When Movies Are Funded By Fans

At The Dissolve, Scott Tobias writes about the Veronica Mars movie, and wonders if having it funded entirely by fans affected its quality as a film:

So the Veronica Mars movie is a dead thing that fans have summoned back into existence, and to the tune of $5.7 million, which so reduces the risk on Warner Bros.’ end that Thomas likely didn’t have to take a single executive note. This sounds like a stirring triumph of democracy in action, with marshmallows liberating Thomas to go off and pursue the movie he wanted to make. But, in fact, what has actually happened is that fans have replaced studio bosses as the people for whom Thomas was making the “movie.” And for all the insider pleasures that result, it also fucks this Veronica Mars up badly.

There’s an old dramatic maxim—echoed by none other than Joss Whedon—that it’s an artist’s job to give audiences what they need, not what they want. And Veronica Mars violates that maxim so flagrantly, it sometimes seemed like I was watching Thomas and company fulfilling Kickstarter pledge orders when they might have been making a movie.

I know a few of you opened your wallets to help get this movie funded. What do you think? Were you happy with the results?

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19 Comments / Post A Comment

allreb (#502)

I think Rob Thomas did an excellent job of giving fans (read: me) what they (I) wanted – the movie’s plot isn’t as sharp as it might be, the it goes out of its way to provide cute cameos and awesome moments for every beloved character. When I kickstarered, all I wanted was for Veronica to be smart and snarky and make out with Logan. The movie gave me that, so I consider it a good investment.

I don’t think the movie is *great* by most other measures. The plot is mostly fine, but there are a lot of extraneous pieces that either relate to those obligatory-for-the-fans cameos, or that seem to be set up for some kind of greater franchise revival. (There are books coming out, I’m not sure if there are any other plans, but fingers crossed…) If the movie was meant to stand alone, I think both of those aspects would have been removed. It would have streamlined things and possibly made for a better *movie*, but not necessarily a better *experience* for the people who funded it.

So, I am happy.

E$ (#1,636)

I am a fan and I contributed to the Kickstarter. I didn’t think a lot about my expectations going into the movie, except that I really hoped that it wouldn’t suck so that “funding a movie through Kickstarter” wouldn’t have this huge stigma.

Like @allreb I found the movie very satisfying. I was fine with it, in terms of direction, essentially being a superlong TV episode. When plot holes and inconsistencies were pointed out to me later, they made sense, but it didn’t make me wish I hadn’t donated or watched. I don’t know anyone personally who saw the movie and WASN’T already a fan, so in a way it makes sense to tailor it to what they would want.

I think the biggest point of fan disappointment has been the use of Flixter so far (I still haven’t gotten it to work, so that’s cool).

nogreeneggs (#154)

@E$ I’m also a huge VMars fan and contributed to the Kickstarter but I was NOT satisfied with the movie. I thought the plot was pretty ridiculous actually. I just find it hard to believe that Carrie Bishop would become a huge Gaga-esque pop star but then date two boys from high school (one of whom was the thieving butler’s son?). I just didn’t find that aspect at all plausible…it was just a thin excuse to get Logan involved. I thought the corrupt city officials side-plot was much more interesting and wish that had been the main plot, they still could have had the high school reunion and the cameos (I was pleased to see Corny – the stoner – make an appearance) but the plot was just too far fetched for my taste. Some of the cameo’s didn’t even make sense (looking at you Celeste Kane).

I also thought there were just way too many “Easter eggs” and cutesy fan references. The bottom line was that I thought the story was really weak, and the movie was no where near as good as the show. Plus, the movie was kind of a downer! As a fan, I was really disappointed and saddened by where the movie left Weevil, Mac, and Wallace. Also, Jason Dohring’s navy suit was too big for him.

(Team Piz forever!)

nogreeneggs (#154)

@nogreeneggs That review was harsher than I’d intended…but I still stand by it. Poor Weevil :(

E$ (#1,636)

@nogreeneggs See, I don’t disagree with you on a lot of these points (like Jason Dohring’s suits, what, that man is RICH). The Carrie Bishop thing was poorly fleshed out and the Neptune corruption plot was better than the reunion. Yet I was still glued to my screen. Maybe it’s because I haven’t rewatched the show in a few years, so the fact that the writing wasn’t as sharp didn’t bother me.

