Debate of the Day: We’re Kickstarting Movies Now?


Well how about this? I knew we were using Kickstarter to fund video games and probably-going-to-fail consoles, but full length feature films? That’s a new one. But it’s exactly what’s happening now.

As of last night (when I wrote this), fans swarmed a Veronica Mars Kickstarter to raise $2M in about ten hours to full fund a feature length movie for the long-dead show. There are many shows with devoted fanbases who wished their program of choice would come back, but I had no idea that Veronica Mars still had this many die hard fans. Warner Bros. greenlighted Rob Thomas to do the Kickstarter to gauge “fan interest.” Well, I think they have their answer.

But I have questions about this now. Can a movie studio really get away with having the people who would pay to see the movie, actually fund the movie and then pay for tickets on top of it? I mean I guess when you buy a ticket, you’re subsidizing what it cost to make the film, but to pay $10, $20 or even $100 or more ahead of time? On the surface, it seems insane.

Is it really though? I don’t think so. This may seem odd from the outside for those of us who aren’t huge Veronica Mars fans, but pretend it was a show YOU loved. Would I be doing the same for a fundraiser to bring back Firefly or Arrested Development (if Netflix wasn’t)?

Yes, I would. Absolutely. It’s not just about pre-paying for the ticket price, it’s about believing that you’re doing your part to see that something you love lives again. Kickstarter is not an investment, it’s a charitable donation that makes you feel good about yourself. Sure, kids in Africa could probably use water instead of you paying for Kristen Bell’s next pair of jeans on set, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the idea that you have some small part in reviving something you thought was dead. I’d shell out $100 to feel like I helped put Firefly back on the air.

This won’t work often though, so Hollywood shouldn’t get any bright ideas. For example, Michael Bay couldn’t put one of these up and raise $200M to make Transformers 4. The money is too great for this to work for most films or shows, and the fanbase has to be absolutely RABID for this to even come close to succeeding. That said,  I’m wondering what will happen now that this has panned out for Veronica Mars. What other dead stories will come out of the woodwork begging for a cash resurrection?

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  1. This of course will not change how most movies, like Transformers, is produced but it was a wake up call to the industry. And since it involves money they will listen.

    Firefly of course came to mind, as did several canceled cartoons, but where I think this really will come into play is with properties that have not seen the big or small screen.

    Studios that are not sure if a property would have a large enough fan base to dedicate money towards it will now throw it to Kickstarter to see just how interested and large the fan base is before green lighting projects or which projects to pick up.

    “What’s this Warhammer game about Space Marines and Orcs about?”

    “I don’t know.”

    “Should we buy the rights to option the movie?”

    “I don’t don’t know. What was it’s Kickstarter goal and time?”

    “They asked for a million, gave themselves a month. Got a million and half but it took the entire time.”

    “hmmmmmm….doesn’t seem like it has a large enough base to spend the $200 million to really make it. Better pass on it.”

  2. You’re wrong about Michael Bay and Transformers 4, if the studio said”run a Kickstarter campaign to gauge interest” then it would surely flop because 9/10 people wouldn’t stump up the cash for 2 hours of non-stop explosions. Transformers 4 would then be dead and the assault on our collective childhoods would end. The same is true for TMNT.

  3. I can’t say I’ve ever watched Veronica Mars – but decided to chip in $10. Hopefully gives me a little bit of good karma – if this thing is successful, who knows whats next… Firefly??

  4. I’m of two minds on this whole subject. I actually tried debating a few others on another site yesterday when this whole news broke, but I got tired of getting flamed and gave up. Here’s my points as best as I can make ’em:

    (1) I’m a tried & true capitalist, so I support anyone’s right to get a project like this made, but …

    (2) This really smacks of feigned theatricality b/c these two have been very vocal about bringing this back FOR YEARS, so methinks some of this is the end result of web-nerds being ‘spun’ to think they did it.

    Now, that said, I still think it’ll fail in much the same way the FIREFLY movie really didn’t get new life to that whole franchise. (Yes, maybe it’ll survive in marketing tie-ins like books or comics or Apps or what-have-you.) But, at the end of the day, no studio exec is going to greenlight a property that doesn’t have dollar signs showing in his (or her) eyes.

    I’d much rather they take their $2M — assuming it all gets collected — and produce some way-terrific web content (something like ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT is doing with Netflix) and then show an industry how to transfer that property (a cult-followed TV show) to a web-followed one b/c then a major studio might (might!) pick it up and see something smart is done with it.

    In ways, this whole ‘finance it ourselves’ thing really smacks of the whole ‘own it yourself’ phenomenon that took over the comics industry in the early 90’s. While there were some good properties that came out of it, there was an awful lot of crap, too. Some folks NEED the studio system in order to make something of exceptional quality while others can prove they can do something outside the box. Say what you might but VERONICA MARS was never anything more than a critical hit (don’t EVEN get me started on the whole “Well, it would’ve been bigger if it had been on a major network” because now YOU’RE the one who’s delusional). Sometimes it pays to swallow the blue pill; sometimes you’re better off with the red.

    That’s just my two cents. I tried the show and didn’t much care for it; couldn’t say why, per se, I just didn’t see it all that interesting. I can’t see why that got me flamed to Holy Hell yesterday (not here, but elsewhere).

  5. Honestly I’m not a big fan of big studios using Kickstarter. They’ve got the revenue they need to put it out there and have it generate it’s own cash flow. Kickstarter should be for the indie groups that don’t have the huge bank of revenue to float projects.

  6. I am a huge Veronica Mars fan, but I would never donate to the kickstarter. I will gladly pay the price for a ticket, multiple times if it’s a good movie, but that’s as far as I’ll go. Warner bros. (12 billion dollars in revenue) now gets to make a2 million dollar movie that they paid absolutely nothing for and reap in ALL the revenue. They’re not going to hand out the money to the original investors or anything like that. This sets a scary precedent for movie studios that says the people that buy the tickets will also pay to make the movie and that idea just scares me.

  7. This is an incredibly thorny issue, partially because the allure of fan-financing is a very strong one. Fans getting to decide what gets made for them? How can you pass that deal up? (There’s a debate here to be had about the artists’ choice, but that’s not strictly on topic)

    Where I get concerned (there are a couple of things, but this one mainly) is that this won’t take long to turn into a “help rich people take your money some more” type of situation. Sure, the fans can finance whatever they want, but celebrities and major corporations will always have the upper hand in terms of sheer visibility. If I can budget out $200 bucks in the first half of the year for projects like this, how likely is it that I’ll find the small-but-great web series or brilliant indie projects if there’s attention-sucking sinkholes like this littering the landscape?

    If this works, I’d be expecting a lot less of what Kickstarter was probably intended for in the first place.

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