The Power of Fandom: Funding the ‘Veronica Mars’ movie
If you’ve been living under a rock today, or perhaps just been away from the Internet, the folks behind the cult series ‘Veronica Mars’ launched a Kickstarter campaign this morning to raise money for a feature film. They need to raise a minimum of $2 million in 30 days in order to make the film.
Rob Thomas, the show’s creator, and Kristen Bell, the actress who played the titular heroine, have been very vocal since the show was canceled in 2007 that they’d love to continue telling the story of Neptune and its inhabitants this way, but Warner Bros., who still owns the show and its characters, wouldn’t budget the film because they didn’t believe it was profitable. That all changed once Thomas and Bell received permission from the studio to fund the film through donations from fans. But I don’t think anyone, least of all the cast and creator, saw this kind of support coming.
The Kickstarter campaign broke the record for the fastest campaign to ever reach $1 million, doing so in under five hours (the previous record was seven). As I write this, the total amount pledged still creeps ever higher at just over $1.75 million in less than 12 hours. At this rate, they’re likely to reach their minimum goal today. The ‘Veronica Mars’ movie that we’ve spent years dreaming about is going to be made y’all, and it’s because of us. You and me. Fans from around the world who have come together to fund the largest Kickstarter campaign (in film) in history.
There are, of course, voices of dissent who bring up the idea that we’re giving our money away for what is ultimately a studio film, not an independent film, or God forbid, a charity for cancer research. But the truth of the matter is this: we’re doing what we’d all have done anyway, just in reverse. Monetary negotiations happen for every film made, but they usually go on behind the scenes. Then the film is made and released and we spend millions of dollars in box office ticket sales and the studio makes a profit. And while these points are not without merit, I do think that in this instance, we shouldn’t be calling this Kickstarter campaign tacky or self-indulgent. It’s very much a passion project for everyone involved, including the cast and creator.
“But you’re not getting a return on your investment!” chant those voices. You’re right, we’re getting more. We might not be getting any of the monetary profits, but we’re getting a film that we’ve been waiting the last six years for, and to true fans, that’s what matters. And it’s not as if we’re just throwing our money into a garbage disposal, we are getting something in return. We’re getting, depending on our level of donation, any number of things. In addition to the movie itself (which to me, honestly, is enough to donate some cash), we’re getting anything from a speaking part in the film to a personalized outgoing voicemail from one of the cast members to a signed movie poster or t-shirt. But more importantly, we’re getting the simple pleasure brought about by the continuation of a story we know and love.
Maybe you don’t care about the TV show or film. Maybe you’d rather donate your money to the local humane society or to AIDS research. That’s fine too! Please do all of those things! But this is what we want to do with our money. If we want to spend it on a movie, then by God, not even Madison Sinclair is going to stop us from spending it on a movie. We’re going to pay for confirmation that Logan and Veronica do indeed end up together. We’re going to pay to find out whether or not Keith won the election. We’re going to pay just to return to that world, if only for a little while longer, because we can. This is what it means to be a fan. We don’t do these things because we expect some form of payment in return, we do them because we care.
Putting the specifics of the film aside, this campaign, if anything, has sparked a debate about the future of media, and about the future of the arts and how they are both produced and consumed. And I think that’s great. Remember when Felicia Day first created ‘The Guild’ as a webseries? Remember when Joss Whedon created ‘Dr. Horrible’ and released it for free on the Internet? These are the bold moves that changed the way we watch and consume media, and this Kickstarter campaign could just be the next progressive step forward.
Does it mean that more of our beloved TV shows that were canceled too soon will be reborn through fan donations? Maybe! I, for one, would not be against donating toward a ‘Terriers’ wrap-up film or a ‘Deadwood’ conclusion. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the success of the ‘Veronica Mars’ Kickstarter will give birth to those sorts of endeavors. If it does, that’s great, but if it doesn’t, that’s also OK. But it’s enough that this experience has started a conversation about where we go from here.
The truth of the matter is that for fans, it’s not really how the film was made, but that it will be made. Despite all of the dissenters, we’ll know that this movie came about because of our passion and the passion of the men and women like us, who believed in it enough to make it happen. Yes, we might be sending our money off to a studio to create a film they could have funded, but the bottom line is that they weren’t. If you want something done, you have to do it yourself. And that’s what we’ve done. We’ve grasped hold of a dream we’ve shared for years and we’re making it a reality. Whether or not you share that dream is your own prerogative, but do not shame others because you don’t agree with how we’ve spent our hard earned money.