Sunday, March 24, 2013


It seems like every other day someone is announcing a new 'world changing' event.

Maybe we have become too cynical. Overexposed to media hype, our attention can only be drawn by announcements of the extreme.

Hype, in a way, has become a self-sustaining cycle.

But occasionally the exposure is warranted. An event is truly paradigm shifting.

Six years ago, a paradigm shifting event had its genesis. It was May 2007, and the last episode of a TV show, 'Veronica Mars', aired in the USA.

Their audience was devastated, despite the fact it had run for only three seasons. When TV audiences fall, they fall hard.

The executive producer, Rob Thomas, never gave up on the concept, despite the cancellation. In optimistic defiance he wrote a feature film script set in the world of Veronica Mars.

And then, nothing.

Warner Brothers, the studio who owned the show, turned down the film version.

Rumours of the show's return whirled, circled, settled and disappeared.

Slowly 'Veronica Mars' disappeared over the horizon. A DVD back-catalogue item.

But not for Rob Thomas.

Years passed.


Then suddenly, a new seed of hope.

Crowdfunding appeared. A direct connection with your audience, who then donate to your film project, up-front, to get it made.

Rob Thomas approached Warner Brothers. Would they let him use the 'Veronica Mars' story, which they owned, if he could crowdfund enough for a movie?

Sure, was Warner Brothers' reply, just raise 2 million dollars and it's yours.

So Rob Thomas listed the film on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. The crowdfunding campaign had 30 days to raise $2 Million from their fan donations.

And here is where this event earned its hype. The paradigm shift is real.

The 'Veronica Mars' crowdfunding campaign raised the first million in 11 hours.

Within one day, the film had raised the required two million.

At the time of writing this, the campaign has raised $3.5 Million.

It set a crowdfunding speed record for the fastest project to break $1 Million.


This week, therefore, crowdfunding for film hit puberty. From here there will be growth, pain, angst and opportunity.

The angst has already started. Industry-shifting events always generate debate.

On one side are the independent filmmakers, who with consternation decry the 'Veronica Mars' crowdunding campaign as a travesty.

Crowdfunding, they say, was supposed to be for independent artists to connect with audiences and thus receive the backing to make their art. They see 'Veronica Mars' as a takeover of crowdfunding by studios that already control the majority of the pie.

On the other side are the industry pundits and futurists, saying that 'Veronica Mars' has rung in the beginning of a beautiful new world for film.

This new world is one where audiences and artists/creators are in synch, with a symbiotic relationship of support and artistic creation. This new world, they say, should not discriminate on the scale of the artist, be they studio or independent filmmaker. Everyone should get to play.

Interestingly, both of these viewpoints have an in-built assumption that I am not sure I agree with.

The assumption is that the 'Veronica Mars' crowdfunding experiment was a success.

Certainly the campaign was a success. They raised a huge amount of money, well beyond the $2 Million target. Previously, this sort of success was reserved for music projects using crowdfunding, like Amanda Palmer.

Movies, however, are not like music projects. Music projects, during their creation, scale in ways very unlike films.

Music, while still expensive at the most produced end of the spectrum, can still be made within a reasonable cost niche. By contrast, and despite technological improvements, the resources needed to make AND RELEASE films are still enormous. Hopefully this will change, but it is the reality that filmmakers face today.

So, in the present paradigm, films still need to be a profit-making exercise to pay for the on-costs that music doesn't have, especially around a theatrical release.

And it is with this in mind that I question the assumption that the 'Veronica Mars' campaign is a success.


Because who is their untapped audience now?

Where will they make the profit they need, to pay for film related on-costs, if they have already drained the dollars from their supporter base?

Will their base feel exploited if asked to pay for the film at the cinema too?

Maybe I am wrong, and their audience, loyal to the end, will show up in droves.

But I'm not sure.

I'm not sure if, ultimately, the 'Veronica Mars' crowdfunding experiment will be a success.

I'm not sure if crowdfunding is built for these sorts of mass projects. They might be bleeding the well dry up front.

The world may have changed, but how much?

Time will tell.

- - - - - - - - -