Loved all cameos, except I was waiting for the Ghost of Harry Hamlin. Such a bummer.

Kclaw (#1,021)

@nogreeneggs I really saw the celeste kane/weevil plot point as an opening for a sequel, or for more material for the books, but I agree about the Carrie Bishop thing being pretty half-baked. I think I was willing to take those lumps because I felt like the overall feel of the show was maintained at least some of the time (like the noirish lighting, the general distrust for law enforcement officials, the snarky voice overs).

Stina (#686)

Disclaimer: I have not seen the movie yet but I am a rabid VM fan.

But isn’t any movie based on a beloved thing always somewhat beholden to a fanbase whether they are paying beforehand or will pay after release? Whether it’s the Hunger Games, 50 Shades, Twilight, The Hobbit etc. etc. A director can choose to be at the call of the fans, take preferences under advisement, or ignore it completely. If Rob Thomas sunk the movie trying to complete a checklist in his head of “things he must accomplish for the fans” then boo to him but the fans are not to blame for a bad end product.

I tried to donate to a kickstarter for a documentary on the Loving vs. Virginia couple (paypal doesn’t like me though). And it never would have occurred to me to start demanding things. I mean part of donating is liking what you see or what you have seen to give that creator enough trust to let them take it wherever they will.

E$ (#1,636)

@Stina I saw a documentary on Loving vs. Virginia! Wonder if it was the same one.

Maybe Kickstarter just makes it clearer to whom a director is beholden. Clearly with a lot of movies, particularly franchise/ big studio movies, there is already discussion about keeping “the fans” happy while (presumably) also placating studio executives. But I’m not sure this Kickstarter project included incentives that included direct input, except the people who paid to be extras (and that input wouldn’t have changed the movie much, I don’t think?)

Aunt Scar (#5,377)

Considering Joss Whedon consistantly destroys his own product in the end, primarily by not letting it end but by keeping it on life support (comics) or radical Dr. Moreau surgery (Serenity), I wouldn’t cite him as a model.

It was a great reunion episode of Veronica Mars, an experience I was happy to share with my best friend, and I will probably see it again and buy the book.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@Aunt Scar Am still angry about Serenity, and that movie “only happened because of the fans.”

@Aunt Scar As a browncoat, I find the movie problematic. Also, makes me wish I hadn’t named my dog Miranda. Sigh.

Aunt Scar (#5,377)

@Lily Rowan You are not alone.

EM (#1,012)

@Aunt Scar Wait, do people not like Serenity? I love Firefly and on the whole thought the movie was great. I would rather Firefly have had three or four full-length seasons to flesh out the storylines, but I thought it was an elegant conclusion, and Chiwetel Ejiofor is perfect in it. What’s the beef?

Lily Rowan (#70)

@EM Ugh, I thought the characters were not the same characters from the show, and didn’t the plot actual retcon stuff from the show?

EM (#1,012)

@Lily Rowan If it did I can’t remember any retcons that bugged me at the time (and I am usually that brat who is like “BUT LISTEN GUYS THIS IS DIFFERENT IN THE COMIC”), but maybe the only solution now is to rewatch all the original episodes and then Serenity and compare with fresh eyes.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@EM I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen Serenity since the theater on opening night (because I also don’t need to see [spoiler] again!), but the whole backstory of River and Simon wasn’t right, I don’t think.

Aunt Scar (#5,377)

@Lily Rowan @EM THe story of how Simon got River out was retconned, Kaylee was depicted as totally sex-crazed and shamed for it, and the Reivers were also retconned. Basically all of the allegorical Manifest Destiny and American history post-Civil War elements were largely eliminated, and that was why I liked the show. The Reivers plot point was what ticked me off the most.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@Aunt Scar YES THANK YOU. I knew there were details, but all that is left in my memory is “yuk.”

I saw the movie (having been a fan of the show), but didn’t contribute to the Kickstarter. Besides being light on plot and heavy on fan service, the movie was so addled with product placement (mostly from Samsung, but also Pepsi and Budweiser) that I was thinking I would have been mad, if I’d invested, that all the user contributions still didn’t prevent the studio having (?) to do that.

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