However you feel about Kickstarter, a fundraising strategy which relies on money from fans to fund projects not yet produced, there’s something inherently awkward about asking people for money for a costly project like a movie. Fans have been stoked about the possibility of a Veronica Mars movie for years, so when it was announced on March 12 that a movie would be made if producer Rob Thomas could raise two million dollars with Kickstarter, we were all stoked. But things have changed since the initial announcement.
The campaign was so wildly successful that the project was fully funded in one day, but the producers aren’t satisfied with the fans’ impressive monetary support. Making movies is really expensive (understatement), between paying for a quality script — although it helps that Rob is also the head writer of the show — actors, locations, and all the other costs associated with production, a lot of money is needed.
But... there’s such a thing as being greedy. What at first feels like a fun way to engage fans can quickly make contributors feel taken advantage of. Crowdsourcing has benefits way beyond fundraising, such as creating a sense of responsibility for contributors who can feel like “This wouldn’t have happened without me.” It can also feel like a burden, creating in would-be donors a feeling that a business is different than a person, and funding a business is ridiculous.
Most Kickstarter projects that we’ve been asked to participate in are small, couple-thou projects started by musician friends to help buy studio time. Although they, too, require money up front for products that don’t yet exist, the rewards are generally more in kind: donate $25 and get an LP and a handwritten thank you note; “give” $500 and get an LP, a CD, a house show, dinner, and possibly a first-born child.
The Veronica Mars Movie Kickstarter broke all records for the site, but it isn’t finished yet. Although it is currently at over $4.6 million (and counting), there is still a week left to raise money — and Rob Thomas is fully intent on using that money to fleece donors for more.
“We're at $4.5 million now,” Rob wrote in an email to donors on April 5, 2013. “That's a lot of money. But for a feature length movie, it's still a pretty conservative budget. Everything you've pledged beyond the initial $2 million gives us more options, and for that I'm eternally grateful. More backing means more locations, more sets, more actors, and most important of all, more shooting days.”
He continues, “The bottom line? That extra support will give us the freedom to make the best movie possible. That additional money could mean the difference between a movie that lasts 90 minutes, and one that lasts 110. It could also mean the difference between us shooting in Southern California, where the series was shot, and in a less expensive location somewhere else.”
So, a bunch more money means a longer movie? Not necessarily. “(To be clear, I can't make guarantees yet about how long the movie will be, or exactly where we will shoot, and the last thing I want is to make a promise I can't keep. But what I can promise is this: the more we end up with, the more freedom we'll have, and the better our movie will be. That's what this is about.),” his email reads.
But before you get out your Logan Echolls-shaped piggy banks, let’s stop and think about this. It’s already been established that a Veronica Mars fanbase is still alive and well and thirsty for more — nearly 70,000 backers to date have “donated” their money to the project. The actors who have appeared on the show have gone on to star in much bigger projects, and star Kristen Bell has made bank over the last several years with huge comedies that raked in millions of dollars, while Ryan Hansen has become the love of our lives.
We would love to see a Veronica Mars movie, and can’t wait for it to come out in 2014. But there’s a point at which consumers should step back and look at the project and think about where their money is going. This is a business. It will make money. But not for you. The “prizes” being purchased are certainly not in-kind — for example, for $400, Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell will follow purchasers on Twitter. Um...
Are producers being a little bit greedy sending out messages appealing to fans’ inner panic that the movie might not get made without more money (or, at least, insinuating that a better movie requires a lot more)? In a recent interview with HitFix, Rob mentioned that a low-budget movie for Warner Brothers falls at about $30 million dollars. We get it: more money, more problems for Veronica to solve when she returns to Neptune High for her 10-year reunion.
But at what point does the studio need to step in to make up for the gap? It’s already been proven that people care and will see the movie. So, why should fans bear all the risk by funding a project with so little tangible return? People involved in making the movie are not powerless to create a great product with their own talents, nor do they have nothing to lose if the movie is subpar. Where should the responsibility really lie? Weigh in with your feelings below. We know at least 6,900 of you have some...
Source: Kickstarter, HitFix, Our HEARTS