The truth about the Veronica Mars Kickstarter
News that Veronica Mars - a popular, but short-lived TV series staring Kristen Bell - had appeared on Kickstarter in an attempt to raise funding for a movie spin-off set the internet alight this week; pledges poured in at a rate of around $100,000 per hour and the target $2 million goal was reached in less than day. That's impressive by anyone's standards and shows a real support for a big-screen feature.
However, let's get this into perspective - once Kickstarter take their fee (5%) and the US Government takes their cut in tax the total will reduce by $400,000 with funding at the current level. Of the original target that would leave the same amount of money as one episode of the old show would have cost. A movie is a completely different proposition - the cast will be more expensive, the crew will be bigger and more expensive, the promotion budget will be far higher and there's the added cost of tooling everything up from scratch given the TV series ended six years ago! This is without the rather large overhead of fulfilling all of those 40,000+ Kickstarter rewards that supporters will be expecting. With that in mind, the $2 million figure Rob Thomas was aiming for isn't going to be nearly enough to cover the cost of the film...
So, what will happen with all that money? The key thing it'll achieve is showing to Warner that there is a market for this venture. The money will end up in a bank account somewhere, the result of a litmus test by a studio unsure whether there would be enough interest in the film. Yes, it'll end up being eaten up by the film's production, but the whole Kickstarter project is more about promotion and market research than actually raising money. It's a clever idea by Warner - they know now that they'll be able to make a profitable film and it hasn't cost them a cent. Warner now need to come through and deliver the project to fans.
We expect more studios to follow suit, and in the short term this is a good thing - it'll make cult projects and films seem more possible, but one day we could reach a point where a Kickstarter-funded film DOESN'T make it through development hell and at that moment Kickstarter as a film-funding platform will suddenly become a far less enticing prospect for film studios and film fans.
We're excited by the prospect of a Veronica Mars movie - it's something fans have called out for for a long time, and we're excited to see who else takes the Kickstarter approach to measure audience demand. However, Kickstarter isn't necessarily a guarantee to anyone that a film that is fully funded will make it to cinemas and we need to remember that.