When Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell’s people reached out to Big Fuel to help with the Veronica Mars Kickstarter project, none of us could have anticipated the consumer response. Sure, we were excited and optimistic to work with the writer (Rob) and star (Kristen) of the once-popular show, but keep in mind that no film had ever raised even one million dollars through Kickstarter, and we were aiming for two. Also remember that while the show had long garnered interest in life on the big screen, we were still trying to revitalize a series that was canceled six years ago after only three seasons. Finally, let’s not forget that Rob, one of our key influencers, is admittedly the second most famous person with his own name. So while we knew that the right tactics and allocation of resources could get the job done, we couldn’t have assumed the scale or speed of success we would see, or the implications it would have on the movie industry.
I look at Rob and Kristen as the Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey of the movie industry. Facebook and Twitter sparked a shift in the marketing world; brands used to say what they wanted you to hear, now they listen to you and do their best to create content that meets your needs. Similarly, the Veronica Mars project will give viewers the power to ask that certain movies be created, because the campaign’s success is too great and too well publicized not to draw intrigue from producers worldwide. “I’m already hearing from the creators of TV series’ that had similar dedicated fan bases who are watching us closely,” said Rob when asked about the project’s implications for the film industry. “In success, we could be a model for how properties – TV shows and otherwise – can prove to a movie studio that they have a fan base chomping at the bit to see a movie.”
If that’s the case, how long will it be before the Twitterverse demands to see Hugh Laurie back in pill-popping mode as Dr. House? And can the cast of Friends really lay idol if tens of thousands of fans pony up the dough to see what Chandler and Monica’s kids are like in theaters? And as Rob mentioned, it’s not limited to TV shows. Consider what a valuable tool Kickstarter is for gaging interest in movie sequels. Producers can see just how badly viewers want to see a third Sex In The City movie or a 19th Transporter (I’m guessing the respective answers are “very” and “not at all”).
Unlike many Kickstarter projects, major movies are tapping into multiple phases of consumer engagement. Allowing fans to get involved and essentially fund a movie starts a PR craze well before cameras are dusted off. Not to mention it identifies and activates a group of advocates that see themselves as deeply connected with the development of the final product. Producers get a major influx of funding AND a giant marketing boost, which will culminate in flocks of dedicated fans rushing to theaters to see the project they made possible.
So as we sit back and watch countless production houses try to recreate the Veronica Mars success, remember what it signifies – consumers now have a loud voice in Hollywood. The trend may move off Kickstarter, but the precedence has been set, and filmmakers large and small will look to viewers for what can only be called permission to make certain movies. Let’s hope this means no more Transporters.