By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act March 13, 2013 at 6:14PM
I assume you all are following the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign that launched earlier today, with a goal of $2 million. It's all over the media right now because, within a matter of hours, the campaign raised half of that figure, and is well on its way to raising the entire $2 million likely a lot sooner than the 30 days the filmmakers have allotted for the campaign.
I haven't seen a single episode of Veronica Mars, so I certainly can't call myself a fan. It's just not a program that attracted me.
Created by Rob Thomas, and starring Kristen Bell, the series premiered in 2004 on what used to be the UPN network, and ended its run in 2007, when UPN was replaced by the CW network.
The series is set in the fictional town of Neptune, California, and stars Kristen Bell as the title character, a student who progresses from high school to college while moonlighting as a private investigator under the tutelage of her detective father. In each episode, Veronica solves a different stand-alone case while working to solve a more complex mystery.
The series averaged 2.5 million viewers, was critically-acclaimed, garnered several awards and nominations, but was eventually cancelled, inspiring creator Rob Thomas to pen a feature film script of the series, in an effort to continue it. Unfortunately, Warner Bros wasn't interested in the idea at the time, despite the cult following the show had attracted over the years, as fans continued to hope for some kind of a revival of the series, whether on TV or as a feature film.
Skip ahead to today, March 13, 2013, to Thomas launching a Kickstarter campaign to produce the film, with a minimum goal of $2 million. According to the Kickstarter page, if the goal is reached, production is scheduled to begin this summer, with a projected release date of early 2014.
According to Thomas:
“Kristen and I met with the Warner Bros brass, and they agreed to allow us to take this shot... They were extremely cool about it, as a matter of fact. Their reaction was, if you can show there’s enough fan interest to warrant a movie, we’re on board."
I think it's safe to say that, given fan participation in the campaign, Warner Bros brass will be on board. My guess is that "on board" likely means that they may add to that $2 million raised (although, at this pace, it's very likely that the campaign will blow past its $2 million goal, with 30 days left), and they'll also distribute the film.
So there's your back-story.
All that to say, ultimately, what this proves is that, if there's a hungry audience for whatever it is you're selling, they will most certainly support your effort, by speaking with their dollars (or whatever currency you use).
I've already read/heard a few folks analyzing the campaign - why it works, if there's some science to it, something that others can learn from and mimic, etc. I really don't think much analysis is necessary here. We're talking about a TV show that was on for a few seasons, built (and still has) a fairly large cult following, from all that I've read about it, who really want to see the series revived in some way, and are seemingly ecstatic to have this opportunity to directly impact whether or not the film gets made.
Power to the people, right? You speak with your dollars - a saying that I think we've all heard before. But it works, doesn't it? When a large group of people collectively get behind a project, this is what happens. Success!
The process has been democratized.
As of the time of this post, the campaign has raised about $1.3 million. A large percentage of that - about $1 million, came from contributions of between $10 and $200; so we're not talking large individual donations from a small elite group of people. It's folks like you and I for the most part.
On a weekly basis, we share 2 or 3 Kickstarter campaigns on this site, and I'd say that the majority of the campaigns we have shared were successfully funded (not that I'm taking credit for that by the way; campaigns travel and are often posted on many sites, including social networking shares, so those that are successful are collective efforts, and not just due to a single site).
As I noted in an earlier post today on Kickstarter statistics you should be aware of, I said that the bulk of successful film/video campaigns have goals in the $1,000 to $20,000 range, and that those asking for $100,000 or more were very rarely successful. I believe for those asking north of $100,000, the success rate was something like 1%; and those asking for between $20,000 and $100,000 was around 10%.
Roughly 80% of all successful film/video project campaigns on Kickstarter have fundraising goals that range from $1,000 to $20,000.
Obviously, this Veronica Mars campaign will have some effect on these percentages.
