There's Life on Mars - Demand Week


By Molly Freeman

Kristen Bell in the title role of The CW show, Veronica Mars. Photo by Tom Bell.

A few weeks ago the internet went crazy for the tiny blonde private eye whose show on The CW was cancelled in 2007. But why are we still talking about Kristen Bell’s character, Veronica Mars? Who cares about Veronica Mars anymore?

If the overwhelming response to show runner Rob Thomas’s Kickstarter page for a Veronica Mars movie is any indication, over 60,000 people are still enchanted with the three-season show that was cancelled before its time. The Kickstarter was launched on Mar. 12 and promoted by

The Veronica Mars campaign offered rewards for backers who pledged certain amounts of money. One fan, who pledged $10,000, received a speaking role in the movie, while others who pledged $3,500 got tickets to the movie premiere and after party. Fans who couldn’t afford to donate quite that much money could receive prizes like a Veronica Mars t-shirt, a copy of the shooting script, and a digital copy of the movie. (I pledged $35 and received the latter prize package.)

On Mar. 12 fans pledged their hard-earned cash at alarming rates and The Veronica Mars Movie Project broke records: it reached $1 million in four hours, 24 minutes, the fastest time ever on Kickstarter; it had the highest Kickstarter goal in the four years the site has been around; and the project reached its goal in the first ten hours after the project launched.

But why now? Veronica Mars has been off the air for almost six years, why is the movie project only getting some traction now? Veronica Mars fans were always vocal; The Save Veronica Mars campaign raised $2,500 to protest the show’s cancellation by sending candy to The CW. To be exact: 2,040 Mars Bars; 4,848 Snickers Almond Bars, and 510 pounds of marshmallows.

Given recent events, it’s hard to believe Veronica Mars was cancelled in the first place. However, six years ago The CW had only just jumped on the online streaming trend, and those views didn’t figure into Nielsen ratings yet. The CW was also having access problems since many Time Warner Cable subscribers could not view the network. Despite these obstacles, the show’s ratings were increasing, but not fast enough, and The CW cancelled it.

Veronica Mars Co-stars Jason Dohring and Teddy Dunn at ComicCon 2005. Photo by Emily L.

Since then, Veronica Mars has been waiting in the wings, biding her time on Netflix (and various illegal streaming sites), until Rob Thomas launched his Kickstarter campaign and all hell broke loose.

Although the movie industry isn’t going to immediately change the way they do things because Kristen Bell’s famously snarky character was brought back to life by a few thousand fans’ donations, could it be that something — even something small — has changed within the industry?

Television networks and production studios aren’t scrambling to start their own Kickstarter campaigns for revivals of Firefly, Chuck, or Pushing Daisies (no matter how much fans wish they would.) Soon after The Veronica Mars Movie Project raised $2.5 million, Adam B. Vary of Buzzfeed asked Joss Whedon what he thought of another Firefly revival.

“Couple years from now, when Nathan [Fillion]’s no longer [on] Castle and I’m no longer the Tom Hagen of the Marvel Universe and making a giant movie, we might look and see where the market is then,” Whedon said. “But right now, it’s a complete non-Kickstarter for me.”

The time isn’t right for a Serenity sequel, the film continuation (and finale) of Firefly, but some smaller organizations have certainly noticed the success from The Veronica Mars Movie Project and the value of Kickstarter.

Team Starkid, a troop of artists who became popular in 2008 when A Very Potter Musical went viral online, started a Kickstarter campaign for their new project: Twisted. Since it was launched on Mar. 22, the campaign has raised over $130,000, which is more than three times their original goal. Starkid raised so much money that they added a graphic to the site explaining what they will do with all the extra funds.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a modern-day adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice broken down into a series of video blogs, also launched a Kickstarter campaign on Mar. 22 in order to fund the production of DVDs and a new web show. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has raised almost six times their original goal of $60,000; more than 5,000 backers have pledged $358,000.

Of course, no one is saying these two Kickstarter campaigns were launched because of the success of Veronica Mars. However, the timing is a little convenient. As Rebecca Sun of The Hollywood Reporter asks, “Are we in a post-Veronica Mars Kickstarter era?” Does this mean fans will have more say in the content being created? Will big-budget studios jump on the crowd-funding bandwagon or will Kickstarter remain a tool used only by smaller projects without big studio backers?

As John Rogers, co-creator of Leverage, explains, big-budget movies and television shows, like the Veronica Mars movie, cannot be crowd-funded just yet.

“[The movie] will almost certainly cost more than the Kickstarter will make, and would be even MORE if it weren’t leveraging Warner Brothers’ existing relationships and contracts,” Rogers wrote on his blog. He said the Veronica Mars Kickstarter is “an interesting data point,” not a game-changer.

So maybe the hubbub around the Veronica Mars Kickstarter won’t have too much effect on the movie industry as a whole, but it might already be having an impact on smaller projects with large groups of fans like Team Starkid and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It’s certainly given the fans of a cancelled show the means for their demands to be heard.