life on mars

So, I’ve been away. That’s quite obvious, given the last post was on Boxing Day. My absence has been for a pretty good reason, though – I got a new job in Scotland, so I’ve moved up here to begin a new life and getting all that sorted has been taking its sweet time. It’s sorted now (well, mostly) and I’m in a position to start thinking about writing on the blog again. I’ve decided that pretty much everything in my life is up for renovation after moving up here, including this blog, so watch this space… and yes, this time I really mean it. Now everything’s settling down, I’m going to be getting back into a semi-regular schedule. I’m still sticiking to the not-blogging-about-my-life decision, though, because a) it’s boring and b) I like to keep some stuff private in this age where everything seems to be broadcasted online.

But anyway, enough of that… there’s far more interesting stuff than my boring-ass life – namely Veronica Mars: The Movie. For those of you who don’t know what Veronica Mars is, it was a show that aired from 2004 – 2007 starring Kristen Bell as the eponymous Mars, a high school student who also happens to be a private detective and solves crimes that take place in and around her hometown of Neptune, California.

veronicamars

I used to watch it whenever it popped up on Channel 5 or ITV2 (I forget which)  criminally buried in the late night schedules where no-one but insomniacs (c’est moi!) would see it. I initially found it a bit weird, but stuck with it and soon grew to really like it. It was funny, exciting, well-written and well-acted, with Kristen Bell having a gift for one-liners reminiscent of Buffy-era Sarah Michelle Gellar… in fact the show had pretty much everything I loved about Buffy except for the monsters, and some of the people Mars faced were pretty monstrous anyway. Alas, like many funny, exciting, well-written shows it had a sizeable but not blockbuster-size audience, and despite fairly solid viewing figures, the show’s network The CW decided to axe it and spend that money on cheap reality shit about Kim Kardashian getting her belly button pierced while frolicking with dolphins or something like that. If there was justice in the world, Veronica Mars would have had a good 5-7 season run. found a widespread audience and we’d have 120 or so more hours of good programming. But instead we have more Kim Has Her Belly Button Pierced While Dancing With Dolphins polluting the collective consciousness of mankind, and that was that.

Except, occasionally TV shows cancelled before their time come back. The most famous example is Serenity, a big screen finale to Joss Whedon’s similarly loved cult hit Firefly. It sadly wasn’t a huge mainstream success (for that, Whedon would have to wait a few more years until The Avengers in 2012) but it made the fans smile and it wrapped up all the mysteries that were frustratingly left hanging when the series was axed. Serenity chiefly came to be because of high DVD sales of Firefly, which convinced execs at Universal there may be money involved. But sadly, there wasn’t enough when it came to the movie and Serenity was the finale, rather than the start of a new franchise. Bummer.

Rob Walker, the creator of Mars tried to do a similar thing and get a movie made, but Warner Bros. said no because well… there wasn’t money involved and they’d rather spend the money on unimaginative romcoms and Twilight. But in the age of the internet, there’s a final court of appeal… Kickstarter. And that’s what now makes Veronica Mars a bit more than just another much-loved cult show that died before its time…

Yesterday, the Veronica Mars: The Movie Kickstarter made internet history. As the pitch video:

informs us, basically the cast and crew of the show went to Warner Bros. and got them to agree that if they could get enough funding (a rather intimidating $2 million) from Kickstarter, then they would begin production of the Veronica Mars movie. How did the internet respond? Well, there was always the chance that it could have failed miserably but quite the opposite has happened: in four hours, it had made $1 million, in another few hours it had reached its goal of $2 million… and the figure currently stands at an impressive $3 million, which kind of proves any execs who said “there isn’t the demand” for it wrong. If there hadn’t been any demand for it, it would have just failed. Instead now the movie’s been greenlit and will be shooting with a budget of god-knows-how-much this summer. The project has just under a month to go until its funding deadline, and a lot of people have already donated. How many more will have pitched in before the deadline? (I pitched in $10. I would have paid more, but due to the wonders of internet streaming rights between countries I didn’t really see the point in paying more for things I couldn’t use).

Of course, as this is the internet soon the haters popped up. I read several catty articles about this, basically saying it was corporate panhandling and that the fans hadn’t donated to a good cause but rather a big, heartless media conglomerate and that they were mugs etc., but basically I disregarded this as a combination of fear from those close to movie execs, and lack of imagination. Most franchises that people love are owned by big media companies and are only made because they bring in money. This is a little bit different to that because it tosses a little bit of control over what the film companies make to the fans. I’ve seen some shockingly bad films in my time, and if they’d been Kickstarter films would they have been funded? Unlikely. The reason said films *cough*Son of the Mask*cough* got greenlit was because a committee of execs looked over the figures and then decided to fart out another instalment even though no-one asked for it. Of course there are shit franchises such as Twilight where there appears to be a frustratingly and mystifyingly high demand, but there’s also a lot of stuff that just shouldn’t have seen the light of day full stop.

So here basically was a production team making their case directly to the audience, asking them if they wanted to see more… and they did. I definitely wanted to see some more of it, and so did 47,563 other people and now we have a film we want entering production rather than some piece of shit no-one wanted. And I think it’s also going to have a longer term impact on Hollywood too. Regardless of whether it’s a success (and it deserves to be this time) Veronica Mars: The Movie now basically means that there’s another avenue for cult shows to go down should the powers-that-be point to a load of plastic-fantastic metrics and claim “the people don’t want to see it” – they can now go directly to the fans and ask them. Sure, Warner Bros. are now rubbing their hands as a supposedly dead property makes a million in a few hours and think about the profits (this is inevitable), but it also means that those of us who really liked the show get to see more of it rather than being told by the studio that “you didn’t want it, no” when people ask for it to be brought back.

Because now, basically, those of us who actually watch the show can say what we want, rather than a bunch of execs presuming to make the decision for us. And that’s brilliant.

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