That’s the total right now, and I’ll give updates as I’m writing this.
Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell announced this morning the genesis of a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to make a feature film based on the Veronica Mars series that ran for three seasons. Like many geek properties (Joss Whedon was such a fan that he actually appears onscreen in one episode as a snooty rental car agent.), Veronica Mars was a show with a small audience with a honey badger-like ferocity. I think many of us count ourselves as fans of TV shows that are constantly on the cancellation bubble. I personally helped purchase boxloads of little plastic footballs that were sent to NBC to stave off the cancellation of Friday Night Lights. Frequently, once our beloved show shuffles off the mortal coil, it goes through the litany of options before it’s really dead. The creative team tries to find a home on another network. And then, there’s the last dying gasps of trying to turn a failed TV show into a feature film.
You can understand when a studio chief is a little less than enthusiastic about making a feature film out of a TV show with a tiny audience. Serenity didn’t exactly flop as a movie attraction, but it sure wasn’t really a hit either.
The math just doesn’t make sense for them. In the modern TV landscape with its incredibly fractured audience, where a series only needs to attract a few million people to stay afloat, it just doesn’t make any sense to greenlight a project that only 2 or 3 million people are all that excited about.
So, what Thomas and the fabulous Ms. Bell are attempting is something of a game changer. They’ve already gone ahead and gotten Warner Bros.’ blessing on the project, and that studio has agreed to distribute the movie. All they had to do was raise $2 million to finance the movie, which would shoot this summer and be released in the first quarter of 2014. Most of the original cast is scheduled to return. Clearly a lot of groundwork was done before the Kickstarter campaign went live this morning. Lots of people are going to be working for scale on a project they care deeply about.
I’ve always thought Kickstarter was a cool idea but largely abused by dubious projects. But, what if an intellectual property with a small, but frighteningly loyal, fan base (and a creative team willing to work for peanuts) is able to actually pull this off? They’ve already raised three-quarters of a million dollars, and it’s not even lunchtime yet. At this rate, they’ll have their financing by end of business today. They will have used a website to fund a studio picture, and they will have done it in a day.
Rob Thomas has another series that was cancelled before its time, the great comedy series Party Down. Rumors of a film version have swirled for a few years now. Adam Scott seems to have to address the situation in every interview he does. Could the Party Down movie go forward if they were able to raise $2 million to finance it? Could a Buffy or Angel movie? The possibilities are intriguing.
The movie business is really on a cusp that scares the hell out of the studios. I read an interview with B-movie legend Roger Corman. Corman says the game changer will come the day the internet is a viable form of movie distribution investors can make money on. Right now, you can make an independent movie, but you almost have to partner with at least a mini-major to get a wide release. Corman says that day is coming and that the big studios are terrified of it.
But, what if you can raise your production budget and have your distribution all online? What if you can make your movie and make money from a mass audience seeing it, and a major studio isn’t involved at all? What if you could go directly to the fans?
Veronica Mars had an average of 3 million viewers a week. If each of them donated about 75 cents, this movie can get made. If each of them sees it in a theater, the film will make a tidy profit.
The total is now over $1,214,344. They’ve raised $551,257 since I started writing this. That’s really amazing. Almost 11,000 people have given money. By the end of the day we may very likely see a Veronica Mars movie greenlit all based on fan support. The implications are endless.
It’s a whole new world out there. Fans can find The Veronica Mars Movie Project’s Kickstarter campaign here.