How Veronica Mars Changed the Game
I've never actually seen Veronica Mars. The closest I've ever come to this show is eating at the 24-hour diner next to the set in San Diego. They have really good onion rings. And a pear and gorgonzola salad that is to die for. But I digress.
The cast (and some crew) of the show garnered worldwide attention a few weeks ago by starting a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to make a sequel-type movie for the show. Apparently, Warner Bros. agreed that if at least $2 million was made, they'd take on the project.
Whoa. Say that again? A major Hollywood film studio is allowing fans and supporters of the TV show to monetarily support and encourage a motion picture. This could completely change how we do movies, guys.
In a world where Hollywood is king, independent filmmakers are the peasants in revolt. Movies are made all.the.time. outside of initial studio support. In fact, that's kind of how the system works. Up and coming filmmakers- creativity and voices just bursting out of them- find any way they can to make movies. They start production companies in garages, they raise funds through Kickstarter or Indiegogo or bake sales for heavens sakes!, hoping beyond hope that someone will believe in them. That someone will see their genius and grant them the budget to create their dreams. I should know. My husband is one of those dreamers.
The problem is, movies are a high-risk business. Instant streaming has taken a lot of viewership out of the theater. All of a sudden, people are more content to watch at home where they have almost unlimited options at their fingertips.With blockbusters constantly competing to capitalize on the next billion-dollar hit, studios return to tried and true stories. Adaptations, sequels, remakes- they all have their built-in audiences, their fans and an easy market plan. We see the same movies, directors, and actors over and over again because it sells. Instead of taking the risk with new stories or new story-tellers, studios rely on their faithful repertoire. Shuffle enough people around and you'll eventually get chemistry, right?
But films aren't just the domain of studios anymore. More and more movies are being funded, filmed and finished without any studio support. It's only when they get to festivals (Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, etc) that a studio will pick the film up, dust it off and mass-market it. More and more cities are supporting selective screenings and Q and A's, trying to raise awareness and interest in thoughtful, groundbreaking cinema. It's the cinematic equivalent of buying from the farmers' market.
For all of the success stories you hear, the first-timers, the lottery-winners, there are hundreds of other people out there working from project to project just to network with the big-timers. So how does this 10-hour, grassroots fundraising campaign affect the industry? For the first time Hollywood has turned to the fans to show their support. I think they would be remiss if they didn't capitalize on this idea. Studios, here's your built-in audience. Viewers, here's a unique movie-interaction that listens to your preference. A way to bring movies and fans together in an unprecedented manner.
Using a system that reaches out to the people gives the viewers a little bit of choice in what sequels or remakes are being made. It's a clearer shot for the studio when it guarantees viewership and it may result in higher viewership now that the audience is invested in the project. Had shows or movies with cult-followings (Arrested Development, Firefly, etc.) thought of this, we might have had a new series four or five years ago. Perhaps it's an oversimplification of the process- you either hit the quota and move forward or you don't- but it's still useful communication.
This exchange of information is all well and good, but do we really want popular opinion to dictate the types of movies we see? Let's not kid ourselves. Movies tell the stories that need to be told, but not necessarily the ones that sit well. They push the envelope. There are all kinds of great movies out there that don't resonate with the majority's opinion. There are also a number of awful movies with lots of fan-love. Leaving the fate of a project- which evolves many MANY times before, during, and after being filmed- to the interest of the audience might leave too many films behind. Or at least fighting to gain the approval of all the cooks in the kitchen.
So maybe campaigns to raise money for movie ideas should be taken with a grain of salt. Or at least a system of checks and balances. If the people want their say on the big screen, by all means the industry should listen to them. But our escape from reality may slowly be slipping away once public opinion takes hold.