Try and think of what you can accomplish in ten hours. It might not be a whole lot. But ten hours was all it took for a “Veronica Mars” film to crowd-fund $2 million on Kickstarter. By the time this article is published, they will likely have soared past the $4 million mark. The project is setting new records for Kickstarter and making waves on the internet.
Fans of “Veronica Mars” are ecstatic. So are the fans of other short-lived television series, cancelled before a proper end. Shows like “Terriers,” “Chuck,” and “Pushing Daisies” might not have attained the ratings needed to stay alive, but they all managed to acquire a passionate fan base that will pay a lot of money to see their favorite show up on the big screen. Joss Whedon pulled off a small miracle with “Serenity,” his big screen wrap up for the one season-long “Firefly.” The success of “Veronica Mars” opens up new avenues for cancelled shows to achieve their closing act.
This success and the potential for more has changed the way some people view Kickstarter. Not everyone sees this change as positive. Some argue that Warner Brothers is milking their fans, that the purity of Kickstarter is being destroyed, or that a bad precedent is being set for the way movies are made. Relax everyone, Kickstarter is still the amazing, crowd-funding site that it was a month ago and I’ll tell you why.
Some would argue that fans of “Veronica Mars” are being exploited. Why are fans paying a big studio like Warner Brothers to create a low budget movie? Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Rob Thomas, creator of “Veronica Mars” and the creator of its Kickstarter page, addressed this controversy, “It seems to me that the people who complain the most, and the complaint is, ‘Why am I giving money to a studio to make a movie?’ as though there’s no return on that money.”
He’s right. Backers of the project are not giving Warner Brothers their money and then also paying to see the film when it’s released. Kickstarter is based on a tiered system of reward. The more money you as a backer donate, the better the rewards should be. Example; donating $10 will snag you a PDF of the shooting script while donating $10,000 landed one lucky fan the role of a server who will say, “Your check, sir.”
The problem many people have is that backers must donate $35 or more before they receive a digital version of the movie. This is a steep price for a digital download but it comes with a t-shirt and the PDF of the shooting script. What makes it worth it to me is none of these things. Kickstarter is about being a part of the creation process.
Does Warner Brothers really need help financing this film? No, of course not. A couple million dollars may be a big deal on Kickstarter but to a Hollywood studio like Warner Brothers that’s chump change. But “Veronica Mars” isn’t a big Hollywood production and it wasn’t going to happen without a huge show of support from the fans.
And that right there is what makes it worth it. Because when Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars herself said, “It’s because of YOUR commitment, YOUR persistence, that we finally have a chance,” she actually means it. Not only do you receive the rewards but you have become a part of the process of getting YOUR movie made. I’ve helped finance a couple Kickstarter projects myself and I can say from experience, it’s a very cool feeling.
Another thing we have to remember is that Warner Brothers is slashing its own ticket sales by using the Kickstarter reward system. The movie was never going to be a box office sensation in the first place, and many of the backers who might have gone to see the movie will have received the movie as a reward anyway.
Kickstarter is still a place for small independent creators to avoid the leash of a studio or a publisher. I don’t think we need to worry about big film studios corrupting that purity. Rob Thomas has been trying for years to get the movie made but was met with failure time and time again.
In the end Kickstarter was the only way to make the movie happen. Thomas himself admitted that he is being paid guild-minimum and that Kristen Bell isn’t being paid anything close to her quote. In his words “We’re all working for labor of love prices.”
For those worried about the future of Kickstarter, my message is this: take a breath. Let fans of “Veronica Mars” rejoice for five minutes before shouting doomsday prophecies about Kickstarter going down the drain. Kickstarter is still the domain of the independent creator. One “Veronica Mars” movie isn’t going to change that.
Zach Pearson can be contacted at