The Death of Old Hollywood officially begins in three days. On that day, April 12, 2012, the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign ends, and the funds will be released to the filmmakers, and they get to make their film, and the fans get to see a movie version of their beloved TV show… all while getting to be a part of it. Sounds like a win-win-win-win situation. It is. And the real winner in all of this is Warner Brothers.
For those of you not familiar… Veronica Mars was a TV show lasting only 3 seasons, receiving low ratings but a huge cult following. Fans wanted more; the producers behind the show planned a movie. Warner Brothers said no. Kristen Bell, star of the show, offered to put up money. Warner Brothers still said no. It seems Warner Bothers was just not interested in putting up production money for a film that they had zero faith in.
Then, the creator of Veronica Mars had the idea to take his movie idea to the streets… to the fans… for funding, via Kickstarter. Well…. now Warner Brothers changes their tune. Warner Brothers agrees to this idea, offering to cover the distribution costs as long as the production costs are covered by Kickstarter, AKA, the fans. So, Veronica Mars: The Movie is officially given the green light. Fans are psyched. One guy coughs up $10,000 for the top reward of being featured in the movie- as a waiter with their speaking line, “Your check, sir.”
Now, back to why this rings the death bell for Old Hollywood and why Warner Brothers is the real winner. I can imagine the Warner Brothers execs high-fiving each other, “Let’s get the fans to pay for making the movie, plus get them to pay to watch it!” Wheeeeee! As a business model, it is genius. Warner Brothers has cut their risk by 50%. If this works well, and it already is, other studios will absolutely follow suit. I wonder who gets to own the finished copyrighted film and collect the profits… surely not the fans who actually paid for the thing, dollar by dollar. Kickstarter, Indiegogo, etc. are barely teething and they’re already being abused. Where is the regulation in all of this? Here’s a start… there is none.
In the past few years, I have run into my own fair share of shady dealings with crowdfunded films; the latest being for the film Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie, another case of a cult show being expanded into a feature, courtesy of the fans. Back in January & February 2012, I was in talks with the AVGN producers about providing special miniatures effects for the grand finale scenes. I read the script, which is funny as hell, and budgeted out the miniatures costs. Where I said it was $40,000 worth, they said it was $10,000 worth. OK, fair enough; low budget is low-budget. On a phone call, I asked Kevin Finn, the writer/producer, what their overall project budget was. “Around $100,000,” he tells me. Now, it’s public knowledge that AVGN raised over $300,000 on Indiegogo. Wheeeeee! I posed the same question to Sean Keegan, the producer, and I got the same answer. The funny thing– neither one could explain the $200,000 discrepancy, other than that it was spent on “other stuff”, which may explain why, when I first spoke with them over the phone, they were all hanging at Sundance. Mr. Keegan was even proud to tell me that they had a bunch of people happy to work on the miniatures for free, but not anyone to spearhead the whole thing.
And that’s a shame. I would truly have loved to oversee the AVGN miniatures; the script really is funny and the miniature scenes have potential. And, I could have even figured out a way to do the whole thing within their $10,000 firm budget. But, that’s now a past-fantasy world. After that initial bad taste, I had to say bye-bye. Lies beget lies. You might say to me, “Damn Gregory, you sound like an angry-Irish-snitch.” I’m not… I’m just calling it the way it played out. And you may also say it’s none of my business about people’s overall budgets, except that it is exactly my business. I mean, what do I know? I just do this for a living.
Anyone else have any stories, good or bad, about their dealings with crowdfunding?
P.S. To this day, and any day forward, I still challenge them to explain that $200,000 discrepancy. I wonder if the AVGN fans will want to know. Or care. Who knows… but they did pay to fund it and they will be paying to watch it.
Gregory Kochan Design
Email | (310) 895-0108