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Mar 13

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Update: Veronica Mars and the Future of Lean Film Development

Earlier I posted about the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign that show creator Rob Thomas launched this morning to fund a movie continuation of the TV heroine’s story. Well, that post’s already dreadfully outdated.

The VM Kickstarter campaign shattered all previous records to earn $1,000,000 in under five hours, and I assume it also broke the record when it hit its $2,000,000 goal less than ten hours after it launched. So far 34,000+ fans have contributed.

As I said before, the news here isn’t that someone has used Kickstarter to fund a new movie. The news is that a studio (Warner Brothers) has used Kickstarter to “get out of the building” and validate the Veronica Mars project with actual fans. In other words, Rob Thomas had a customer hypothesis that fans of the Veronica Mars television series would spend real money to see a movie spinoff, and Warner Brothers said “prove it!” So he did.

Over at Deadline | Hollywood, some of the comments express fear over the impact this might have on screenwriters in Hollywood. Comment thread contributor “Fan” wrote, “Really bad precedent. All these crowd sourced projects are just going to encourage the studios to invest even less in development. Bad news in the short term, but the good news is it will come back to bite the studios in the long run.”

On the one hand, I understand this concern. Studios are lazy, and they don’t develop enough original projects as it is, but that wasn’t going to change any time soon. They weren’t suddenly going to start investing huge amount of cash developing fresh new projects from unknown screenwriters. In fact, the reason Hollywood doesn’t invest more in development is that they believe it is more cost effective for them to keep their money in known properties (sequels, adaptations, and remakes). If studios can borrow from lean startup principles to create a system to validate new projects with the audience, we may actually get to see more variety, not less.

Salon raised a more legitimate concern: why are fans in aggregate putting up all the money for a feature film and allowing Warner Brothers to collect all the eventual profits? I posit that this particular scenario probably won’t be the new norm, but it may give birth (in time) to some kind of system for financing studio movies where fans actually do have the opportunity to recoup their investment. There are legal hurdles to this of course, but I think it is the inevitable future of crowdfunding.

Artist Amanda Palmer may have said it best across two tweets on Twitter:

to the journalists/naysayers bashing the @veronicamars kicksarter campaign, please read the following tweet carefully….

ANYBODY CAN ASK FOR FUCKING HELP WITH THEIR FUCKING ART. ANYBODY BIG ANYBODY SMALL ANYBODY KNOWN ANYBODY UNKNOWN ANYBODY.

Whether you think this is good news or bad news, indieWire offers five reasons this represents a permanent sea-change: “Expect to see studios or other media conglomerates use crowdfunding to see how much money should really be spent on a film reboot or a film component of a media campaign.”

I suggest we should expect to see more Hollywood screenwriters, directors, and talent turning to crowdfunding and social media to get the projects they really want to do off the ground.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.screenplayology.com/2013/03/13/update-veronica-mars-and-the-future-of-lean-film-development/

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