'Veronica Mars' star Kristen Bell and creator Rob Thomas have reached their $2 million fundraising goal on Kickstarter.com, leading Warner Bros. to greenlight a movie about the San Diego sleuth.
(Photo: Scott Garfield, Warner Bros.)
By Gary Levin
Veronica Mars lives!
The former UPN and CW series, canceled in 2007, was low-rated but enjoyed a cult following. And ever since its last episode, creator Rob Thomas has dreamed of making a feature film to provide a fitting ending to the show about a teenage sleuth solving mysteries in a seaside community.
Now, an unusually strong campaign on Kickstarter, a fundraising site for creative ventures, has made the project a reality. Early Wednesday, Thomas posted a video, first shot in February 2012 with series stars including Kristen Bell and Enrico Colantoni, urging fans to donate money toward the project. If they raised $2 million within a month, he said, Warner Bros., which owns the series, would agree to make the film.
But that goal was met in less than a day, thanks to prizes ranging from an emailed script (for a $10 donation) to a one-line speaking role as a waiter in the film ("Your check, sir"), which was quickly snapped up for $10,000.
By late Thursday nearly 47,000 "backers" had already pledged more than $2.8 million toward the film, and the studio now says it's a go as a small-budget indie-style project set to begin filming this summer, with a "limited release" in movie theaters, most likely next year. It will also be available via video on demand.
Thomas had never heard of Kickstarter until two years ago, when a "friend of mine who played in a band and used it to finance the recording of his album asked me to donate," he said in an interview from his home in Austin. "I did, and I followed the process, which was fascinating."
But would it translate to his hoped-for film? "It was such a ridiculous idea at the time, because we'd have to raise millions," he says. "But I thought, 'What do we have to lose?' There was no version of Veronica Mars that could be made without Warner Bros.' cooperation."
It took some arm-twisting to get the studio to agree to the unorthodox funding method. Did Thomas think it unseemly, as some have suggested, to ask fans to pay a major studio to make a movie they wouldn't profit from?
"If we were playing on people's charity in some way, it would be obscene," he says. "If we were asking $100 for a $4 tote bag, I'd have a problem with it." Instead, a $35 donation, made by more than 12,000 so far, gets you the script, a digital copy of the film within a few days of its release and a T-shirt. "We're just pre-selling the movie," he says. "If you want this product, this is a chance to buy it early and make sure this movie gets made."
As time went by, the concept for the movie has shifted to reflect the actors' advancing ages. An early plan for a film set at Veronica's college graduation will instead take place at her 10-year reunion. The film will be shot from mid-June to mid-July, Thomas says, preferably in Southern California, where the series was set. But that will depend on the budget.
Thomas says if the amount raised by April 12, the campaign's end date, "goes over $5 million, I'm going to feel good." He has to fund the budget for the film, which hasn't been set but is estimated at about $3.5 million, twice the series' per-episode budget.
And he has to pay to produce and ship all those goodies that fans have snapped up. But the publicity value of being the first to get a major-studio film made on Kickstarter is a boon and "was very important to me," he says, even as creators of other canceled shows such as 24 and Arrested Development (returning to Netflix in May) have struggled to get the go-ahead for their own movie versions.
"All this excitement is prolly going to send me into early labor," tweeted the pregnant Bell.