I couldn't help but think of Aaron McGruder's own Kickstarter campaign last month, for his Uncle Ruckus movie - a campaign that ran for 30 days, seeking $200,000, but was unsuccessful in raising that money. The total contributed by the end of the campaign, earlier this month, was $129,000 - just over 50%.
So what does that mean? Other than the fact that there obviously aren't/weren't enough fans who wanted to see an Uncle Ruckus live-action movie?
Writer Jasmine Golphin explored reasons for the campaign's failure in a piece on this site that you can read HERE.
Ultimately, I think it just comes down to what I said earlier: in short, if it's something enough people want, it'll succeed. You'll get your money!
Obviously making sure that there's awareness of your campaign is crucial to its success. But I'd say that there was a healthy awareness for McGruder's Kickstarter campaign. Could he or his team have done more to ensure that even more folks knew about it? I think one can always do more; but I also think that enough people knew about it, that if there was a strong desire for it, the money would've been there in the end.
I recall reading many disparaging comments from fans and non-fans who weren't interested in the movie at all, as well as fans specifically who said that they'd have given money if the film included other key characters from the TV series, and not center solely on Uncle Ruckus.
Also keep in mind that the campaign used up the entire 30 days, and still couldn't raise the $200,000.
But the Veronica Mars project has raised more than half of its goal (which is 10 times what McGruder was asking for) in less than a day; and they aren't doing anything particularly special with their campaign. They posted it up, fans ensured that it went viral, and the rest is history.
They are offering some nice perks, but nothing out of the ordinary, except when you get into the higher figures. But, as is the case with most campaigns, the higher the contribution, the more extravagant the perk.
And as a reminder, the bulk of the contributions so far have been from those giving at the bottom of the perk hierarchy.
Also worth considering is that success begets more success. Because of the names involved in the project, as well as the fact that the project already has a history and following, as its Kickstarter campaign contributions rapidly grew, that got the attention of the media, who reported on it (major sites like Deadline, Forbes, Entertainment Weekly, Yahoo Movies, and many others), which only helped drive even more traffic to the project's Kickstarter page, many of those clicks likely turning into contributions as well.
All this made we wonder about any black films that we could see funded at this level - in the multi-million dollar range - via Kickstarter; or used as a demonstration to show studios that there are audiences for certain projects. I'm thinking of a few that we've written about on this site, that seemed (and still seem) to appeal to a large number of you folks, based on number of comments, and what is said within those comments. Most recently, there was Ernest Dickerson's revelation that he has a solid completed script adaptation of Octavia Butler's Clay's Ark, but hasn't been able to find the money to get it produced.
I recall some of you even suggested in the comments section of that post, that Dickerson launch a Kickstarter campaign for the project, and you'd gladly contribute to it! Your enthusiasm was great to see, although, as someone pointed out, a film like this will likely require more than a couple of million dollars - or maybe not! After all, I didn't ask Ernest what his budget for the film was.
However, future dystopian wastelands created on film, as well as alien life forms, and the like, don't come cheap.
But, as I also stated, a Kickstarter campaign for a project like that, or any of the many others we've said that we'd like to see produced, could serve as a launching pad - essentially, as proof to studios that there's a passionate, large enough audience for these films, and demonstrating this fact by raising $2 million (for example) could encourage a studio exec to sit up and pay attention to the potential, and, in the end, greenlight the project.
Ultimately, to wrap this all up, studio filmmaking aside, WE can decide what gets made, and what we see. If Hollywood's black cinema output isn't appealing to you, contribute to those Kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaigns we post on this site that DO appeal to you. And don't just contribute - be a rabid fan! Share the campaign, tell everyone of your Facebook friends about it, as well as your Twitter followers. And don't just tell them once; tell them twice, thrice, or more, spread out over the length of the campaign you're supporting of course.
With the success that Veronica Mars is seeing right now, I'm sure others of their ilk will take to crowd-funding with dreams of seeing their projects realized as well. But it could be that this Veronica Mars campaign is one of those freak occurrences, and future campaigns by others with similar back-stories, may not be anywhere nearly as successful.