I am willing to put money on the fact that the great majority of you have never seen an episode of American teen drama Veronica Mars in your life. I am also willing to bet that you HAVE seen stories about the cult TV show being made into a movie – all thanks to a little thing called Kickstarter. And it wasn’t a story because it was about Veronica Mars – though as a fan, I was pretty stoked about that – it was a story because this project is the first major studio film to be funded by Kickstarter, and set the highest fundraising target the site had ever seen (US$2M). Oh, and yeah, it met that target in 10 hours. TEN HOURS of fan’s financial contributions are getting a film made? Yep, that’s the story. And that’s the thing that has me excited this week.
But, let’s go back a step, to those of you who are asking what the frack is Kickstarter??? I had seen reference to it in tweets and news stories over the past couple of years (I knew, for example, that Taika Waititi used it to raise the money for a US release of Boy), but was pretty vague on the details until the Veronica story hit. Basically – and you can read more about it here – it is an online funding platform for creative projects that probably wouldn’t get made but for grassroots support. It allows a band, a director, a writer to create a project and set a fundraising target. Everyone who pledges money gets some kind of reward, depending on the size of the pledge. For Veronica, low level pledges get copies of the script and signed posters, while the high rollers get to attend the red carpet premiere. So, not only are you investing in something you want to see happen, but you are also getting something for your money (other than just the movie). Kickstarter also sets the rule that your money will only be taken if the project meets it’s target – which makes sense. If Veronica creator Rob Thomas hadn’t met his $2M target, Warner Bros wouldn’t have green lit the movie, and the money pledges had pledged would go nowhere. Instead, if they hadn’t met their target the money wouldn’t have been taken at all. So, that’s clever. And that’s Kickstarter.
Now for the other piece of the puzzle – what’s Veronica Mars? It is a quirky little TV show that aired in the US for three years, ending in 2007. Its titular protagonist is a teenage private investigator (played by Kristen Bell), and the show follows her life – investigations, romances, family dramas, etc. I would aliken it to Buffy in terms of tone – very tongue in cheek and snarky, but in a fundamentally nice way. I am a big fan. Since the show’s end its creator, core cast and fans have wanted to get a film off the ground, but funding and studio support for a show whose ratings were never massive has been hard to come by. So this week they turned to Kickstarter, and what a kick start they got. They needed $2M to get the film made – no expensive CGI or motion capture required here, and the stars were willing to do it cheap – and they are currently (as at time of writing) sitting on $3.5M after three days – with 27 left to go. If pledges keep happening they could indeed, as the creator has joked, film it on a submarine and cast Bill Murray in a supporting role. So, a very successful project then.
So, I am excited about that on it’s own – a Veronica Mars movie to see next year? Hell yeah! But I am even more excited about what this means for the industry. I have ranted before here about how risk averse Hollywood is, and how they seem to only fund things that are tried and true success stories – like superhero comics and remakes of previously successful movies. And it could be said here that making a movie out of a relatively successful TV show isn’t that risk averse either – especially since they know, via Kickstarter, that there is fan support for it. But, Kickstarter could also be used for brand new things – though you would probably need a big name star, writer or director to rally support behind it. And brand new things that the studios would be unwilling to fund themselves. So, it lets us as the audience have more of a say over what can get made – rather than just leaving it to the studio big wigs to decide what we have to see at the cinemas. And that is pretty damn exciting.
And it isn’t just cinema, obviously. I personally am excited about the prospects that Kickstarter offers writers – you (or I even) could create a project to raise enough money to self-publish a book, and do it well – so that rather than just having e-copies you could also get hard copies printed and have money left over to do some proper marketing. Many people do this already and fund it themselves, but having this avenue open is even better. And people who pledge could have characters named after them or dedications made or their favourite joke included – the scope is unlimited really.
So, the Veronica Mars story has made my week, on a number of fronts. For those who haven’t seen the show, do check it out, it is well worth it. And in the meantime, put your thinking hats on about projects you might be willing to fund on Kickstarter. A West Wing movie? A Firefly movie? A remake of the MASH movie/TV show with a brand new cast? Ah, the opportunities are endless. Thanks Kickstarter 🙂