Crowdfunding TV: A Good Thing?

veronica mars

Recently, fans of the cancelled UPN/CW teen drama Veronica Mars got an early Christmas present. Last week, show creator Rob Thomas and series star Kristen Bell appealed to the small, but vocal, fan base with a $2 million Kickstarter fundraising campaign to produce a very inexpensive feature film of the show. Much to the surprise of everyone, they successfully raised their goal plus some in only one day. At this time (Monday morning, March 25, 2013), the campaign has over 59,300 donors and has raised almost $4 Million. Twice the original amount requested. So a small ragtag band of faithful followers have circumvented the big evil studio that A) cancelled the show in the first place, then B) refused to finance a TV movie or feature film around the show’s star. Yippee??

I was never a fan of Veronica Mars. I wasn’t a member of its target audience. The excitement the faithful feel about this achievement is lost on me even though there are some shows I could easily think of that I would have loved to see get such a resurrection but there are some real minefields in this idea. One is the size of the potential audience for the final product. I don’t think there will be a significant increase in the number of fans for Veronica Mars after this film is released. So isn’t this just a vanity production for an actor and show creator who never stopped loving the little show that didn’t capture everyone’s heart?

Secondly, some of the fundraising perks offered included a speaking role for a donor of $10,000 or more. Granted, there’s only one donor at this level and the role is that of a waiter with only one line, it sets a weird precedent. As someone who works in the arts industry, the thought of a cast filled with folks who had the money but not necessarily the talent does not make me want to see this film no matter how small the role. Now I know there has been poorly made films with bad actors all along, David Hasselhoff ‘s entire career depends upon it, but what about hiring a trained artist? What about the standards of quality? Didn’t the fan base for this show fall in love with it based on the quality of the original show? Potentially, how does personally financing a lesser version of that experience really pay tribute to what you loved?

But the biggest reason I’m not crazy about is the possibility that this could become a trend for disgruntled fans of a show killed way too early. Moreover, what does this say for creating a work of art – if we can say TV is art – for a groups of fervent fans who want to see their beloved show no matter what? Is it more important that whatever you originally fell in love with live again or are you financing a project that gives the artists the freedom to take these characters into new directions. Would the fan/donors be as pleased if the characters evolved in some new and unexpected way or are they insistent in seeing the Veronica Mars they were originally introduced to?

The success of this fundraising campaign becoming a trend is not a comforting thought. Some of the folks who have stated interest in replicating this model are Pushing Daisies’ creator Bryan Fuller and Chuck’s star Zach Levy. Nothing is certain, but one thing I am most sure of is that Chuck was thankfully killed after 5 uneven seasons. Another mission for that crew is not needed at all.

Besides, this approach let’s the original production studio Warner Bros. off the hook. They own the rights to Veronica Mars and get to have content of their property produced at little to no cost to them. What studio could hate that? In any event, I think there is more to ponder. I would suggest we wait before we pop the cork on the champagne.

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