Nearly six years after the cancellation of the cult favorite Veronica Mars, the TV Series is getting resurrected as the first studio film funded by the fans through a Kickstarter Campaign. After years of rejection from Warner Bros., series-creator Rob Thomas has, at last, found a way to bring back Veronica back to our screens, mixing up alternative production and distribution models to prove it still has an audience.
Within the first 10 hours the campaign reached, and surpassed, it’s initial pledging of 2 million dollars, making it not only the first project to reach it’s funding goal within the given time but also setting records for being the first initiative in the film category to seek out the steep asking price. With 26 days still left to pledge, the project has currently reached $3.5 million, with approximately 55 thousand fans backing the long-awaited revival. After a year of negotiations with the studio, owner of the franchise and all it’s characters, the movie has been green-lit for an early 2014 theatrical and digital release and is already shaping the way fans interact, and control, the television environment.
This isn’t the first time the fans have backed the cult series. Back in 2007, after the CW decided to cancel the show during it’s third season, campaigns ran across the country in order to send as many Mars Bars chocolate bars, marshmellows (“Veronica, she’s a marshmellow”) and the digital purchasing of the series finale on iTunes in order to reach the top of the charts. The Season Three DVD even included a pitch to the network in which Veronica went into the FBI to work a new set of cases, as a last-hope, last-resort effort to save it from the inevitable television death.
Veronica Mars has been a cult TV Show by definition, partly because of it’s early cancellation on one end, and ahead of it’s time storytelling. The heavy noir influence, dark themes, evolving relationships within it’s characters and it’s referencial emphasis created a series that hybridized genres, inserted intrigue, mystery and an abstraction of contemporary issues, held together by a sympathetic and plausible protagonist that was as much a victim as the victimizer.
Currently, one of the key factors of the Kickstarter campaign is the budget, affecting all production values. Two million dollars is clearly not enough to make a feature film. Thomas and Kristen Bell, the lead actress and main backer throughout all these years, have both teased the possibilities of making a greater movie with more funding, such as writing in brawl scenes rather than what the conversation-at-a-high-school-reunion the 2 million could buy. Essentially the film will be budgeted, and produced, as a TV episode. Of course this in no way limits the creativity, it enhances it. Most episodes of the series have had lower budgets, and the movie should stick with what it does best, presenting a plotting structure and mystery that revolves around Veronica. This aspect adds to the cultness of the series. It is niche and exclusive, made for and specially for the fans, in this case, associate producers of the project.
Furthermore, the WB-backed distribution is a critical point. While the film is being realized only by the amount it makes in it’s one-month campaign, the studio will use it’s distribution platform to release the film. Due to budget constraints, theatrical releases will be limited and linked to where most of the donations are pouring from. Emphasis is being placed on the digital version of the film, which will be available one week after it’s release through multiple digital systems such as iTunes, Hulu and Amazon prime to reach it’s selective and exclusive audience. The realization of this film marks a risk-free situation for Warner Bros., which is using the scenario as an experiment to analyze it’s outcome and possibly recycle with other dormant franchises. The digital distribution makes a lot of sense, given that funding is being done exclusively online, as well as a the huge amount of buzz it’s generating in social networks, through fans as well as other artists and television showrunners such as Shawn Ryan (The Shield), Kevin Williamson (Dawson’s Creek, The Following) and Josh Schwartz (Chuck, Gossip Girl).
The Veronica Mars Movie Project is an all-out-or-nothing initiative that has had the right ingredients to work with. As mentioned, a cult and loyal fanbase is key, but the charismatic Veronica and the world around her is one of the main draws. Kristen Bell has stated that she has never fallen so deeply in love with a character, and has vied for this film to be realized for years. Most of it’s cast is willing to work for cheap or for free, making it a true Veronica Mars experience for the backers. The results are being received mostly with optimistic feedback, while some argue a big studio film should not be funded by individuals; the reality is that this movie is as indie as any other project on Kickstarter.
This new model will present a turning point in how television and film is produced. With a focus being placed on the digital part of the spectrum, it’s success will create new opportunities to resurrect dead projects. Viewers have undeniably shaped television tendencies during it’s sixty-plus years of existence, but the last decade has been filled with new viewing behavior, in which content has been grown onto multiple screens and habits. This campaign brings Television to it’s social roots, in which individuals collaborate and share one single perspective to redefine an experience. Online may be the new medium, but the architecture of the television program is the building foundation in combination of the cinematographic artform that expounds these cultural phenomenons.
Join in on the fun and pledge: Veronica Mars Movie Project.
I could not have found a better topic to start this blog with. It’s situations like this that shape the TV environment and I am looking forward to exploring future possibilities, as well as to look back into the components that have laid out the groundwork for these revolutionary changes to take effect.