (@noelrk) March 13, 2013
And as Noel and others have pointed out on Twitter, asking fans to partially fund a production that is under the purview of Warner Bros., a massive media conglomerate, is complicated. Rob Thomas doesn’t own Veronica Mars and as the Kickstarter page notes, Warner Bros. is still involved, at least in distribution. It’s unclear at the moment how much money WB is going to kick in to help this thing get off the ground, but the campaign obviously exists to both secure more money that Warner Bros. doesn’t want to pony up and to show Warner Bros. how much fan interest there is in the project once it’s actually done. So fans probably aren’t footing the whole bill, but rather a good portion of it. That makes some people uncomfortable, and I see that, but I guess if you want to give them money to get something you love, it’s their right to ask you for it and your right to give it to them.
So basically I'm an asshole for questioning the motivation of the same system that canceled the show that's going to be a movie now.— Richard Lawson (@rilaws) March 14, 2013
But I want to turn it over to you folks. Did you donate to the campaign, and if so, why? What other projects (web series, spin-offs, movies, etc.) would you be willing to help fund? And which other canceled shows do you think have devoted enough fans to make another, similar Kickstarter’d project work?