Editorial – Kicking Mars

I’m not familiar with Veronica Mars, but I expect I will become overtly familiar with the potentially game-changing results of the property’s path to the big screen. If it pans out in the way that some expect it to do so then I expect that many of us will do.A television show created by Rob Thomas and starring Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars was cancelled in the Spring of 2007 after 3 seasons on the CW Network. Following several years worth of speculation, Thomas and Bell turned to the internet, and crowd-sourcing resource Kickstarter earlier this week to seek an initial $2 million injection of investment for a mooted film project spin-off for the series. They reached their target within 12 hours. 

The big question I suppose is one of where this takes us, as a film culture. Much speculation, mainly in the form of pithy Twitter jokes dreamt of a crowd-funded utopia of second lives and resurrections for shows said to have been scrapped ahead of their time. Top of the pile, as with anything of this ilk were hopeful cries of “Firefly, Firefly, Firefly” in reference to Joss Whedon’s much longed for one season and a movier, from the beginning of the last decade (which, let’s not forget has already had one second chance in the form of Serenity), while other properties that fell foul of the hangman’s noose such as Deadwood have also inspired fans to speculate on how they could benefit from the involvement of something like Kickstarter. 

Entertainment funding is going through a weird and exciting transition at the moment as it is, with the online television providers stepping up to the plate and putting cash dollars forward to ensure that programming of a high quality is being produced, with the similar renaissance of Arrested Development due to online movie rental provider Netflix, while David Fincher recently made his mark in episodic narrative with House Of Cards, which too was financed by Netflix, who subsequently proceeded to screen the series in as innovative a manner as they had funded it, by placing every episode online at the same time for mass consumption devoid of scheduling. But alas, this are television, or whatever it is that television becomes when it’s screened via computer monitor or tablet instead of the tradition TV set, and television is none of my concern. What is my concern though is the movies, and the Veronica Mars situation is one that bridges that divide between the movies and television neatly. Not only is it a TV show making the jump to the big screen, but it’s one funded by the kind of alternative means that the Netflix path has led towards.

Sceptics and cynics might decry this moment as one manipulating fan-service just that little bit too far, or claim that models such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo ought to be the domain of the truly independent, with the threat of exploitation looming too close for comfort, but for now I think it’s apt to examine the situation for what it literally is: would Veronica Mars – The Movie have ever been made without this campaign? Did Rob Thomas have any other alternative? Is, and this is my most philosophical question of the day, anyone else getting as much out of this project as the fans who so impressively out their money where their mouths were last Wednesday night? 

I’ve only ever funded one project online, in the shape of the renewed Film Threat. That project didn’t work out in the end, but I got some nice rewards in the mail and the warm feeling inside that I’d at the very least attempted to do some good. It’d be a shame if the focus moved away from truly independent ideas and upstarts, but I don’t think that’s in any real danger of happening. I actually think that the Veronica Mars model will evolve into something else entirely, where authorial power reigns, which is very exciting indeed, one revolving around the talent taking control. Warner’s would never have funded the film, and while this is an issue in the case of Veronica Mars, thanks to their retention of the rights to that property (in spite of them having no intentions of ever using said rights) who’s to say how this might work in a slightly altered capacity. If Abrams, Whedon, Thomas or some other comparable figure decided that they wanted to produce a new, unsold idea then there is now a tested platform from which it can be done. Granted, such power comes with success, but as per the nature of these things there’s a safe assumption to be made that the evolution of the channel will see the medium adopt to such posits, in the same way equivalent forms have done so in the past. Alternatively one might see the traditional means as a way to begin on the creative path, with a self-sufficient future the ultimate aim, which is pretty much the same as it is now anyway, albeit one that the studios seem to be able to maintain a grasp of. It’s the MP3-isation of the movie industry, with creative figureheads now in a position to “do a Radiohead” and take control of their work. Long term this could spell the end of the studios. At the very least it will force them to adapt in to a manner befitting the digital age.   

Adam Batty – Editor-In-Chief

Further Reading

Film Restoration In The Digital Domain. An interview with James White by Glenn Kenny. Fascinating.

The Film Issue Of Port Magazine. Features an interview with PTA.

Also 

This week’s Criticwire Survey. In which we were asked to name our least favourite film by our favourite director.

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