It’s been a year since “Veronica Mars” re-entered our lives from the abyss of cancelled TV shows, and if you were around then, you might remember I was pretty excited about its return.
“Veronica Mars” is by no means the first film to come to life thanks to Kickstarter, but it is arguably the most high profile, and the only film to also have studio backing thanks to Warner Bros. owning the rights to the brand (i.e. they had to give the go ahead). As a personal backer, it has been a fascinating journey to be a part of as you watched them literally made up the rules for a world where a fan-funded and studio-backed film can co-exist. So…how did they do?
When you’re asking people to invest their own money for no financial gain (except some awesome rewards) it is key that the people have faith you are doing right by their generous contribution. Particularly since, you know, they’re not curing cancer here. Rob Thomas has had to play a very delicate game here of wanting to do right by the backers while also acknowledging the contribution and goals of Warner Bros, and has been very clear about who has done what, even admitting that it was the WB who picked up the bill for all those backer rewards – leaving the full $5.7 million to be spent on making the film. If “Veronica Mars” is going to get another Hail Mary pass, however, it will only be if the film is profitable – a profit that goes direct to the WB – not the fans. The way to manage potential outcry at this is by being upfront, and no one can say they haven’t been clear that at the end of the day they want the film to make money.
Instagram takeovers, live Facebook chats, a backers-only website, thank you videos, everyone involved has gone above and beyond here. I mean, just watch this.
Currently clocking in at 85 updates over 52 weeks, almost all of which coming from Thomas in his unmistakeable writing style, the team maintained momentum even when they were in the less exciting post production phase of development. Thomas kept things moving with explanations about how the film editing process works, highlighting work and people behind the scenes, and just generally being excited by the whole project 24/7. He gets an A+ for energy, particularly since he also wrote some “Veronica Mars” novels in this period as well (I suppose this means I have to start reading books again? Good one, Rob)
So they lost my t-shirt somewhere along the way but once I filed an enquiry and it was investigated I had my very own “Veronica Mars” shirt within a week. Thank you nameless people who no doubt had to sort through thousands of such queries!
Grade: C for losing my shirt, A for getting me another one. Overall – B.
Again, a fine line in who to thank more – the backers or Warner Bros – but with a special backers only screening at SxSW, fan events at Comic Con, and the term ‘we wouldn’t be here without the fans’ being replayed so much even I’m sick of hearing it, credit where credit is due, the backers should feel appreciated with this kind of treatment. And, you know, compared Zach Braff’s efforts with “Wish I Was Here” – failing to even thank the film’s Kickstarter backers at its Sundance premiere, and then posting a defensive rant following media reports of backer complaints regarding lack of communication on the rewards.
In this new course of joint crowdfunded and studio films 101, essentially:
Zach Braff: How not to manage it
Rob Thomas: How to manage it
A: The experience has been fascinating to track, timely in that they wrote, filmed, edited and released the film within a year, and exciting to have front row seats as to how this will play out.
Where to from here?
Rob Thomas has stated “[i]n my little fantasy universe, we become the low-budget Bond franchise, and every two or three years, we put out another one. My end goal is to replace Nancy Drew. She had her 60 years, and I want Veronica Mars to take the next 60.”
The film opens in limited release and Video On Demand globally this week. Early reports from SxSW suggest the fans will be delighted, with newcomers intrigued by the publicity probably less so. While it’s unlikely to set the Box Office on fire due to so many free digital copies of the film floating around from backer rewards, hey, if it reinvigorates the “Veronica Mars” franchise and more people will be willing to check out the phenomenal Seasons One and Two of the series, surely that’s a success story.
Check back for our review later this week.
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Clint's Nicolas Cage impersonation