And suddenly the world opened up. This morning, actress Kristin Bell and television writer Rob Thomas announced a Kickstarter campaign for a movie based on their cult show Veronica Mars. Thomas, who created the show, struck a unique deal with Warner Brothers: the studio agreed to greenlight the movie and pay for marketing, promotion, and distribution, but only if Thomas could raise $2 million for production.
Within six hours, Kickstarter records had been broken. In 11 hours, Thomas had raised the $2 million, and pledges are still rolling in. Fans of the show are understandably psyched – they’re getting the movie they always wanted. But the deal is sure to turn heads in Hollywood and for good reason: it eliminates much of the risk taken on by studios. They can identify if there is an audience for a film before they decide to make it, allowing them to much more accurately predict its box-office gross and their bottom line. Further, the Kickstarter functions as the best free advertising they could ask for. Not only are potential ticket-buyers hearing about the movie, but also they are investing their time and money in the experience of watching it in the future.
The ramifications of this deal will be felt for years to come. If it catches on – which I believe it will – there are many long-term implications, but in the near future, I imagine that similar arrangement will be made for the production of a number of films that hardcore fans of the source material have been waiting for. Imagine the possibilities. If someone had come up with this idea sooner, we would not have had to wait 9 years for Anchorman: The Legend Continues and Freaks and Geeks might still be on the air.
So what movies might we see funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign? Here’s my list of the most likely suspects along with how much I would chip in to help get each made.
The Netflix-produced fourth season is premiering next month, but creator Mitch Hurwitz has also written a movie that so far no one has bought. The show’s fans are loyal to a fault, and I’m a little skeptical that the show will be as good as it once was. But I hope to be proved wrong. If the fourth season is as good as the first three, I’d chip in plenty to see the movie get made, but sight unseen, I’d only offer $10 at the moment.
Another X-Files Movie (not actual title)
David Duchovny was on The Tonight Show two weeks ago, pleading with fans who would like to see a sequel to X-Files: Fight the Future (1998) to write letters to 20th Century Fox, urging them to greenlight the project. Letters? I thought that kind of thing went out of date with the silver dollar and door-to-door salesmen. X-Files fans are still out there, and they sure know how to use the internet. I wasn’t a huge fan of the show, so I wouldn’t pay for this one, but I’m sure they don’t need my help to get this done.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Are you noticing a trend here? Movie studios are often unconvinced that television shows will translate to the big screen. Kickstarter deals will quell their fears. A film based on the Joss Whedon-created Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been in pre-production for a few years now, but no one can agree on a script. In 2010, the initial script was rejected, and no one seems to know what happened after that. Some fans are skeptical because Whedon would not be involved with the film (he’s a bit busy at the moment), but I imagine they’d chip in anyway. And a couple million bucks from Kickstarter might just give the studio the impetus to get cracking again. This one is not for me, though. No bucks.
There are some – including me – who will tell you that Unbreakable is criminally underrated and is actually M. Night Shyamlalan’s best film. Okay, there’s not much competition there, but The Sixth Sense got all the glory and the Oscar nominations, while Unbreakable was deemed a disappointment in comparison. Unbreakable is a superhero origin story, and Shyamlalan had planned it as the first in a trilogy. I’d love to see what he would do with his hero (Bruce Willis) and his nemesis, Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson). I’d pay $25.
Ferris Bueller’s 2nd Day Off (not actual title, but it should be)
A couple years ago, the first twenty pages of unknown screenwriter Rick Ranier’s sequel to this classic John Hughes comedy were leaked on the internet – probably by the writer himself. They were intriguing: the film picked up twenty years after the end of the first, with Ferris as a successful motivational speaker and his best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) as his assistant. I only read the first twenty pages, but I’m guessing he takes another day off. No studio bit on the script, and this has potential to be all kinds of terrible, but I’d give them a whopping $50 just to try and make it work.
Remember this movie? It sort of ushered in the era of summer “disaster” movies that included Dante’s Peak, Volcano, and Hard Rain but was the best of the bunch. Star Bill Paxton has been shopping a 3D sequel for years, but he doesn’t own the property and has had trouble convincing anyone that there is an audience. Is there? My wife loves this movie, but she grew up in Iowa, where twisters are a real and constant threat. I’d pay $5, but she and her brethren in the heartland would probably pay more.
These six movies are just the tip of the iceberg. There will be many more Kickstarter deals in the future. It has the potential to transform the industry, and I’m still wrapping my mind around the effects of this deal. Will studios shift even more of their focus towards movies based on pre-existing material with big fan bases? They are kind of doing that already. Will this crowd out the promising young filmmaker with his own material? Or will a year of safe choices, vetted by Kickstarter, allow studios to take a few more risks with serious filmmakers?
We don’t yet know the answers to these questions. All we can do is speculate, and I imagine that, in the coming days, we’ll see a lot of that. In the meantime, we’ve got some long-awaited movies to look forward to, and that strikes me as a good thing.
Tell us what you think.