Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars. Image: Warner Bros
Nearly six years after the cancellation of the whip-smart television show about a teenage private eye in a California town deeply divided by class (and murder!), the Kickstarter for the Veronica Marsmovie ends later today, after breaking fundraising records and taking in over $5 million on the crowdfunding platform. The tremendous success of the Kickstarter, launched a month ago by creator Rob Thomas and actress Kristen Bell, has even inspired talk that this could change the way films get made — particularly for properties with devoted followings willing to put their money where their fandom is.
So what are the implications of Kickstarter resurrection and fan-funded film? What could this mean for other beloved (but cancelled) series like Freaks and Geeks or Chuck? And what happened to Veronica and her father after the cliffhanger at the end of Season 3? Wired talked to Thomas to find out or read more the interview here: http://bit.ly/ZprzQt
Wired: Do you think the success of your Kickstarter could be the start of a new business model for film? How do you see it working for other people who aspire to make movies?
Rob Thomas: I think it will be an important pioneer for a certain type of film. I’m not convinced that this will revolutionize how most movies get made, but I think there’s an opportunity now for projects that are similar to ours – that have some bit of public support behind it before they launch on Kickstarter… For something like Veronica Mars, where there’s a bit of a cult following and people are really emotionally invested in it, I do think this is a new avenue. There is no other way that this movie was going to get made.
Warner Bros owns the title Veronica Mars. I don’t… The lowest-priced movie Warner Bros tends to makes is a $30 million, and it goes up from there. They make Lord of the Rings. They don’t make theVeronica Mars movie, typically. So trying to convince Warner Bros to make a $30 million Veronica Marsmovie just wasn’t going to happen, for understandable reasons. When I took this project in, I didn’t take it in through their feature division. I’m making the movie with Warner Bros Digital; they do a lot of the smaller budget [projects]. I think we’re only going to be their second movie with a theatrical release; they typically do things straight to digital and digital download.
With this model, it’s almost a marketing device, a way to judge if there was enough interest in a movie this size. For a Friday Night Lights movie or a Freaks and Geek movie or a Chuck movie, I think it could be a possibility. I think this opens up a door. What I’m interested in as a writer is [if] a writer optioned a book and brought on an actor with some name value – if that combination could raise the money on Kickstarter to make a movie.
Wired: What would you think about Kickstarting a totally new movie project from scratch that didn’t have that preexisting recognition?
Rob Thomas: It would be so gutsy to do that. I started as a novelist, and I have novels. So I wonder, what if I took one of my books and maybe attached – not Kristen Bell … but an actor with that sort of renown and said, “We’re going to try and make this [movie] for $1.5 million dollars.” That would be such an interesting experiment. And I may try it. No one learns as much as when they do anything the first time, and I feel like I’ve learned so much that I have this knowledge that very few people in the world do about running a really big Kickstarter project. And if I never do it again, it’s wasted knowledge. But it’s also a lot of work. Having gotten TV shows on the air, that’s so much less work that trying to get theVeronica Mars movie made.
Wired: How does the financial model of the movie work, and how is the money being allocated?
Rob Thomas: It’s all going to the budget of the movie. We get to make a bigger movie the more money we make … The back end of the movie is divvied up like any other movie that gets made. The stars of the show will get a piece of the back end; the producer will get a piece of the back end. Clearly Warner Bros will own a big part of it. And I hope Warner Bros does well on it, because if not, they won’t make any more of these. I think there’s a scenario where everybody wins: where Kristen and I get to make the movie we’ve been hoping to make; where fans get to see the movie; and where Warner Bros makes money on it as well.
Wired: So in terms of the film’s plot, what’s happened to Veronica since the last time that we saw her at the end of Season 3?
Rob Thomas: Not only that was the last time she worked a case, but she left Neptune shortly there after. She ruins her father’s career as an officer of the law, and he gets indicted.
Rob Thomas: Yes. Veronica transfers to Stanford, graduates, and goes to Columbia Law School. And as we pick up the movie, it’s sort of like Tom Cruise at the beginning of The Firm. She’s finished law school, is waiting to take the bar, and interviewing with law firms. But then something happens in Neptune that pulls her back, and makes her metaphorically pick up her magnifying glass again.
Wired: A lot of Veronica’s appeal came from this sense that she was an underdog, but presumably in the adult world she’s getting recognition for her talents in ways that she didn’t from her cliquey high school classmates. Has her character outgrown that underdog status, or is that something you wanted to continue in the film?
Rob Thomas: It was certainly what I was working towards at the end of season 3. If we’d had a season 4, I wanted to get Veronica back into an underdog state. I think we liked Veronica best as a pariah of sorts.
Wired: How do you think fans’ attitudes and expectations about the show have changed since the show ended? Do they’re looking for nostalgia or growth in Veronica and the rest of the cast?
Rob Thomas: I think they’re looking for both. I know there’s something just automatically hook-y about a 17-year-old girl who’s a private eye. There’s less of a hook when it’s a 27-year-old woman. It’s a little more normal, a little more inside-the-box. … You have to make it work as a PI movie. And I understand the cons of nostalgia, but there are some Veronica Mars pleasure zones that I want to hit. If there were a [James] Bond movie and there wasn’t a martini scene – there are just certain things where I’d be cheating the audience if I didn’t include them. But I want it to work as a standalone movie as well for people who have never seen Veronica Mars, and just heard buzz about it and want to check it out finally when it’s a movie. I had never watched Firefly, but I’d heard the buzz so I went and saw the movie. I hope there are plenty of people who will give the Veronica Mars movie that chance.
Wired: One final question for you from Twitter: Any chance that the Party Down crew could cater the Neptune High 10-year reunion?
Rob Thomas: [laughs] There’s no chance. What’s funny is most of the members of the Party Downcrew have already played people on Veronica Mars. Adam Scott was a creepy teacher; Ken Marino is going to be in the movie as Vinnie Van Lowe. Someone like Martin Starr hasn’t been in Veronica Mars, so you might see him – but he won’t be catering it.